An overdue visit to the Philadelphia Section PGA website this week revealed an item that I missed and it’s an oversight worth addressing.
Last fall, the section inducted Linwood native, St. James graduate, Vietnam War hero, PGA Tour and Champions Tour winner -- and probably one of the nicest guys you’ll ever want to meet – Ed Dougherty to its Hall of Fame.
As a golf fan, I was aware of Dougherty in the 1970s, mostly from when he contended at the 1975 PGA Championship at Firestone Country Club.
I first crossed paths with him at a Section Championship -- I want to say it had to be 1978 or thereabouts -- that I was covering for the long defunct five-day-a-week daily Montgomery Publishing put out of Fort Washington called Today’s Post.
Regardless of the year, the tournament was held at the Philadelphia Cricket Club’s classic old course (the Milita Hill Course didn’t exist yet) and Dougherty dominated the first couple of days.
On his way to what looked like an easy victory, an old wrist injury suddenly flared up and Eddie the Docs started hitting it sideways. He did not win the tournament. It ended up in a four-way playoff at dusk and I believe Mike Nilon ended up winning.
But Doc never complained and, while he had to be frustrated, he just dealt with it and moved on.
Fast forward 20 years when I staffed the Bell Atlantic Classic Senior Tour event for the Daily Times the first time it was played at Hartefeld National in Chester County.
Doc had turned 50 the previous fall and was anxious to get out on the senior circuit because he knew he could still play and there was money to be made. Of course, Doc being Doc, a back injury – related to treatment he was receiving for another chronic injury – cropped up, preventing him from making it to the Senior Q-School.
As a local guy it wasn’t too hard for Doc to scare up a sponsor’s exemption to the Bell Atlantic, but it was just his second start and he needed to start making some money to avoid going to Q-School the following fall.
In what I am quite certain he has to consider a career highlight, Doc rolled in an eight-foot birdie putt on the 18th green at Hartefeld to complete a brilliant 8-under 64 in the final round. It gave him a tie for third and a $66,000 check and one of Delco’s favorite sons was off and running as a senior golfer.
On a day when another local favorite, Berwyn’s and Aronimink Golf Club’s Jay Sigel, won the event and the greatest player in the whole darn history of the game, Jack Nicklaus, was in the field, there were few roars louder than the racket Eddie’s Delco fans made when that birdie putt disappeared into the cup at the 18th.
He got the most out the “second-chance” tour as he could, winning two times and banking nearly $6 million. He thrilled his many Delco fans, particularly the membership at the course he always called home, Edgmont Country Club, when he battled to the end before settling for a second-place finish at the 1999 U.S. Senior Open in West Des Moines, Iowa.
His only PGA Tour win came at the 1995 Deposit Guaranty in Mississippi when he was 48. He was off and on the tour for much of his pre-senior days and whe he wasn’t touring he was winning the Philadelphia Open in 1983, the National Club Pro in 1985 on his way to being named the PGA Club Professional of the Year and the Section Championship in 1986.
“It’s a humbling experience and I’m honored to go in with such a great professional and friend in George (McNamara),” Dougherty told the Philadelphia Section PGA website in October. “I played a round of golf in 1969 at Edgmont Country Club after returning from the war and ended up with a career.”
A career that has done Delaware County, golfers and non-golfers alike, proud.