MALEN, MURPHY, FUCHS ENTER CONNECTICUT SECTION PGA PROFESSIONAL HALL OF FAME
The Connecticut Section Spring PGA Membership Meeting Held at the Golf Club of Avon
By Bruce Berlet
AVON, Conn. (April 25, 2023) – It’s amazing, ironic, and fitting how things work out sometimes.
Don Malen was one of three new inductees into the Connecticut Section PGA Professional Hall of Fame on Tuesday during the Spring PGA Membership Meeting at the Golf Club of Avon. Malen has been associated with the club for 48 years, 35 as the head professional, and was a longtime close friend of John Murphy, another inductee who worked most of his career at the Country Club of Farmington, located only seven miles away.
“When they held a retirement celebration for John in 2007, we remembered how he and I broke every rule in the book,” Malen said with a wide smile. “Every time there was an outing at one of our clubs, they always said they had a good day with Murphy and Malen. A lot of people know how I felt about Murphy.”
Malen and Murphy were two pros who had their staff wear ties, giving them a professional look. Murphy died last Oct. 6, and he and Malen were honored Tuesday with the late Al Fuchs.
“Basically, golf has been my whole life,” said Malen, 76, a PGA Life Member. “When I found out that I was going into the Hall of Fame, I thought, ‘Wow.’ Then I reflected on the club and all of the pros that I’ve been fortunate to know.”
Malen started in the game as a caddie and caddie master and then became an assistant pro at Wampanoag Country Club in West Hartford in 1970. Five years later, his “dream came true” when he was named the head pro at the Golf Club of Avon.
Shortly after joining Avon, Tom Nettlebladt, son of Hall of Famer Harry Nettlebladt, was severely injured in an automobile accident during a storm. Malen, who played Hogan clubs at the time, sent a letter to the legendary Ben Hogan about a charity event that was going to be held to help Nettlebladt, whom Hogan knew. Hogan couldn’t attend the benefit, but he did send a $10,000 check to help the cause.
Malen helped Avon members and guests for 40 years before he retired in 2015, but he’s still seen around the club offering advice for young and old.
“I always tried to make an event seem important and special, regardless of who was playing,” Malen said. “People don’t always remember what you did, but they always remember how you made them feel.”
Malen then glanced around the room where the Hall of Fame ceremony was being held.
“I can’t tell you know many happy memories I’ve had in this ballroom,” Malen said. “All of the associates that I have are because of the Avon members and Connecticut Section PGA.”
As heartfelt at those sentiments were, Malen was a bit upstaged moments after his speech ended by one of his students, 13-year-old Avon member Brayden Grossman.
“Thanks, and congratulations,” said Brayden, who has taken lessons from Malen for years.
Loud applause all around.
Murphy was one of the Section’s leading merchandisers before he died in 2022 at 78 while living in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. He was born in Newport, R.I., as the fifth of 10 children and graduated from De La Salle Academy in Newport in 1961. He began his golf career as a caddie at Newport Country Club, caddied for Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, and a picture of him standing behind Eisenhower is prominently displayed at the club.
Murphy, who had four children, attended the PGA Business School in 1963 and moved to Connecticut to be an assistant at Hartford Golf Club. He would head to Florida in the winters and was an assistant at The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach. In 1966, he was hired as the head pro at Westwoods in Farmington, and then in 1967, in the middle of a snowstorm, he was offered and signed a contract to be the head pro at Farmington. Often described as the Pro’s-Pro, he had a 40-year career at Farmington and redefined what it was to be a golf professional.
In January of 2000, Murphy was inducted into the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame for Distinguished Service to Golf by the Connecticut State Golf Association for his love of teaching golf and inspiring so many people in the golf industry. He was a student of the game his entire life and had a profound impact on all those who met him. He never forgot a face or a name and was a master at the art of relationships and making everyone he touched feel good about themselves.
In 2007, Murphy received the Section’s highest honor, Professional of the Year. He also was actively involved in the Recovery community and helped many people get help and find sobriety over the years. He was passionate about recovery and the fellowship that the program provided to him and others. For years, he was a chairman and director at High Watch Farm in Kent, a devote Catholic, a Eucharistic Minister for decades and was awarded the Hartford Archdiocese’s Medal of Appreciation in 2004. Upon retirement, he went to Juno Beach, Fla., until 2019 when he moved to Ponte Vedra Beach to be close to his family, which was his greatest joy.
Murphy’s daughter Katie Parks and close friend Angelo Dimatteo accepted the award in John’s memory.
“I can’t tell you how much of an honor this is for our family,” Parks said.
Fuchs started as an assistant at Grantmoor Golf Club and then became the head pro at Mill River Country Club in Stratford in 1974. He won the Connecticut PGA Championship in 1973, played in a U.S. Open, a U.S. Senior Open and several Travelers Championships. He was named the Section Golf Professional of the Year in 1975.
Fuchs’ nephews Tom and Dave Fuchs accepted Al’s award in his honor.
TRAVELERS CHAMPIONSHIP UPGRADED
Travelers Championship tournament director Nathan Grube discussed how Connecticut’s biggest sporting event is almost certain to have its best field since it began as the Insurance City Open in 1952. The event is one of the PGA Tour’s 17 new “designated” tournaments, will have a record purse ($20 million) and first prize ($3.6 million) and is expected to attract most of the Top 20 players in the world and the top players in its Player Impact Program, which ranks players in terms of popularity as well as skill.
Among those who have already committed to the tournament June 22-25 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell are Scottie Scheffler (No. 2), Rory McIlroy (No. 3), Patrick Cantlay (No. 4), defending champion Xander Schauffele (No. 5), Max Homa (No 7). Collin Morikawa (No. 13), Justin Thomas (No. 14), 2022 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Cameron Young (15), Tony Finau (No. 16) and Vermont native Keegan Bradley (No. 22).
Grube and Travelers executive vice president and chief administrative officer Andy Bessette learned that the PGA Tour was going to add four more “designated” tournaments last August.
“As soon as we heard that, Andy and I thought, ‘How do we become one of them’,” Grube said. “We immediately started fighting for one of the events. People constantly said that we couldn’t do something, and that only made us want to prove them wrong.”
Grube said there were “massive reasons” that the Travelers Championship was selected, including the insurance magnate elevating the event to the next level, the number and energy of the fans, a strong volunteer base and showing the tournament could handle being a “designated” event.
“You really can’t do what we were able to do without a strong title sponsor like Travelers,” Grube said. “This is as memorable a time for us in my 19 years with the tournament. I feel we’re in good position for the future.”
Fans will be welcome onsite beginning June 21 for the Celebrity Pro-Am. For tickets and tournament updates, visit TravelersChampionship.
Tom Hantke received several ovations in recognition of his 30 years as the Section executive director that will end at the end of 2023. He will remain with the organization in an advisory capacity.
In 2022, the Connecticut Section PGA Golf Foundation raised $81,435 during its inaugural Birdies Fore Brighter Futures event. The funds were split evenly between the Foundation and the Connecticut Children’s Hospital.
In the post-ceremony charity tournament, John Vitale (Full Circle Golf) and Ron Dellostritto (Fairways Golf Range & Pro Shop) combined for 24 stableford points to lead Team First Tee – Connecticut to 187 points, worth $1,700 in donations. The Section Golf Foundation team had 174 points, led by 30 points by the duos of E.J. Altobello (Springfield CC) and Bob Mucha (Edgewood GC-Southwick, Mass.) and Andy Svoboda and Peter Pulaski, both of Great River GC.