A New Englander's Take on Golf
January 12, 2022
At the retirement of IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch in 2001, Bill Mallon draws a few laughs with his presentation of a tee-shirt commemorating Duke's NCAA championship over Arizona.

Never did his plan lack conviction. “I went to Duke to become a pro golfer,” said Bill Mallon. “I wanted to be the No. 1 golfer in the world.”

Which isn’t to say that he wasn’t so saturated in curiosity and possess such a thirst for research that he’d be left unprepared should something go wrong. And it did, in a way that still perturbs him.

“I lost my game. I got the driver yips. I drove it so bad I couldn’t score.”

The solid start to his PGA Tour career – Mallon made the cut in 32 of 41 tournaments in 1976-77 – was a natural progression from his string of brilliance. From 1972-77, he won two Massachusetts Amateurs, two New England Amateurs, and two New England Opens.

But when in his fourth year he drove himself off the Tour, Mallon was 27 and if people wondered what was next for the young man from Framingham, the answer was: A lot.

So diverse has been Mallon’s life that if you were to focus on all the accolades given him for a robust Olympic expertise, you might overlook his profound passion for cycling.

Or his rich connection to that golf era that when Curtis Strange and Jay Haas were peers and an 18-year-old Seve Ballesteros was one of his competitors at a PGA Tour Q School.

Or his lengthy stint as a member of the Golf Digest editorial staff.

You might even forget that he had a day job as an orthopedic surgeon. Digest that for a moment. The fact that this layer of his life often gets pushed to the background when you strike up a conversation with Mallon shows the depths to which he’s made.

Intriguing and engaging, Mallon might have had designs on being the world’s best golfer, but clearly his life is now and always has stood in stark contrast to those who are one-dimensional. The best part of it all? So much happenstance brought much it to fruition.

For instance, what set golf in motion was that family move to Raleigh, N.C., in 1964. New neighborhood, few homes, even fewer kids, so Mallon, who took after his father, a passionate cyclist and speed-skater, and rode. “Only I couldn’t ride eight hours a day,” he moaned to his parents.

The solution? “I rode 15 miles to the golf course. I got pretty good, pretty quick.”

A love of the Olympics can be traced to his father who had a collection of books that Bill devoured.

Fast forward to those PGA Tour years when Mallon and Ed Dougherty would rarely get into pro-ams, so they had Wednesdays off. Dougherty was a model train collector, Mallon a rare books guy who specifically needed “Encyclopedia of the Olympic Games” for his collection.

When he wrote to the acclaimed author, Austrian Erich Kamper, and asked if he could buy a copy, the reply Mallon received thrilled him: “I need someone to research U.S. Olympians. If you do that, I’ll send you a book.”

Talk about igniting liftoff. Mallon immersed himself in Olympics research and when PCs came out around 1982 it went to another level. “I was a math major and I was pretty good with setting up a database and compiling records and stats.”

Pretty good being a massive understatement. He was a veritable walking encyclopedia and laughs about the day a medical assistant asked him why. “Kim, this is what keeps me sane.”

Ah, yes, the “medical” slice of the story. Sort of important, given the “Dr.” before his name, but Mallon only entered Med School when he walked away from the PGA Tour.

Bill Mallon's stretch of golf between 1972-77 included a pair of wins each in the Mass. Amateur, the New England Amateur, and the New England Open. But never winning the State Open "still irks me," he said.

He reasoned that “I majored in math and physics at Duke and I think I knew enough science to be pretty good.”

Mallon concedes he “almost knew nothing about medicine,” but he had had shoulder surgery and was intrigued. “It seemed interesting. It looked like a decent way to making a living.”

Assuming, of course, you weren’t in a hurry.

“Four years of Med School, six years of residency, then a Fellowship and two more years of orthopedics – it was 14 years before I was board certified,” laughs Mallon. “Guys I started with (in golf) were retiring from the PGA Tour.”

By the time Dr. Bill Mallon was board certified, he was deeply entrenched in the Olympics. He attended ’76 in Montreal, ’84 in Los Angeles and has been to every Games since ’96 in Atlanta. The streak may or may not continue at the upcoming Winter Games in China, depending on how difficult are the hoops through which one must jump to fulfill protocols.

