History Contents
 1Mike Baldoza--1954-2015
 2. Greg Roberts--1952-2012
 3. Allen Thomas-1956-2017
 4.Geoff Mosk selected for USA World Mini-Golf team
 5. The "tuning fork" Putters of the 1960's 
 6. The "Frank Holt" PPA putter
 7. Western Open hospitality-"Louisiana Social"

 8. Evolution of the PPA Golf Ball
 9.
 Al Simpson- Lake Charles Louisiana
10.
 14 SWPT Titles between Portugal, Statum and Smith
11
Joe Lea and his $12,000 Putt
12
 Houston Gulf Freeway Putt-Putt Players in 1986
   
MIKE BALDOZA
1954-2015

It is with deep regret that we announce that Mike Baldoza passed away on Thursday, December 31st just before 1pm in Denton Texas.  Mike and his mom had moved to Denton in October after selling their lifelong house that Mike's grandfather built next to downtown Austin Texas.  Mike was a lifelong die-hard University of Texas fan, and had a love for the sport of Putt-Putt that was unsurpassed.  Besides being one of the handful of all time best players, the player many said had the most fluid and natural stroke ever in the game, most importantly Mike was everyone's friend.  Services are pending but will be in Austin early in the week of January11th.  

Mike's Memorial Service was held on Jan 11th at the San Jose Catholic Church in Austin.  Thirteen of Mike's Putt-Putt friends made the journey for the services.  Dan Anders was in Austin for the services but had an emergency and had to head home.  From left to right:  Danny Tatum, Greg Simpson, Ken Stanfill, Chris Conradi, Steve Norman, Joel Baker, Mickey DeLucca, Steve Tanton, Brice Bergesen, Allen Thomas, Jeffrey Smith, Jeff McDonald (came from San Diego California), and Matt Bellner.  Front and center is Mike's mother Juanita.  Mike's family are tremendously nice people and we had a great time talking to them about Mike.

 Legendary Mike Baldoza Announces his Retirement at the                           National Banquet in Ferdandina Beach
                                                                     Mike in 1969 as a 14-year old National Champ                                  Mike at Arlington Parks in 2014 after his last win

Mike Baldoza, in a emotional announcement at the 2015 National Championship banquet in Fernandina Beach Florida, announced he was retiring from PPA competition.  Mike has been battling health problems for the last several seasons and it has been difficult for him to keep his strength up to the conclusion of the tournaments,

Mike started playing as a 13-year old kid at the Camp Bowie Putt-Putt in Fort Worth Texas, owned and ran by Ken Smith.  Mike was fortunate in that he learned the game quickly from Bob Lipscomb, who had one of the all time great smooth strokes in PPA history.  Mike copied Bob, and with his own innate talent became one of the nations best players by the age of 14.  In Rockville Maryland at the 1969 National Championship Mike won the amateur championship and his score beat the PPA champ, Vance Randall.  Mike was again fortunate as an amateur to compete against his Dallas rivals, Robert Smith and Gerald Knott, two of the all time best players in PPA history.  When Mike was old enough to turn pro he qualified for the 1973 World Championship at the OST course in Houston, and took his spot all the way to win $50,000 in Tulsa by beating Charles McIntosh 8 and 7 in the 36 hole finals match.  Mike was now 17 years old.  In 1979 the TV series was the 'Greatest of the Great", and Mike won that by beating Vance Randall, Ricky Smith and Dick Florin back to back to back!!.

Mike returned to the PPA tour in the early 2000's and quickly won the Southwest Putting Tour championship twice, first in Longview in 2003 and then again in 2006.  He won his last tournament in Arlington Parks in July of 2014.

For over 20 years Mike was the all time money leader in the PPA, and one of the faces of the PPA.  His smooth stroke, his cool style, his friendliness to everyone he met made Mike one of a kind and he will be missed.  Mike said he will still come out and visit at some of the tournaments, and maybe he will bring his putter.  After all, never say never.  
        GREG ROBERTS 1952-2012

It is with great sadness to report that long time PPA pro Greg Roberts passed away this afternoon, apparently of a heart attack, at age 60.
 
