Jim Harris: State Amateur Golf Will Always Be Indebted to Monk Wade's Love Of Game

by Jim Harris  on Friday, May. 4, 2012 2:48 pm  

Charles "Monk" Wade was instrumental in growing state amateur golf in Arkansas. (Photo by ASGA)

This story is from the archives of ArkansasSports360.com.

On Saturday, approximately 111 kids ages 7 to 17 will descend on the First Tee of Central Arkansas for the second Monk Wade Junior Classic. It's a two-day event that kicks off the junior amateur season, as well as bringing a lot of youths from outside of Little Rock in contact with a truly fabulous golf facility for children and adults.

It's my guess that most of boys and girls entered in the tournament probably only know the name of Monk Wade thanks to a classroom at the First Tee of Central Arkansas being named for him, if they know it at all. They probably have no idea how his name happened to grace the room in the first place. There may be a few boys 15 or older who have already had the good fortune to have played in the Monk Wade Father-and-Son Tournament, another Arkansas State Golf Association event that is held every June, but probably don't know why Wade's name is on that tournament either.

Charles "Monk" Wade made the ASGA what it is today. When the organization was only about staging a handful of championships every year, when his own playing days had slowed, he stepped up as its first executive director in 1975.

It was that position, which he held for 15 years, that allowed me to get to know this interesting man.

I remember him as being almost elfin in stature, and possessing a wide grin, when I happened upon Monk Wade at the scorer's tent at Pine Bluff Country Club back in 1976, when the ASGA was holding its Stroke-Play Championship there. I was a cub reporter for the Pine Bluff Commercial. Monk Wade didn't just make it easy for me to understand the format or gather the information, he proceeded to give me more insight than any of the next day's readers would have probably cared to know. He was a wealth of historical information on previous tournaments. He was great at putting cub reporter with great amateur golfer for that day's recap. With Monk, the story all but wrote itself for a college-age summer reporter.

"Do you need a cart? Let's get you a cart," he'd say. This happened at every ASGA Tournament over the next decade or more.

I remember him as a kind hearted soul, a class act, and the right man to be in charge of the ASGA at this time. He moved aside as the executive director in 1990, and Jay Fox has carried the banner ably since. And while I was lucky enough to know him from the journalism angle, many others knew this former banker and lover of golf as a guy that made their day great, even if they didn't play that well.

Wade's charge was to make state golf bigger than just the Stroke and Match-Play championships. He started the Father-and-Son event in the 1970s, began the Player of the Year Award and the ASGA Scholarship Program, and he created the Arkansas Golfer magazine that goes to all members of the ASGA. Iin 1996, his name was added to the Arkansas Golf Hall of Fame roll.

He died in 2010 at age 90, not getting to see the newest tournament added to the ASGA schedule: This one focused solely on the youths and played on maybe the nation's best First Tee course, and named in his honor. I know he would have been at the scorer's tent, getting to know all the young players as they brought they scorecards in, and he'd be helping out any and all reporters with every detail they needed.

In Monk's honor, spend a moment or two during the weekend watching the latest generation of young Arkansas amateur golfers compete at First Tee.

CHANGING GRASS: News comes out of the First Tee of Central Arkansas that the two 9-hole courses on the property will be closing for nine weeks beginning May 21. After much debate and after losing the bentgrass greens in past summers to the extreme heat, the First Tee is changing to an ultra-dwarf strain of Bermudagrass, just like several country clubs in the area have switched in recent years.

Pleasant Valley Country Club, Maumelle Country Club and the Greens at North Hills are all former bentgrass facilities that now use Champion bermudagrass, one of the top ultra-drawf strains.



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