Diffenbaugh, George (2013)

About Diffenbaugh, George (2013)

Kenwood Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland
Hall of Fame Class of 2013

1901-1977.  During a fifty-seven year golf career, George Diffenbaugh rose from the caddie ranks at Baltimore CC to the Presidency of the MAPGA.  He started as a caddie at Baltimore CC in 1917 under Aleck “Nipper” Campbell, a founding member of the PGA of America.  George Diffenbaugh assumed the Presidency of the Middle Atlantic PGA in 1937.  Towards the end of his career the Section awarded him the “Professional of the Year” distinction in 1957.  As a pioneer, he attended the formative meeting on the Middle Atlantic PGA on March 2, 1925.

In 1925 George had relocated to Rock Creek Park Golf Course in the District of Columbia.  Then served as an Assistant to J. Munro Hunter from 1928 – 1932 and then Head Professional at Indian Spring until 1938.  He replaced Wiffy Cox at Kenwood later in the year where he remained for 38 years.  As a teacher he played a prominent role in the development of a number of young amateur “stars,” including Roger Peacock, Bobby Brownell, Betty Palmer Meckley and June Nelson.

The first reference to George Diffenbaugh’s playing came in the 1922 Maryland State Professional Golfers’ Association (MSPGA) “Open.”  During 1923 he won two MSPGA tournaments.  He finished second to Toney Penna in 1928 MAPGA Assistant Professional Championship. As a player, high High Hfinishes in Maryland Opens marked his career.  In 1931 he finished second to Gene Larkin at Congressional, then in 1932 and 1934 second to Al Houghton.  In the 1935 MAPGA Championship he lost to Johnny Bass in the final match.  Later in 1935, George secured a prominent win by taking the District of Columbia Open at Indian Spring and pocketing $75.  Carroll MacMaster stated that the diminutive George Diffenbaugh got his great length from a perfect pivot.
In 1937 he qualified for the PGA Championship.  George succeeded in the 36-hole qualifier at the Pittsburgh Field Club gaining entry to the match play portion, but lost in the first round.  George qualified for the US Open in 1940 and the PGA Championship a second time in 1946.

Over the years he successfully played against nationally known figures in exhibitions.  In 1928, George and J. Munro Hunter halved the British team of Aubrey Boomer and Archie Compston.  In 1931 they lost to Billy Burke and George Von Elm, the US Open Champion and runnerup by one.  In the 1934 Mid South Professional Foursome matches at Pinehurst, he and Andy Merrilees defeated Bill Melhorn and Vic Ghezzi in a match.  In 1934, he and Al Houghton along with Roland MacKenzie and Roger Peacock, played two exhibitions with Lawson Little, the 1934 and 1935 US and British Amateur Champion.  During 1935, George and Al Houghton played two exhibitions against “tour” stars Jimmy Thomson and Henry Picard, halving the first, but losing the rematch 1 down.

In 1938 Merrell Whittlesey reported that George provided group lessons to competing teams in the District of Columbia schoolboy matches.  Furthermore, he pushed his fellow professionals to give lessons free of charge to any schoolboy golfers and routinely attended the annual meetings of the scholastic body overseeing golf.

Organizationally, not only did George Diffenbaugh serve as President of the MAPGA, he did so during a difficult time for professional golf, the “Great Depression” of the 1930s.  He, along with Al Houghton, successfully upgraded the purse and status of the Section Championship starting in 1937 held at the Chamberlin in Hampton.  They changed the format to 72-hole stroke play and the number of players increased, particularly Virginians.  In fact, for the first time professionals from Richmond, Hot Springs, Charlottesville and the Norfolk area entered.

George Diffenbaugh is one of those MAPGA personalities who made substantial contributions to the organization, but succeeding generations lost sight of his place in the organization’s history.  So much so, that his recognition as “Professional of the Year” in 1957 did not appear in the MAPGA Annual until 2005 when his award came to light.  The specific citation credited him with contributions to “Junior Golf.”