Greg started playing his Putt-Putt at the Gulf Freeway Putt-Putt in Houston in the late sixties and was a strong APA player, winning the Arlington Open in 1970. He turned pro in 1972 and won two National events, the Houston Open in 1974 and the Columbus Ohio open in 1978. He won 12 SWPT events and also a North Carolina event in 1999.

Greg had a great influence on the running of the current format of the SWPT.  He initiated doing a webpage, he started the tour gear sales as a fund raiser, he came up with the idea of having the last tournaments at Webster be "memorial" events honoring players who have passed, and many other behind the scenes suggestions that greatly aided the continuing success of the SWPT.  He also single handed kept the tradition of weekly tournaments going in Houston by running the weekly tournaments at Webster every week.

Greg had been battling a number of health problems the last ten years or so but he still insisted on playing in most of the SWPT events, including last weekend in Waco with temperatures over 100 degrees. He loved being around Putt-Putt and playing in the tournaments more than anything. He had a heart event ten years ago and had to reteach himself on how to putt, and after going to a belly putter late last season was having his best season this year, ranking 6th in the Player-of-the-Year points in the SWPT.
    Allen Thomas passes away at age 61
                                  

From Greg Everly: It is my sad duty to inform that Allen Thomas went to be with our Lord this morning a 11:53am, surrended by his family and loved ones,

As many of you have also said, Allen was an outstanding, loyal, and cherished friend who will be greatly missed.  He talked at length on Monday how happy and grateful he was to hear from so many over the past several days, and deeply values each and every one of you!

From Steve Willmann:  Allen began putting in 1963, and his mother brought me out to the Waco course in 1965.  Allen was my next door neighbor in Waco for many years.  Allen has played in an APA/PPA event every year that it had tourneys.  Allen played in the 207 Nationals and 2009 Western Open, his last majors.  I was almost in tears when Allen said he was sure that there was a Putt-Putt in heaven and that he would be playing Mike Baldoza again, soon.

Allen was unique in that he not only has held the Waco tournament course record for a long time, an incredible 21, but in bowling he had a 300 game, mastering both the big ball and the small ball.  

The services for Allen will be on Monday, March 6th, 2017.
The USA is sending a team to play in the World Adventure Golf Masters
in Prishtina Kosovo on the 25th and 26th of June 2016
Entire USA team to be composed of PPA players 

A team of four of the PPA's finest players will compete in Prishtina Kosovo for the first time at the World Adventure Golf Masters on June 25th and 26th.  This will be the first time the USA has sent a team, and there is expected to be 15 countries sending teams, some countries sending more than one team.
                          
               SWPT representitive Geoff Mosk with hole chart book and ball.  Chromax is the official ball for the USA team
Although new to European type tournaments, because of the type of course to be played and using regulation golf balls, we think the USA team has an excellent chance to bring back the title.  The team is being coached by longtime PPA pro Jon Drexler, with help from PPA pro Matt Bellner, who will also be doing the media work.  Bellner will also be a backup player if needed.  The team is led by Greg Newport, the 2010 PPA National Champion.  Also on the team are Matt Male, the 2015 Myrtle Beach Masters winner, Geoff Mosk-the 2015 Southwest Putting Tour Champion, and Michael Johnson, the APA 2014 National Champion.  All winners, all great players.


The "tuning fork" putters of the 1960's

In 1959 Karsten Solheim developed a putter in his garage, one that was toe and heel weighted to give a larger hitting area.  When he took the prototype to the putting green he noticed that it made a ringing noise because of the hollow area in the rectangular clubhead.  He used that musical sound to give a distinctive name to his putter, and the "Ping" putter was born.  Pictured is a newer model of the original putter, 1-A as it is referred to, and as Karsten slowly went from PGA tournament to PGA tournament in the early 1960's the players saw the advantages of the toe/heel weighting and the rest is history.  The 1-A was Karsten's main model until 1966 when the Ping Anser was developed, and that was the model that really caught on with golfers to this day.  The other putter is a Ding-a-Ling, made by Burke, the same company that made the PPA putters for Putt-Putt during the 1960's.  It is not nearly as well balanced, but has a longer musical ring to it than does the Ping 1-A.  The Ding-a-Ling probably copied the Ping 1-A, but both are unique.  Hall of Famer PPA player Roger Beckerman is the most prominent Putt-Putt player to use the Ping 1-A.



