Dick Forester: Houston's Most Experienced Pro
HOUSTON, TX -- Dick Forester was there the day three-time Masters champion Jimmy Demaret hit one of the first shots on a par-3 hole just before Champions Golf Club officially opened in the late 1950s.
"Demaret hit this shot on the green and declared he had the first hole-in-one recorded at Champions," Forester recalled. "I said, 'wait a minute, there aren't any holes or flags out there yet.' He said: 'Well, if there were holes that would be the spot, so I made a hole-in-one.' "
Forester, 85, has seen many firsts in the history of golf in Houston. He's played and worked with Demaret and Jack Burke, Jr., who were co-founders of Champions Golf Club, site of the 1999 PGA Tour Championship.
"One of the most stirring things I've ever seen in golf happened at the Ryder Cup at Champions in 1967," Forester remembered. "You always have an opening ceremony where they play both American and British national anthems. Well, we had a fog delay, and out of that fog appears 200 University of Houston marching band members playing the Star-Spangled Banner. I'll never forget that."
It inspired the American golfers, too. Buoyed by captain Ben Hogan, the Americans blitzed the British, 23½ to 8½, as Arnold Palmer and Gardner Dickinson were unbeaten in five matches. It remains the largest victory margin in Ryder Cup history.
Forester grew up with Demaret as a boy caddie in Houston. "Back then there was no competition like there is today. We just watched the good players and tried to imitate them. Today you have coaches and videos and everything is so organized. And the courses are in such good condition."
But Forester's swing imitation from his youth flourished and he came on the golf scene in 1944 as a pro at River Oaks Country Club. He then ran Houston Country Club for more than 20 years before moving on to Bear Creek Golf World for the remainder of his career. Today he is pro emeritus at Cypresswood Golf Club.
Forester has been a life member of the PGA since 1942, he's been on the executive committee of the PGA and was instrumental in getting the Ryder Cup to Houston along with the Texas State Open and the Shell's Wonderful World of Golf. He's also in the Texas Golf Hall of Fame.
The Houston Golf Association was born from a meeting in 1945 where Forester was in attendance. A group of residents, including Demaret, who won at Augusta in 1940, 1947 and 1950, wanted to bring a PGA Tour event to town, but they realized they needed a base of volunteers to run the tournament.
Thus the Houston Golf Association came to be. In the first year of the subsequent PGA tournament the total prize money was $10,000. Byron Nelson won the event with Hogan second and Sam Snead in third.
Some of his other successes included establishing a handicap system for the members of Houston Country Club. And he also came up with the idea to rent practice balls to golfers at the range, instead of having them shag their own.
It was only a matter of time before Forester's two sons also joined the Houston golf family. Jack Forester is the general manager of Cypresswood Golf Club and Rick Forester designed Cypresswood's Creek and Cypress layouts. Rick has also been involved with the Tour 18 group.
"I think golf is very healthy today, but it always seems to have a growth spurt when our president is a good golfer," said Forester. "That happened with Eisenhower and Bush. If the president is a good golfer then lots of people get the idea that it is a good thing to do."
How about today's sticker shock -- the $85 round of golf at upscale daily-fee courses?
"When we opened Bear Creek Golf World in 1969 we were charging $2 during the week and $3 on the weekends," he said. "And we agonized over raising prices. Still today in Houston golf is a great deal and affordable. Go to California and it will cost you so much more. And we have probably 300 days a year of golf weather here compared to maybe 340 in California."
In 1998, at the age of 83, Dick Forester hit a 98-yard pitching wedge for a hole-in-one at WindRose Golf Club's 11th hole. It was his sixth ace.
Shoot, that's no big deal for a guy who has been involved in golf for 75 years -- just gives other folks another story to tell about Houston's most experienced pro.