Though Bob Stone died 18 years ago, his legacy of one of the best golfers ever produced by the Kansas City metro area is well-remembered.
Stone, who had stints as the head professional at Rockwood Country Club, Grain Valley Country Club and Cracknerneck Golf Club in the area and won 45 times as a professional, is part of the second induction class into the Kansas City Golf Association Hall of Fame. His son Bobby will be accepting the honor on his father’s behalf during the Saturday’s induction ceremony at Indian Hills Country Club in Mission Hills, Kansas.
“It’s hard for me to speak for him, but he’d be pleased about it,” said Bobby, 51, who resides near Pleasant Hill and has been a teaching pro for 28 years. “He loved to play golf, and he had a lot of success as a club professional and touring pro.
“I tell people I couldn’t really appreciate his game until I caddied for him – to see how his peers perceived him for his ball-striking ability.”
Bobby took up the game at age 8 and started caddying on and off for his father in 1983, and he remembers players at PGA Senior Tour events such as Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller and even a spectating Sam Snead coming up to Bob and complimenting his talent. Miller’s quip particularly struck young Bobby because it had been 15 years since Miller had last seen Stone.
“When you see that kind of stuff going on, you know he was a pretty special player,” Bobby said.
Bobby remembers his father introducing him to South Africa native Gary Player at one event in Las Vegas.
“In that ... accent, he says, ‘You’ve got a helluva father, you know,’” Bobby said. “I said, ‘You’re right, I know that.’ He was a delight to be around, not only for his game but as a person.”
Bobby said his father, who was born in 1930 and graduated from Raytown High School in 1949, grew up next to Royal Meadows in Raytown and started caddying and learning the game there with his brother Billy.
“By the time he got to high school he was a pretty good player,” Bobby said. “Then he went into the service, and he won the Air Force championship.”
In his KCGA biography, Bob’s listed stops as head professional starting in 1956 included Princeton, Ky., Stayton Meadows; Sam Snead School of Golf, Junction City, Kan.; Rockwood; Grain Valley; Rockwood again; and then Crackerneck. From 1990-91 he ran the Bob Stone School of Golf in Independence.
He played on the PGA Tour 1968-72, winning the Florida Citrus Open in 1969, and on the Senior Tour 1981-90. In his first Senior Tour event at age 51, he tied Palmer and Billy Casper for first place in the U.S. Senior Open at storied Oakland Hills in Michigan, falling to Palmer in Monday’s 18-hole playoff.
Other events that he won, many of them multiple times, included the Irvin Cobb Tournament in Paducah, Ky.; the Heart of America Open in Salina, Kan.; the Midwest Section PGA; state Open championships in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin; U.S. Open local and sectional qualifiers; and the U.S. Senior Open qualifier.
Bobby said his father didn’t tour as regularly as many pros did and still do, due in parts to the travel that kept him away from family, some back injuries and simply a preference to play and compete locally. Through those playing days, he said, the elder Stone achieved 30 course records – some since broken and others at now-defunct courses, never to be topped.
“I’m glad and pleased that his legacy will be remembered,” the younger Stone said.
Also being inducted with Stone are Karen Schull MacGee, the top women’s player in the metro region from 1958 to 1980; and “The Foursome” – George Johnson, Reuben Benton, Sylvester Johnson and Leroy Doty – who in 1950 started the movement to abolish the widespread racial barrier at municipal courses. Local legend and recent U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson was among the seven members of the inaugural induction class.