John Mooshie, a former resident of Sheridan Parkside and Kenmore, grew up less than 500 yards from the Sheridan Golf course. That was back in the early 1950s when the Sheridan course served two sports. It was a 5 month winter wonderland offering ice skating, sledding, and hockey. During the other 7 months it was both a convenient and challenging golf course. But John never played golf.
“I was about 8 years old and during the winter time I could skate and play hockey on the pond or sled down a major hill doing my best to avoid falling into the creek. During the summer, I would walk down our street, Dumas Place, to the golf course and look for lost balls or retrieve them from the creek. I had to keep an eye out for the geezers (maintenance workers) because they didn’t want me on the course.”
In the early 1950s, the family moved to the Village of Kenmore with John’s father teaching at Kenmore High School. Mr. Mooshie also became the school’s golf coach and held that position for many years. But John never played golf.
“Dad used to play golf quite often mostly at Delaware Park. But he also played at Grover Cleveland, Sheridan, and sometimes traveled to the Cherry Hill club up in Ridgeway Ontario… Occasionally, he would take me along and let me putt the ball on the green. And in spite of the fact that he was a golf coach, I never really took the game up.”
Back then the Dunlop Rubber and Tire Company had a 9 hole golf course across from its plant (now Sumitomo) on Sheridan Drive. A public course built in 1935, the par 29 Dunlop course measured 3,619 yards for 18 holes, and consisted of seven (7) par 3s and two (2) par 4s that were played twice to reach a full round of golf. It was there that John and his best friend became more familiar with the game and played a number of times during the summer months. The course was eventually dug up to make way for the Youngman Expressway.
By now, these two “less than professional” golfers graduated to the established 18 hole golf course at Sheridan Park. Back then, the course was located on both sides of Sheridan Drive but many years later it had to be redesigned resulting from the sale of land on the West side of Sheridan Drive to the Linde Corporation (now Praxair).
“I don’t remember much about the course except three holes do stand out. I think the second shot on the second hole, which paralleled Sheridan Drive, had to be hit over water to a green that fronted East Park Drive. And behind the green, the course had installed a 20’ high fence to prevent golf balls from hitting houses located across the street. From there, golfers walked through a tunnel underneath Sheridan Drive to a par 3 third hole that fronted on East Park Drive. Holes three through eight were on the south side of Sheridan. Then to get to the ninth hole (now the 12th hole) it was back through the tunnel to the ninth tee where you had to drive the ball across the water. It couldn’t have been more than a 50 yard drive (more like 175 yards from the back tees!) but I can vividly remember hitting ball after ball into the water and listen to my friend laughing disparagingly , with me screaming with every failed attempt. Not that he was able to do any better”.
John’s golfing career went on a hiatus through his college years and beyond from 1959 to 1966. By then, he was an officer in the USAF stationed at Ramstein AB in Germany. Ramstein was a major military installation with both senior and general officers stationed at or frequently visiting the base. Ramstein’s VIP contingent was substantial enough to warrant a golf course for resident and visiting dignitaries so the Woodlawn Golf Course had been built 10 years earlier and needed a facelift in light of the fact that it was an important tournament stop on what was then the European Golf Tour.
“I was a squadron commander at the time when the base commander assigned me the additional duty of running the golf course. It was my responsibility to make sure the course, clubhouse, and restaurant would be a showcase facility for all the visiting dignitaries that would pass through the base. That’s when I really started playing golf”.
Following his stint in the military, John’s career was focused in the advertising world living in Atlanta and Pensacola. Then in 1970 he moved to Tallahassee where golf became the important sub-chapter in his life.
“The move to Tallahassee included a membership in the country club so I started playing in a regular foursome every weekend. Golf and its associated activities influenced and became my primary social environment. All my friends were golfers and my personal world was golf related”.
The Tallahassee Open was a PGA tour event and John became its public relations director and a member of its board of directors.
“The Tallahassee tournament opened the door to the inner sanctuary of professional golf. I not only was involved in running and promoting a tournament but I got to meet with many of the young golfers who would eventually become well recognized and quite famous. During those early, several, soon to be prominent golfers, stayed at my home during the tournaments and to this day I’ll occasionally hear from them. In time, I was invited into the prestigious American Seniors Golf Association and became one of its directors. It was then that I got to meet and become friends with Ken Venturi, a US Open champion and CBS’ longest running commentator”.
Then, in the 1990s, John saw golf in a whole different light. In addition to playing at the game, his interest in golf turned to course design and golf history. He bought enough property to build a golf course and by doing so, opened him up to an entirely new facet of the game.
“A partner and I decided to layout and build a golf course in our county and our first take was sketched out on a number of paper bar napkins. Once we felt pretty comfortable that our vision was doable, we invited a number of investors to join in our concept. The course was completely constructed ‘in house’ although we felt it necessary to contract with some professional consultants in the areas of grassing, irrigation, and shaping. Rave reviews accompanied our grand opening and with it my interest in golf turned toward design”.
Golfweek magazine, regarded as one of this country’s most popular and professional golf magazines has a golf course rating system called America’s Best. Their system asks hundreds of designated golfers to play and subjectively rate several thousand specified golf courses throughout the world based upon certain defined criteria. John was chosen to be one of those raters in 2006 and has continued doing so ever since.
“Golfweek’s invitation to become a member of their respected rating team was easily one of my life’s highlights. Not only has it afforded me the opportunity to play some of the best and most highly respected courses throughout the world, but it has also introduced me to some highly skilled golfers, noted and top rated golf course architects, and a remarkable group of new friends”.
It’s interesting to see how acquiring an interest in a specific subject can lead to so many separate but related fields. John’s interest in playing golf led to his involvement in the operations of running a golf tournament and eventually becoming a course rater and a student of course design.
“The more courses I played the more I became interested in the varying routing and design approaches the various course architects had chosen. The Classic courses were those built prior to 1960. Modern courses came after. I definitely favored the Classics and joined a number of established cultures organized to perpetuate the designs and lore of those architects from yesteryear”.
What started as an occasional father/son outing grew to become a lifetime passion that afforded John the opportunity to travel the world as well as play some of the most respected courses built. Not only has the golf course been John’s oyster but his world as well.
John Mooshie, a freelance journalist fromWakulla Springs, Florida has unquenchable curiosity for almost everything andwrites on a broad range of golf, travel, and golf fashion for various magazines,newspapers, e-zines, and websites. Formerly an ad agency and billboardcopywriter, he switched careers, co-designed an 18 hole golf course, and nowwrites reviews on both golf course resorts and destination spas. He iscurrently conducting research to write biographical sketches about individualsand businesses that fly below the radar and will soon publish a golf bookpromising to cure the five bad shots in golf. www.johnsmooshie.com