From the Past: Who was the “Best Driver” in town?

Special to the Parade

Rene Torres

Rene Torres

Golf has always been a popular sport in Brownsville. In yonder days, the soldiers at Fort Brown played the game while the civilians also displayed their skills at the Brownville County Club (BBC).

The BCC had it regulars, men and women, who were well-known among Valley golf circles. Even the caddies got into the act, for at least once a year they too had their tournament to determine the city champion.

It was also here that the youth of then could find employment. Like my brother Ramon (Mone) and many others, who as teenagers made their way from the neighborhoods to the golf course to have a chance to be the ultimate master caddy.

The local course, just like in Harlingen, played host to the many greats of golf. In the decade of the 40s, two of the Valley’s best, Al Escalante and Tony Butler, played alongside with Ben Hogan and Jimmy Demaret.

Since the business of golf was a good proposition for Brownsville. In 1930, as part of the 4th of July celebration, the city conducted a golf driving contest that attracted the best golfers in town. The event also included a closest to the pin contest.

It was an era when Brownsville was coming up in the golf world. So much, that it had its own practice driving range located across the street from “The Terrace,” a miniature golf course on West Elizabeth.

The event was well supported by the business community. The winning prizes were donated by the following merchants:

Prizes— Men’s driving: Dorfman’s Jewelry Store, 1st place winning cup, 2nd place El Jardin Garage, dozen balls, 3rd place, J.C. Penny Co., golf shoes, 4th place, The Fashion, golf hose, and 5th place, Crankcase of Socony Oil by Chas. Brown, Magnolia Service Station.

Prizes—Women’s driving : 1st place, dozen balls and one gallon ice cream given by The Terrace Shop, 2nd place, Gold Pencil by Hargrove Stationery and Book Store, and 3rd place, a case of “Orange Thrill” by Valley Bottling Co.

Prizes –Boy’s driving: 1st place, a Brassie club (equivalent to today’s two wood), given by A. Escalante, 2nd place, five buckets of balls by driving course.

Prizes—Men’s Approaching: 1st place, approach iron given by Escalante, 2nd place, Smoking stand by Edelstein’s, 3rd place Golf knickers by Bollack’s, 4th place, wash and grease job by Alexander Tire Co., and 5th place, month’s pass to Terrace miniature course.

Judging by the practice rounds, it looked like Jimmy George would be the favorite in the driving category as he caught one flush and sent it 265 yards. In the closest to the pin warm-up, it was Escalante that made the best approach shot, placing the ball two feet from the flag.

Everyone looks good in practice, but how good are you under pressure? Well, it was slim Charles Puckett that surprised them all. The former Brownsville High School all-around athlete, who two years prior captained the baseball and basketball teams, won the driving contest—slamming the ball 226 yards.

Chief George was a close second with 221 yards; Jimmy George came in third with a distance of 217 yards; Robert Champion followed with 215 yards and “Red” Heaner was fifth, hitting the ball 208 yards.

Mrs. Works led all girls in the contest with a drive that carried 129 yards; Mary Cooper drove it 95 yards and Mrs. Stone, 92 yards. Joe Carvey won the event for boys under 15 with a drive of 157 yards; Mike Saldana came in second with a distance of 149 yards.

Sweeney captured the approach contest; followed by Robert Champion, Leon Perl, Mrs. Works and Harry Stegman (winning marks were not given).

As the contest came to an end, interest continued at the driving range, particularly among women. The Brownsville gals were getting ready to host the ladies state tournament which was to be held in Brownsville in 1931.

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