O’Donnell, John (1993)

About O’Donnell, John (1993)

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1913–1999. John O’Donnell entered into the MAPGA Hall of Fame for his stellar play in regional and national events and for years of contributions to the MAPGA. On several occasions, the MAPGA membership elected him a regional Vice President or sent him to the National PGA Convention. He was the host pro for the PGA Tour stop, the Eastern Opens at Mt. Pleasant and Pine Ridge, between 1956 and 1962.

Born in Baltimore, John began his golf career caddying at the Baltimore Country Club’s in-town course, Roland Park. As a seventeen-year-old he turned professional in 1930 working as an assistant to Leo Kernan at Greenspring Valley Hunt Club. Four years later, he became the head professional and greenskeeper for the Officer’s Club Golf Course at Edgewood Arsenal in Aberdeen. John went to the Country Club of Virginia in 1940 as an assistant to Bobby Cruickshank, and then to West Point Country Club in 1942. In 1943, John joined the U.S. Navy. As a Chief Petty Officer in their physical fitness program he worked with boxer Gene Tunney. During that time he also taught golf alongside Paul Runyan, Herman Keiser and Chandler Harper. In 1945, John became the head PGA Professional at the Navy’s Sewell’s Point Golf Club. It was there that he starred in the first golf instructional television show in the United States, Par in the Parlor. After eleven years at Sewell’s Point, John moved on to the Mt. Pleasant Golf Course, where he served for 27 years as their head PGA Professional, 1956-1983.

Nationally, John played in seven U.S. Opens between 1946 and 1961, finishing 55th at St. Louis CC in 1947, and 51st at Merion in 1950. John played in six National PGA Championships, five at match play. In 1956, he lost a second round match to Sam Snead on the 20th hole. In 1960, at stroke play, he finished 59th. He played, and placed in the money, on the regular tour, the Caribbean Tour and the European Tour. On the PGA Tour he appeared in the Hershey Open during the 1930s and the Eastern and Virginia Beach Opens in the 1950s. John finished 8th against the touring professionals in 1950 at Cavalier and 7th in 1953.

Regionally, John won the Maryland Open twice (1939 and 1954), and the Virginia State Open five times (1948, 1951, 1953, 1954 and 1955). In 1954, at Manor, his second round 67 laid the basis for a win the next day. In 1948 at Hampton CC he won his first Virginia State Open title with a last round 67.

In the MAPGA Championships and events of national importance he won the Maryland and Virginia State Opens in 1954 and was the only Section player to qualify for both the PGA Championship and US Open that year. He earned 1956 Player of the Year honors. For that year, his credentials include medalist honors in the PGA qualifier at James River CC, medalist honors in the US Open qualifier at Mt. Pleasant, and a 65 at Cavalier Yacht and CC in the year-end pro-am.

In MAPGA pro-ams, he won the first time at Prince George’s CC in 1942 when he and Jack Isaacs tied with 68s. The last came at Norbeck in 1963 with a 69.

In 1963, John won the MAPGA Senior Championship at Fountain Head at the Mt. Union Open in Pennsylvania. He and his son captured the Maryland State Pro-Am in 1964 at Argyle.(rev. 2004)