March saw the passing of two important and historic figures of the SCGA.
To describe SCGA Past President Al Love as a trailblazer, life-long learner and true aficionado of the game of golf would not accurately portray a man who gave to his country, community, family and the game for nearly seven decades. Upon the passing of Love in March at age 81, the 1999 SCGA president and a past president of Industry Hills GC is remembered as the first African-American SCGA president and first board member from a public course, serving on the board from 1990 to the SCGA’s Centennial Anniversary in 1999.
Love, a North Carolina native and California resident for more than 40 years along, took an early interest in the game, first as a caddie at age 11, then as a player for the next seven decades. Love was a very proud, active member of the golf community, both with his duties with the SCGA as well as serving a life member and past president of Industry Hills Golf Club. He was also a member of the hole-in-one club, although he said, “it was so long ago, the memory is fading fast.”
Prior to his golf tenure, though, he served in the U.S. Army in the U.S., Europe and Japan, retiring as a master sergeant from 1946 to 1966. During his time in Germany, he served as a basic education instructor in a special unit created to improve the educational level of enlisted men who had not completed high school. Upon his return to the states, Love was assigned to the artillery battalion at Ft. McArthur for 10 years, charged with protecting Los Angeles from air attack during the Nike missile era.
Love discharged after 20 years and began attending Harbor College and Pepperdine University, when, after graduating from Pepperdine with a degree in engineering, he embarked on a second career as a senior project engineer at Hughes Aircraft, serving the aerospace company for 30 years before retiring. Along with committing his time to his family, including his wife of 58 years, Carlee, four children and three grandchildren, Love was very active in the community as well, including involvement with the Mt. Baldy Boy Scout Council and the Pomona Citizens Annexation Committee.
Two-time SCGA Amateur and four-time SCGA Senior Amateur champion Ted Richards, Jr., of Los Angeles, passed away at age 87, but in his place remains a legacy as one of the top senior players in the Southland thanks to a second chance at life and a lot of determination.
A veteran of World War II, Richards’ story of survival and victory is an inspiring one. From a horrifying crash that left him to relearn how to walk to winning the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship less than a decade later, what was a golf hobby soon turned into his livelihood.
Richards was a 21-year-old radio operator and top turret gunner on a B-24 bomber on September 10, 1944 when a squadron of eight Japanese Zero fighters attacked his squadron, causing Richards and his crew to experience what one newspaper later called “the most spectacular crash landing in the Pacific” on the island of Saipan. Miraculously, they all survived.
“I look at it as a freebie,” said Richards a decade later. “You walk away from something like that and say, ‘Gee, the rest of your life is free.” It’s confounding at age 21 to try to figure out why you’re still alive when other guys are out in the water with the sharks.”
It took Richards six months to learn to walk again, and he carried shrapnel in his body for the rest of his life. He came home from the war, went on to UCLA and began a career as a stockbroker. And all the while, he played some major amateur golf.
In two years at UCLA, Richards lost only two matches and in his senior year captained the team (which included future Walker Cupper Bobby Gardner). Richards won the 1949 Southern California Public Links Championship, set a course record 62 at Recreation Park, and in 1953 won the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship when he defeated Long Beach’s Irving Cooper, 1 up, in the 36-hole final match. That same year, he lost in the quarterfinals of the U.S. Amateur to San Diego’s Gene Littler.
Richards joined Bel-Air CC and in 1954 won the first of two SCGA Amateur championships, defeating Sandy Mosk, 3 and 2, in the final match. In 1961 (with the tournament now being 72 holes of stroke play), Richards finished two shots in front of another Walker Cupper, Gene Andrews, at The Los Angeles Country Club.
In his time as a Bel-Air Country Club member, he won the club championship 18 times, the last of which came in 1981 when Richards was 59 years old. In the 1957 championship he fired a then-course record of 63.
Even with a bevy of senior stars competing, it was inevitable that when the SCGA instituted a Senior Amateur championship in 1978, Richards would be the first winner. His quote of “I don’t like to play practice rounds, because I don’t want to learn where the trouble is,” would clearly work out over the next several years -- he took the inaugural win at Wilshire Country Club, the first of four titles that he would capture in the first seven years of the event. His other wins came in 1980 at Glendora Country Club, 1981 at Las Posas Country Club and 1984 at Arrowhead Country Club, making him the most winning senior in the SCGA’s tournament history.