They were laying to rest this morning Ed Whalley, one of Salem city’s two all-time greatest golfers, at St. Mary’s Cemetery in North Salem; a most fitting spot for someone of Ed’s talents and affections since it abuts the gorgeous Kernwood Country Club property.
Whalley died last weekend, at 86, in a Danvers nursing facility. A few months ago he was demonstrating to me the finer points of the golf swing with stunning accuracy.
Edward Henry Whalley, Jr., the pride of Gallows Hill, ranks 1-A or 1-B among Salem’s golf legends alongside Dick Hart (1935-2013), the only North Shore player to win a PGA Tour event, the 1965 Azalea Open. Long-bombing Charlie Kozlowski probably rates the No. 3 slot, with three-time Massachusetts Public Links champion Steve St. Amand , a life-long amateur and caddy extraordinaire, at No. 4.
Ed, an only child, enjoyed a fascinating life in golf. He got grand support from his parents (his dad was a polo player) as he pursued a career in golf. He started as a caddy at Salem Country Club, won three Salem CC caddy titles and lost to Gay Brewer in the second round of the USGA Junior in 1949 at Congressional. He won the 1950 Massachusetts Caddy title at Ponkapoag, edging the talented Leo Grace. He worked on the Salem CC grounds while studying at Merrimack College.
With a unique swing described by admiring contemporary Paul Barkhouse as one in which “Eddie never got off his right side but got great results,” Whalley joined the Army after college graduation. His golf career nearly went up in smoke after he suffered a traumatic hematoma-causing accident in basic training. “I blew my belly out,” Whalley told me for my book, The Green and Gold Coast. “But I recovered.”
That made Special Service happy, since his golf game was too good to keep under wraps while Whalley carried a rifle. He won the All-Army championship, which included future U.S. Open winner Orville Moody, plus the Stuttgart and Finnish Opens. He won four matches at the 1956 British Amateur at Troon as well.
With the support of fellow Bay Staters Paul Harney and Bob Toski, Whalley turned pro in 1957 and gave the PGA Tour a shot. He played 35 events that year, 34 in 1958, but never made the breakthrough necessary to continue.
He nearly got that breakthrough at the Insurance City Open in Hartford. He was 13 under late in the action before making a nine on the 16th hole while playing with Art Wall who finished second.
Whalley worked with Ken Venturi, already a top-rated player, while Venturi built a course in Palo Alto, Calif., in late 1958, then returned to the North Shore to get into the club pro business, first as an assistant at Kernwood in 1959. He still had serious game. He played in the 1959 U.S. Open and PGA Championship.
Charles River, one of Greater Boston’s five-star clubs, gave him his first big break, hiring Ed as its head pro in 1960. He was there for nine years, during which he won a Maine Open and missed winning another by a single stroke.
Ed later served as head professional at Colonial, Woodland and Meadow Brook before concluding his career providing instruction with son Eddie at Reedy Meadow at Lynnfield Centre. He also went the entrepreneurial route for several years in mid-career owning and operating Turf Hugger Golf, distributing Power Built clubs and a variety of accessories.
“Dad had a great life through golf and all of us Whalley kids were fortunate enough to be exposed to the game whenever we chose,” said Ken Whalley, Ed and Mary Rae’s third of four children. Ken, a prominent amateur player since his junior days, followed Eddie and Ellen and preceded Liz.
“In my case, I loved following him to his work, getting to use the facilities, watching him at tournaments, caddying,” Ken added. “He had a passion for golf. He loved to talk golf with me. Great stuff helping me with my game.”
“I was actually a late bloomer to the game,” said young Ed. “I’d been working construction when I started. Working part-time for my dad at Meadow Brook. This was when I was in my 30s. The next year I worked full-time with him and I’ve been doing this ever since, about 25 years (currently as the professional at King Rail, the nine holes remaining from the original Colonial Country Club and owned by the town of Lynnfield).
