Clarke, Bill (1987)

About Clarke, Bill (1987)

1923-2008. Bill Clarke rose to prominence as one of the most important figures in the MAPGA and National PGA during the second half of the Twentieth Century.  The PGA named him a “Legend” in 1997, the third person so honored.

His interest in golf started as a boy, frequently playing at Forest Park where Jimmy Flattery was the professional.  Bill also had an early interest in art, eventually graduating from the Maryland Institute of Art.  After service in the Navy during World War II as an aerial gunner, Bill began a career in golf by accepting the Assistant Professional position to Leo Kernan at Princess Anne in 1946.  After spending a year as the head professional at Richardson Golf Course (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.), in 1948 he learned through Jimmy Flattery that Walter Romans sought a new assistant for Baltimore CC.   Bill took over the “teaching” responsibilities there.  Hillendale Country Club named him their Head PGA Professional in 1954.  He remained for 35 years, serving as the club’s Executive Director for 14 of those years.

Bill assumed the responsibility as the MAPGA Tournament Committee Chair for four years, 1955 – 1958.  He made a quick leap to the Presidency for 1959 – 1962.  The MAPGA named him Professional of the Year in 1960 and the MAPGA Merchandiser of the Year (private category) in 1989 as well.  For many years, some golf professionals in Virginia held VAGP membership, but not PGA membership.   Bill Clarke, Leo Steinbrecher, Bill Strausbaugh and Carl Rasnic formulated the agreement which gained PGA membership of the VAGP members who had at least five years of professional experience.  They entered the MAPGA as full members, and at the time created the Virginia Chapter of the MAPGA in 1966.

Bill Clarke’s rise through the National PGA ranks began as the Regional Vice President [1966 – 1968], Treasurer [1969 – 1970], then Secretary [1971 – 1972] and finally, President, [1973 – 1974].  He also served as Honorary President from 1975-1975.  He provided the leadership for many important PGA committees over the years.  What he considers his most important contribution was chairing the National Education Committee in 1966 – 1968 which pioneered the Home Study program for the PGA Business Schools.  Additional assignments included the membership on the PGA Championship Committee from 1966 onward and chair of the Club Professional Championship Committee.  Bill sat in the chairman’s position on the Rules Committee for five years, which is longer than anyone else, beginning in 1966.

He made his mark as one of the quintessential rules officials in the golf world.  From 1968 through 1990 he regularly refereed at the Masters.  He started as a rules official at PGA Championships in 1966 and “ruled” in a number of Tournament Player’s Championships and in the World Series of Golf.  In 1967 he began as a Ryder Cup Official; through 2004 Bill only missed the 1985 Ryder Cup.  In 1986, he and Clyde Manguum, the PGA Tour Representative, worked with Royal and Ancient Golf Club to rewrite the rules of golf.

His playing career included third place finishes in the Maryland Open twice, a second in the Howard County Open, and twice a second place in the MAPGA Assistant Professional Championship.  That trophy is named in Honor of Bill Clarke.  Bill’s credentials include a 67 in 1950 at Fountain Head, a 68 at Green Spring Valley in 1951, and a victory in the Mt. Pleasant Pro-Am preceding the Eastern Open. Bill was the NEWS AMERICAN Maryland Player of the Year for 1960 and 1961 based on a year-long points system.

Bill Clarke is a member of The PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame Inaugural Class of 2005 and is also a member of the Middle Atlantic Golf Association Hall of Fame.  The PGA awarded him the National Horton Smith Trophy in 1968 which “bestows special recognition on a PGA member for outstanding service and contributions toward developing and improving educational opportunities for PGA Professionals and Apprentices.”  (Rev. 2009)