Another is Jerry Kelly, who grew up in Madison but spent the early part of his career living in Florida. Like Stricker, he didn’t win the first of his three PGA Tour victories until he moved his family back to Madison.
Stricker, the 1998 PGA Championship runner-up who has eight PGA Tour victories, says he was just following the career path created by his mentor, North.
“He’s a great ambassador of the game,” Stricker says of North, who he didn’t hesitate to call the greatest golfer in the state’s illustrious history.
“He uses his status as a golfer and
announcer to do some great things outside
of golf, too. I’ve learned a lot from just
watching him and listening to him and
seeing what he does every year
raising money for great causes.
He’s pretty special.”
North certainly has trumpeted
the state of Wisconsin
throughout his career as a golfer,
as well as his work with ESPN as a
golf analyst and as a golf course
designer. The latter includes 27
holes at Trappers Turn in the
Wisconsin Dells, the Legend at
Bergamont in Oregon, Wis., and a
redesign of Brown Deer Golf
Course in Milwaukee that got it
ready to host the Greater
Madison native Jerry Kelly has three career wins on the PGA Tour.
Raised in Oshkosh, Wis., Johnny Revolta went on to win the 1935 PGA Championship
As Wisconsin celebrates the return of the PGA Championship to Whistling Straits this week, it will also be marking the 75th anniversary of the first and only PGA Championship victory by a player who grew up in the Dairy State.
In 1935, Johnny Revolta, a 24- year-old Wisconsin journeyman, shocked two of the game’s giants (Walter Hagen and Tommy Armour) in match play en route to capturing the 18th PGA Championship at Twin Hills Country Club in Oklahoma City.
Only 12 years earlier, Revolta and his family relocated from St. Louis to Oshkosh, Wis. – located about 50 miles from Whistling Straits.
In an interview conducted during the 1970s,
Revolta — who was inducted into the
Wisconsin Golf Hall of Fame in 1975 — recalled:
“My family had just moved to Oshkosh and I
was upstairs in my new bedroom looking out a
window. In the distance, I noticed people
walking around a large open field so I decided
to walk over to see what was going on.”
Little did Revolta know at the time that his
inquisitive nature and the short walk through
his new neighborhood would be the starting
point of a lifelong career.
“I was greeted by Hank Dettlaff,” Revolta
shared years later. Dettlaff was the PGA
Professional at Oshkosh’s Marie Jewell Park
golf course, a nine-hole municipal layout that
opened in 1921. “I asked Hank what all the
people were doing. He explained they were
playing golf, and then asked me if I’d like a job
as a caddie. Not even knowing what being a
caddie entailed, I said ‘yes.’ That was the start
of my life in golf.”
Revered Wisconsin sportswriter Billy Sixty
offered insight into Revolta’s promising career
in a 1933 Milwaukee Journal column entitled,
“Golf Has Been Good to Me.”
At the time of the column, Revolta was well
known in Wisconsin
golf circles, and had earned his first club
professional position at Milwaukee’s Tripoli
Country Club the previous year: “We talked
about his caddie days, when he
was just one of the 40 or 50 lads
who toted clubs for the
thousands who played the Marie
Jewell park public course each
year. He was a bowlegged little
fellow then, but even at 15 he
showed promise of someday
reaching the heights.”
When Dettlaff was working at
Marie Jewell Park, he told Sixty,
“There’s a kid (Revolta) who
looks like the best we’ve got here
in the caddie ranks.” Dettlaff
provided the young Revolta with clubs and
tips, and constantly checked his swing.
Later in life, at Tripoli, Revolta really worked on his game. He put himself on an eight-hour schedule, three days a week, practicing from 8 a.m. to noon, and again from 1 to 5 p.m. He worked regardless of weather. Even lumpy calluses on his hands failed to interrupt his program.
In the 1930s even the most successful tournament professionals counted on their club professional position as their main source of income. It was difficult to be away from your club during the busy season, so the majority of competitive, money-making events were held in the off-season.
So in the winter of 1933, Revolta headed south, making his first stop Miami Springs Golf & Country Club for the Miami Open. Revolta had played in the Miami event for the first time in 1932, finishing second.
Revolta received high praise from Hagen for
his finish, and went on to win the 1933 Miami
Open — his first PGA Tour victory. Even as a
good judge of talent, it was unlikely that
Hagen could have anticipated that just 18
months later he would face the humble
young Wisconsin golf
professional in a first-round match at the 1935
Editor’s note: Hank Dettlaff is the author’s father.
THE OFFICIAL PROGRAM OF THE 2010 PGA CHAMPIONSHIP 91