By Guy Green for R.J. Smiley
All golfers know that some bogies are better than others. Making birdie with your second ball, after swatting the first one off the premises, comes to mind. You would certainly call that a “wily” bogey. This is a story about a Wylie Bogie.
I met Mr. Wylie Bogie one day back in 1983. He was there to welcome my partner, Bob Evans, and me as we rated Minnewaska Golf Club for the USGA’s new Slope Handicap System. Minnesota was the second state, following Colorado, to agree to employ the new system, which has been keeping our handicaps more equitable nationwide ever since. We are moving toward a global handicap system now, but, this is a story about things, and people, that remain constant, and about qualities we would be wise in hoping will never change.
Wylie Bogie was a big man in stature, and was definitely a Big Wheel around Minnewaska Golf Club in those days. He was assertive without being overbearing. He was whimsical, as opposed to rash. He was also truly friendly, as opposed to “glad-handing.” He also knew the game of golf from top to bottom, and was madly in love with Minnewaska, which was a beautiful nine-hole course at the time. A decade or so later, it expanded to eighteen holes. Whoever was in charge of that project, I am certain, took a lot of advice and counsel from Wylie Bogie. As a result, the big course is more than twice as beautiful as its lovely little mother.
The state of golf may be encountering some teething pains these days, and is probably not as certain about its future as it would like to be, but evidence for that situation is pretty hard to find at Minnewaska Golf Club. It is a place where our ancient game reveals itself as the ghost of Wiley Bogie finds a place in our soul. At Minnewaska with Mr. Bogie looking down, golf is played for the pure enjoyment of the game.
Last year, the club also hosted the Minnesota PGA Senior Championship. Many of those pros came back this year for a hugely successful Pro-Am at Wylie Bogie’s treasured old stomping grounds. (In the Minnesota PGA major event last year, incidentally, Hall of Famer, Mike Barge, was only six-under par in winning the trophy. So we know Minnewaska ain’t just pretty. She’s strong, too.)
Last Monday, July 22nd, I had the chance to bring the MGA Senior Tour boys to play Minnewaska. I am here to tell you, our Senior Tour fellows absolutely loved their visit. The conditions were perfect. The weather was perfect, and the welcome was pure Wylie Bogie. Before they teed off, I made mention of my meeting Mr. Bogie almost 40 years ago. They pretty much agreed with me that his was surely the greatest golf name to ever come down the road. They all got a gentle reminder of the man as they walked up the hill behind the 18th green. There, in the pleasant shade of some big trees, is an elegantly simple black marble bench. The playful inscription reads:
“The name’s Bogie. I shoot birdie. Have a good game. -Wylie.”
We all recall meeting celebrities, or famous athletes, on days that remain indelible for a lifetime. Back in 1964, my father took me to Keller Golf Course for the St. Paul Open. It was the first time the tournament reached the $100,000 purse level, and all the big names were there. Dad took me to the practice tee, where I got autographs from Sam Snead, Arnie, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Ray Floyd, and Don Fairfield. (Fairfield was no household name, but he was a St. Paul Open champion.)
I’ll never forget Sam Snead booming one off that tee, with the head of the driver breaking off and bounding down the range. Nicklaus, practicing next to The Slammer, cackled, ”Is that one of those Wilson’s Sam?”
Snead’s reply was, how shall I say, “Paralinguistic.”
I felt like I was a member of The Club.
Truth is, that day in 1983 was the only day I was ever in Wylie Bogie’s presence. However, 38 years later, I was with him again, as big and bold as back then. And this time, I got to share him with my best golfing friends. I’m sure they will always now remember him, too.
Golf, mysteriously, is a game of many lifetimes. As the inscription at the beginning of Golf in the Kingdom says:
“The game was invented a billion years ago. Don’t you remember?”