 
 
               The "Frank Holt" putter 
Starting in about 1965 Southern Golf Distributors started selling at the Putt-Putt Courses tournament putters named after the putting stars of that period.  The first two were the Neil Connor putter and the Frank Holt putter.  The Neil Conner putter never caught on with the tournament players but the Frank Holt model, which generally looks like an Achusnet Bull's Eye putter, became a popular putter.  The Bull's Eye, the Spaulding Cash-In (used by Vance Randall) and the Frank Holt were the putters of choice in the mid and late 1960's.  The putter with Frank Holt on the bottom was only sold for one season, for he was removed from the PPA in 1966.  In 1967 the exact same putter was sold as the "Professional" model, with the same skinny grip.  In 1968, the putter received a larger and different shaped grip.  It was a Frank Holt that Jeff Jeskin used to win the 1967 Southern Open, and also the putter Mike Baldoza used to win the $50,000 prize in Tulsa in 1973.  Bob Davis had great success with one in the Southern Region until the slower carpets came along in the mid 1990's.  Brice Bergesen has used the same "Professional" model since he turned pro in the summer of 1967, only changing the wrap-around grip every few years.  He recently purchased this like new Frank Holt putter on ebay. 
Burke Golf Company made the heads for Putt-Putt, and they used the exact same head on some of their own brand of putters.  Below is the PPA Frank Holt in the middle, on the top is a PGA Burke Gofor that has a Shakespeare Glass shaft (fiberglass).  Fiberglass shafts were popular in the mid-1960's, Gary Player used them for years.  The bottom putter is Brice Bergesen's current putter, although it looks exactly the same as his Frank Holt that he used since 1967 when standing over the ball, Brice feels it has a better sweet spot.  He used it for the first time in the 2012 SWPT Finals, which he won!  It is called a Burke Hawk Eye.  Not shown, but there s also a Burke Dead Eye, which is the same head with a flange on it.

  Western Open Hospitality-"Louisiana Social"

David McCollister                 Greg Simpson
David McCollister wanted to sponsor something special for the players that made the long journey to this year's Western Open in Lake Charles, Louisiana.  After talking with course owner Greg Simpson, the Friday "Louisiana Social" was created.  For two hours there was all the jambalaya, crawfish and trimmings one could eat.  Mix in Popeye's chicken, homemade fudge and a assortment of cookies and everyone left full and happy.

Not everyone has eaten crawfish before, especially if you are not from the Gulf Coast.  Below you can see Randy Reeves showing Brad Lebo how to break open a crawfish, and also course host Danny Tatum showing eventual Western Open winner Greg Ward the proceedure involved.




 Above, verteran crawfish eater Joe Lea said that getting stuffed on the crawfish Friday played a big part in his fine play over the weekend (Tie for 4th). 

Learning how
 to eat the crawfish was a lot of fun for the players.  Thanks go out to all the Lake Charles players and wives that helped make the Friday afternoon before the Western Open a time to long remember.
 
            Evolution of the PPA Golf Ball
The first PPA balls were the same as the clubhouse red, yellow, blue, green and orange balls.  They were slightly smaller than regular golf balls and had a plastic cover over wound rubber bands.  The only difference was they were white and had "P.P.A." on the front and "Official Putting Ball" on the side.  They had a much lower compression than regular golf balls, and on the older horsehair carpet before 1966, sometimes they needed a good wack to get the ball to the hole.  They could still be used after the introduction of the "Steel Center" ball in 1966, but few players used them after the 1967 season.