“My father allowed me to fall in love with the game,” Ed said. “He showed me how to be the ideal PGA pro. He had a great sense of professionalism in everything he did. I’ve tried to follow his example.”
Barkhouse, of Lynn, a prominent New England PGA Hall of Famer, top-notch player and tournament chairman spanning more than 50 years, respected fellow member Whalley as a player, teacher and supporter of the game they both adored.
“Ed represented the section, the PGA, in a very good way all these years as a player, instructor, merchandiser,” said Barkhouse. “He was always a good player. He enjoyed playing in a lot of NEPGA Senior Association events.”
From this observer’s perspective, Whalley was a consummate PGA professional, soft-spoken, respectful, unassuming, disciplined, one who knew how to get the ball in the hole with a somewhat unorthodox but effective swing. I loved his half-grin when he told a joke. We — and golf — will miss him.
Tip of the fedora to Miles Wood and Ryan Moores for winning the 100th anniversary Essex Invitation Four-ball, beating Carl Graves and Tom Barth in the final. Other flight winners were John Spatola-John MacVarish IV, Stuart.Thorne-Gordon Thorne, Greg. Meahl-Tim Nickerson, Peter Townsend-Steve Charlton, Carry Rich-Ted Ober ... Kernwood’s Frank Dully and Winchester’s Eric Barlow tied for third place at the NEPGA Pro Senior-Junior tourney at Tedesco, shooting a better-ball 66, 4-under, but five shots behind winners Chip Johnson and Liam Friedman.
Salem native Rob Oppenheim is in the select field for the three-week Korn Ferry playoffs starting this weekend in Columbus, Ohio, after the former Massachusetts Amateur and Open champ shot 268 last week in Portland, Oregon, to finish sixth at 16-under par. He is 35th in money ($119,000) with the top 25 money winners after the three-week playoff earning their PGA Tour cards.
Flight winners at the annual Kernwood Member-Member, the most important on the club’s schedule: Jon Yorks-Jordan Yorks, Rob Friedman-Charlie Sample, Sean Kay-Eamonn Healy, Andrew Katz-Steve Solomon, Chip Hano-Jason Franz, Ted. Tiger-Keith Rae, Michael Yoken-Marty Sullivan, Don Fournier-Kevin Tierney.
Peabody’s favorite son Brian Hamilton, retiring at the end of the season, was honored by the Eastward Ho! membership for his 21-year tenure there as well as his 41 years as a head professional ... We mourn the passing of Bernadette Bond, Dr. Bob Kellard and Rev. Charles Gross ... Overlooked in the recent showing by Massachusetts Amateur champion Steven DiLisio of Salem CC at the Ouimet Memorial was that his tourney-record opening 65 gave him a streak of 39 under par golf he had played in his last 16 competitive rounds. Myopia’s Jack Whelan also shot a tourney record-matching 65 the first day when he won in 2014.
Kevin Daly, the Salem State golf coach, again set a fine example for his players by winning a fourth straight Salem CC club title with a 234 total for 54 holes (80-78-76). Mike McDougall, Jr. was next with 237, followed by Kevin’s son Ryan at 239, Chuck Mace at 240 and Dave Sacco at 241 ... At Beverly, Lauren O’Brien won her second ladies club title and snapped a three-year win skein of Erica Allen with a 2 and 1 verdict. Dan Cronin won the men’s title, outlasting two-time champ Jim Whitney, 1 up, in a match where Cronin made seven birdies, Whitney three, and both players shot two-under 68 ... Ferncroft’s Ken Whalley (75) and Salem’s Bob Bogart (75) qualified for the Massachusetts Seniors championship at Norfolk. The main event is September 3-4 at Cohasset GC.
Reading The Greens is a weekly column on North Shore golf by Gary Larrabee, a former Salem News sports reporter from 1971-95. He has covered golf locally and beyond for the last 50 years.