The History of the WGA
How it Happened and How It Has Grown
Now that the wiremen's Golf Association has been in existence for thirty-five (35) years it occurred to me that it might be well to reflect a bit on how it began and how it has evolved over the years into the Premier Event in the I.B.E.W. as attested to by International Officers and Brother Wiremen
The 1958 I.B.E.W. Bowling Tournament held in Detroit, Michigan is where it all began. At the Hospitality Room on Friday night I announced that anyone interested in starting an I.B.E.W. Golf Tournament should come to my room in the Book-Cadillac Hotel on Saturday afternoon to discuss the possibility of setting up such an event.
The following Brothers showed up:
|Local||#43||Phil Hagedorn & Ed Klee|
|Local||#41||V. Muranyi Jr. & V. Muranyi Sr.|
|Local||#64||Charlie Bowdich & Art Bowdich|
|Local||#58||Frank Sady & Marty Salata|
|Local||#38||Tony Jantonio, Jack Rohrbach & Tom Rohrbach|
A non-Brother, Steve McNerney, my cousin from Tilbury, Ontario showed up at an opportune time with a case each of O'Keefe & Labatt Ale which kept the meeting "flowing" and helped wash down the corned beef & swiss sandwiches I had picked up at a deli down Woodward Avenue.
After some discussion, which concluded that the "IDEA" was a good one, it appeared the only Local present that could guarantee the availability of a golf course on short notice was Local #43, Syracuse. On that basis those present decided that the first tournament was scheduled to be held in Syracuse at Tecumseh Golf Course in August of 1958. One hundred (100) golfers from Locals 38-Cleveland, 64-Youngstown, 673-Painsevile, 41-Buffalo and 43 & 1249 Syracuse Participated in the 18-hole competition followed by a buffet supper at the Yates Hotel. Each player received a souvenir key chain with a medallion that identified them as the, "World's Greatest Golfer." The entry fee was $3.50 and I understanding the budget was $500.
The participants from Locals 38, 64 & 673 arrived a dawn on Saturday after an all-night chartered bus trip that was well stocked with what it took to make the trip comfortable! The bus was met at the Yates Hotel by Local #43 Brother Art Caporin (deceased) sitting at the curb on two cases of beer which we really didn't need. However, Art's was cold and what we had left was warm so it did fulfill a need.
The event went so well that at the buffet that evening it was very easily decided that it should be continued. Local #38 agreed to host the 1959 event and Tom Rohrbach agreed to send letters to many locals in a seven (7) state area with the idea of expanding the tournament. This endeavor did generate additional interest and we picked several more Locals for the 1959 outing including Locals 8, 88, 58 and 306.
The "headquarters" motel for 1959 happened to be the brand new Midway Motel in Parma Heights which also just happened to be the "headquarters" for the PGA "Cleveland Open" which was being played at Seneca that same weekend. Dave Burke and Ralph Walsh of Local #43 had the operator of the nearby after hours watering hole (Parma heights Riding Club) "Irish" Lee McNAlly convinced that they were members of the PGA. Dave Burkle shot an even par 70 the next morning at Loyal Oaks Golf Course. I often wonder what Dave would have shot had he been well! Junior Pride got several miles down the road from the gold course in a gold cart headed for Cleveland before the police stopped him in Copely, Ohio.
The event went well, continuing to grow each year with the W.G.A. being formalized in 1960 in youngstown with the elected officers and the introduction of the $5.00 Lifetime membership fee, establishment of the 200 Max Active List, etc. the first officers were Tom Rohrbach, Pres; Dick hubert, Vice Pres.; Gary Rossi, Sec'y.; and Charlie VanBrunt, Treas. I must take this opportunity to thank "Officers Emeritus" Secretaries Gary Rossi & Ken spears and Treasurer Charles Van Brunt for their contribution to the growth of the W.G.A.
1961 occasioned the first "crisis." Local #41, Buffalo was scheduled to host the 1962 tournament but had decided due to no support from their Local. They had in fact dropped out of the W.G.A. The W.G.A. Officers saved the Association by hosting the 1962 event which was held at the then, "public" Firestone North Course. It was a "Bare-Bones" affair with a buffet served in a tent at the course immediately following golf. However it was at this time that the decision was made to hold future events on Friday instead of Saturday to facilitate getting gold courses which had been a problem for a Saturday event. Interestingly enough there was no opposition to this concept.