Either way, Mallon is an icon in Olympic circles, the author of 24 books and a member of the International Society of Olympic Historians.

For his service to the Games, he was presented the Olympic Order in Silver in 2001, the IOC bought his database in 2015, and Mallon continues to find great joy in this corner of his life.

As he does with orthopedics (he still edits the Journal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery).

As he does with cycling (he loves riding the Kancamagus Highway when he’s at the summer home in New Hampshire).

And as he does with golf, which remains a sport that he loves even if he rarely plays.

No, Mallon does not regret walking away in 1979. Back then, “there were no other options” beyond the PGA Tour so Med School was the proper play for Mallon. Still, something his friend, Ed Byman, who played in 36 PGA Tour events between 1978 and 1983, said has always resonated.

“Ten years after we were both out, he told me that what he missed was being nervous on the first tee,” said Mallon. “I told him, I miss that, too. It was a fun nervous.”

I have a passion for playing golf that is surpassed only by my passion for writing about people who have a passion for playing golf, for working in golf, for living their lives around golf. Chasing the best professional golfers around the world for The Boston Globe, Golfweek Magazine, and the PGA Tour for more than 20 years was a blessing for which I’ll be eternally grateful. I’ve been left with precious memories of golf at its very best, but here is a takeaway that rates even more valuable – the game belongs to everyone who loves it. “Power Fades” will be a weekly tribute with that in mind, a digital production to celebrate a game that many of us love. If you share a passion for golf, sign up down below for a free subscription and join the ride. And should you have suggestions, thoughts, critiques, or general comments, feel free to pass them along.

Cheers, Jim McCabe


Jim McCabe | January 12, 2022

Time for golf – in some spots

Likely you’re still thawing out from a blast of brutal winter cold and a look out your window would hardly support the notion that golf is being played. But it is – in warmer locales, of course – and a few golfers with New England connections wisely traveled south.

At the Boys’ Junior Orange Bowl in Coral Gables, Fla., John Broderick of Wellesley shot 72-70-7-74 to finished joint 11th. A senior at Belmont Hill, Broderick is committed to Vanderbilt in the fall of 2002.

The New Year’s Invitational in St. Petersburg, Fla., former Harvard golfer Rij Patel finished T-28 after rounds of 69-74-76-71.

A healthy contingent of women made the trip to play in the South Atlantic Women’s Amateur, affectionally called “The Sally.” Meiyi Yan, a Havard sophomore, and Molly Smith of Vesper CC each shot 309 to finish in a tie for 25th. Boston College’s Canice Screene, a sophomore from England, shot 313 to finish T-31, and Catie Scherneker of Harvard, the reigning Massachusetts Women Amateur champion, was tied for 50th with a 323 total. Allison Paik, a Rhode Island native who plays at Columbia, finished at 326, while Morgan Smith, Molly’s sister, and Tara-Joy Connelly, the Duxbury native who now lives in Florida, were in a large group tied at 327.

1 – I don’t think so

All those golfers who tell you they’re “good” friends with Tiger Woods are wishfully thinking.

2 – Masters of redundancy

When I hear announcers gush about a "new course record," I cringe. They'd probably exclaim that someone just hit "a grand slam home run, too."

3 – Why not sell mulligans, too?

Lift, clean, and place in Hawaii? Really? Taking paradise to the extreme, no?

4 – How do you prove that?

Declaring that any particular player has “the best short game” on the PGA Tour is akin to saying so-and-so is the strongest offensive lineman in the NFL. How do you quantify and what does it mean?

5 – You can’t have it all

Massachusetts has more quality golf courses than Florida. Florida just has more quality golf days.

6 – Safety measures

Always get a kick out of State Troopers guarding and protecting college football coaches. They need to lobby schools to assign them to college golf tournaments, maybe cite the possibility of unruly beverage-cart operators.


7 – While we’re young

Player-caddie banter is grossly over-rated. Why is TV so fascinated by it?

8 – Just plain silly

That’s the sound of 30 million golf fans yawning at the announcement of a site being confirmed for a 2042 national championship. Seventy-five percent of that field isn’t born yet.

9 – Give ‘em a hug

While we’ve barricaded ourselves from snow and ice and cold, our superintendents have been out in the winter elements improving out courses.


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