Jim Cox won the 1966 Southern Open by 10 strokes using the brand new "Steel Center" ball while almost everyone else was using the plastic ball.  It was not until the summer of 1967 that almost all the players had converted to the new Steel Center ball.  It was actually not the steel center that made a difference, but the balata cover, as opposed to the plastic cover, which allowed truer kicks, smoother rolls and a player did not have to hit the ball as hard.  It remained the ball of choice until the mid 1990's, when Southern Golf could not get the balls made with balata covers any longer.  In the early 1970's the surlyn covered ball (on the right) was introduced.  It was called a "click" ball because of the slides it got on rails due to the fact the cover was surlyn instead of balata.  It remained a specialy ball for holes that would not ace with the Steel Center until the "one-ball" rule went into effect.

With the demise of the Steel Center in the mid 1990's, the PPA struggled to find a replacement ball.  The "1997" ball was a disaster as the quality of the balls was poor.  In 1998 they went to a Titleist ball and a few years later to the Strata ball before deciding any ball on the USGA Approved List could be used.


AL SIMPSON  -  LAKE CHARLES LOUISIANA

Al Simpson was one of the founding fathers of competitive putting in the state of Louisiana.  Al was for over 30 years the course owner of the Putt-Putt Golf Course in Lake Charles Louisiana, before selling the course to the present owner, his son Greg, in the 1990's.  Al was inducted into the Professional Putters Association Hall of Fame in 1998.  Al started theTournament of Champions in 1965 at his Lake Charles course to feature a season ending competition of all those who won a tournament during that season.  Held in October, the event was renamed the Al Simpson Tournament of Champions after Al's passing a few years ago, or more simply the beloved term, "The Al".

                                 
  Al in 1971                                                                                                Al in 1988
16 SWPT Titles between Portugal, Statum and Smith 
There have been 31 SWPT champions since the tour began in 1984. Almost half of the championships have gone to just three players.  Leading the way with seven championships is Jeffrey Smith of Dallas.  He was the last of the three to win one, but won six titles from 1995 to 2009.  Jeffrey won in 1995, 1996, 2001, 2002, 2005, 2009 and in 2016. In 2014 he acheived his ultimate PPA goal by winning the National Championship.   Hall of Fame player Marc Portugal won the first two SWPT (called the Texas Putting Tour until 2007) championships in 1984 and 1985.  He followed that up with wins in 1991 and 1999.  Rainey Statum won four of his five championships in a six year period, from 1988 to 1993, winning in 1988, 1990, 1992 and 1993, then won again in 2017.  Both Rainey and Marc have played only part time, if at all, since the early 2000's.  Brice Bergesen has won three titles, no other player has won more than twice.  Hall of Fame player Mike Baldoza and two time National Champion Cliff Matthews have  won two titles.   Bergesen could have more than three titles, but has lost twice in the finals on the 36th hole and once in sudden death on the 37th hole.

             
Marc Portugal                                     Rainey Statum                                    Jeffrey Smith
Joe Lea and his $12,000 Putt
Joe Lea led the 2011 SWPT with five wins, but that has not been his biggest accomplishment in putting.  One of the Skins games TV shows in 1993 featured Joe Lea, Vince Batton, and the very confident Tom Butler.  They played 18 holes for $1,000 per hole and Tom quickly made it clear in the TV interviews that he expected to win quite a bit of the money.  Tom quickly won $2,000 and then there were ties for eleven holes.  On the next hole both Tom and Vince missed and Joe had a chance to ace for $12,000.  This photo catches the ball just before it enters the cup via a back door ace.  It is the most money any SWPT player in history has ever won with a single putt, and one of the richest putts ever in putting history. 
     
   HOUSTON GULF FREEWAY PUTT-PUTT PLAYERS IN 1986 
All but three of the above players from the Houston Gulf Freeway Putt-Putt Golf Course are still competing, 32 years after the photo.  In the front is Brian Bergesen.  In the second row are:  Don Parker, Paul Moore (passed away in 2003), Greg Roberts (passed away in 2012), Dwain Willett and course owner Brice Bergesen.  In the back row:  Rudy Cuellar, Joe Lea and Rainey Statum.  Besides Greg and Paul, all but Brian still compete in SWPT events. 
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