The W.G.A. really took off from there and has grown over the years to its present thirty-one (31) Locals & International Office from seven (7) States and the District of Columbia.
I.B.E.W. Pres., Jack Barry was the Bus. Mgr. of Local 43 in Syracuse in 1958 and played in the third foursome at Tecumseh-I recall picking Jack up on Friday night at the Airport in Cleveland in 1959 in a pouring rain and wondering if Saturday's play would happen? Promotion to higher Office, Third District V. Pres. Interfered with Jack Barry continuing to participate. He did make the banquet in Hammond in 1971. President Barry has made recent events when busy schedule allows.
The 1970 Tournament held at Avalon Golf Course in Warren, Ohio hosted by Local #64, Youngstown had Ralph Legion, then 11th District Executive Council member and later International Secretary honor us with his participation at that event and for many years thereafter. Ralph got the "word" around about the excellence of the affair and was instrumental in the following I.O. people participating over the years: Vice Presidents Andy Johnson, Frank Gladney, Buck Williamson & Paul Witte; International Executive Council Presidents Rex Fransway & Wesley Taylor; International Reps. George Chapple & Bruce Thompson (both deceased) and retired International Rep Jimmy Kilbane, still active International Rep. Dennis Johnyak; & 4th District Int'l Exec. Board Member Dick Acton.
The Tournament expanded to a two (2) day event in 1966 to accommodate the ever growing number of participants. For the first time in 1988 was an officially scheduled three (3) day, 54 hole competition. The most recent event in Cleveland was the second such tournament. The obvious advantages of three days and three golf courses is that it allows for one set of starting times in the morning and then getting everyone off of the courses by early afternoon before banquet time, instead of the evening for the second wave of starters when on a two day event schedule. Host Locals have the option of either format depending on the availability of courses.
As stated the budget for the 1959 event was $500' for the 1972 25th Anniversary event $30,000 and for the 1992 affair $66,250.
Have we grown? Certainly we have. Have we accomplished a purpose? Ask anyone who participates. The Wiremen's Golf Association has become one of the premier vehicles for promoting Brotherhood, fellowship and competition within the I.B.E.W.
A word about the "Traveling Trophy". The infamous Syracuse-Lafayette street sign was procured in 1958 in the dark of the night by two enterprising Local #38 wiremen and a very helpful Syracuse taxi-cab driver who took Mel Shuster and Jack Schultz to where that street intersection existed and probably helped them remove it from the pole it was on. It passed back and forth between Cleveland & Syracuse for a number of years until it was "lost." It was replaced in 1973 by the good graces of Jim Ryan, Joe Gallagher and the Syracuse Streets Department. Jim & Joe are members of Local #43. I returned the sign to Frank Kite, Local #43 Secretary at the Banquet in Cleveland this past year. Should it somehow re-appear in Cleveland at some future date its spot on my back-bar will always be there waiting its return.
This pretty much covers the highlights of thirty-five (35) years I recall them and describes the "genesis & growth" of the W.G.A. This history of growth is the direct result of a lot of hard work by many dedicated people doing a splendid job over the years as host locals. The fact that the tournament has host Locals committed through the year 2001 speaks volumes for its survival. Incidentally, Local #41, Buffalo has come back into the W.G.A. and is to host the 1999 tournament. Way to go Buffalo!
In closing I would be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the support the given Local #38 & Local #673 by the Greater Cleveland NECA chapter Managers over the years starting with Chapter Manager Bert Jirovec (deceased) in 1958 & 1969; Chapter Manager Clay Musgrove in 1978 and Chapter Manager Dick Newcomer in 1990 for Local #673 at Quail Hollow & most recently the host for the Welcoming Reception on Wednesday evening at the Holiday Inn for Local #38, Cleveland in 1992. Jack Borkey (Honorary Wireman, Local #38) owner of PEPCO (Professional Electric Products Co.) has also been a valued sponsor. The W.G.A. showed its appreciation for the contributions of Dick & Jack by presenting them with electric wall clocks at the 1992 Tournament Banquet appropriately engraved and identifying Dick Newcomer as "Super Host" and Jack Borkey as "Super Sponsor". these momentos were provided from the Local #38 Tournament trophy budget.
Enough for nostalgia--I will steal the "punch line" from Anthony Salamones' (NEBF Exec/Secr'y) 1992 Banquet Golf story, "Your honors (WGA Members) I swear that's exactly how it (the WGA) happened" and I didn't, "kiss a frog".
President & Founding Member
Wiremen's Golf Association