One of the game’s oldest PGA professionals passed this week in Stuart, Florida. Samuel Henry Ball, better known by “Errie”, died at Martin Hospital-South. His last position was Director of Golf at Willoughby Golf Club, an 18 hole Arthur Hills designed championship course within the gated active adult community www.WilloughbyGolfClub.com.
Mr. Ball was a PGA of America member for 83 years, which PGA officials say is a membership record, and was inducted into the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame in 2011. He also played in the first Masters, which was then the Augusta National Invitational Tournament in 1934, and finished tied for 38th, 25 shots behind the champion, Horton Smith. Errie competed in 19 Senior PGA Championships, tying for 2nd in 1962 at Dunedin Country Club in Pinellas County, Florida, the original home of the PGA of America and the site of the first PGA Golf Show.
In his many years as a Club Professional he managed courses in Illinois, Arizona and Florida. He was a 3-time winner of the Illinois PGA and also won the Illinois Open and the Illinois Senior PGA. He came from a long line of golf professionals and was taught the game by his father in Wales.
Mr. Ball was encouraged to come to the United States by golf great Bobby Jones and his first job was at East Lake Country Club in Atlanta, Jones’ home club and the site of the final leg of the FedEx Cup, The Tour Championship.
His daughter, Leslie Gogarty, remembered her father playing every day when she was young, often following him through rounds and tournaments. His career continued for many years, playing and teaching with a blend of friendliness and a quiet unassuming nature until he was 100. He was invited back to the Masters a few times in recent years, but did not attend. Gogarty says, “he always said he wanted to remember Augusta the way it was.” I interviewed Mr. Ball some years ago for a story and could have spent days listening to him recount memories of his golf days with a kind word for anyone that he crossed paths with.
“Errie’s amazing career spans the legends of the game, from Harry Vardon to Tiger Woods. His longevity, according to those who knew him best, was founded upon a love of people. Each day. like each step he took on the course, was spent with purpose,” said PGA of America President Ted Bishop.
His daughter added “Dad blended a friendly style with a quiet nature. He loved singing and dancing, she recalled, and enjoying sharing the game that was his life with others. He was a very outstanding person with a good heart.”