Don Dupske has won golf tournaments through seven decades. That is 70 years of golf at the highest level. Is it his fluid golf swing? His putting prowess? His length off the tee? It is “all of the above”, and more.
Let me share with you my introduction to one of the finest players to ever grace the fairways of St. Louis and Missouri.
In 1952 I was 14 years old and an afterthought as a freshman on the Columbia Hickman High School golf team. I had never played in a match. The Hickman golf coach scheduled us to play against a St. Louis powerhouse team, Kirkwood. We played a nine hole match at Westborough Country Club. I was the number 5 player on our 6 man team. I was introduced to my opponent, Don Dupske.
That was the first match of my high school career, and I was defeated by Don, 39 to 41. Although I was the loser, it was exciting because I played one of the best rounds of my short golfing life. My high school played and practiced on sand greens– but at Westborough we played grass greens.
At dinner after the match, one of my teammates said to me, “Bob, the guy you played today, Dupske. He was their number 1 player. I heard that the coach was disciplining him for playing bad in their last match so he paired him with one of our team’s worst players. You.” Thanks a lot, Coach. Later, I learned that not only was Don the Kirkwood number one player but he was also the 1951 St. Louis District Junior Champion, a title he would win again in 1954.
With a name like Dupske, Don was easy to keep track of through the newspapers. I had heard that he was working for Jim Fogerty at Sunset Hills Country Club and that after high school he turned pro to pursue a career in golf.
In the spring of 1959, Chauncey Simpson, the University of Missouri golf coach, called an initial meeting of the golf team. We’d had a pretty good year in 1958, but a new entry in the Big 8 Conference, Oklahoma State, had taken the conference title. It was the first of 36 they would go on to win. Tom Garrity, from Kansas City, was our number one player, I was playing number two, Buddy Mercier, from Fredricktown returned from the previous year and Ira Smith,recently returned from The Korean War, was also back.
Coach Simpson introduced our newest member of the 1959 squad– Don Dupske. Don had gotten his amateur status back, returned to school and was earning a degree. What a great addition to our team! We played the conference championship that year in Norman, Oklahoma. Garrity missed winning the individual title by one shot. I finished sixth, and due to the strong showing by Don and the rest of the team, the Mizzou Tigers captured second. It was a good showing for a Tiger team against an OSU team that had two players who would play briefly on the PGA tour, Jim Wright and Terry Wilcox, and two more who would spend their careers as club professionals. Oklahoma State finished second in the 1959 NCAA championship.
Don graduated from the University of Missouri, took a job in St. Louis and started a family. But he also continued to play the game he loved. He won championships, mostly at the state and local level, throughout the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s. In the 1990’s, when he reached his fifties, senior golf became his challenge. He won St. Louis District Senior Championships, played on the Missouri Challenge Cup team, and he played in several Society of Seniors sponsored events.
I retired in 1999 and at age 62 began to play again. I had moved to Florida and had the opportunity to practice all year round. It had been a long layoff for me, so I entered several national tournaments sponsored by GolfWeek Magazine in order to get back into some sort of competitive shape. One such tournament was held at the Orange County Golf Complex in Orlando. It was a 54 hole event and included a Demo Day. The first two days I was paired with a golfer from St. Louis, Don Dupske. And he beat me again. I told him, “Don, I have been playing you since I was 14 years old and I haven’t beaten you yet.” He just smiled.
I later moved back to Missouri and in the ensuing years up to the present, Don and I have played a number of the same senior events. We have been teammates on Ozark Cup teams and competitors in MGA events. One of the great examples of Don’s golfing skills occurred during the final round of a recent MGA Senior Series Championship at Meadow Lake Acres CC in New Bloomfield, MO.
Don had the lead after round one– and he would maintain to win the tournament. We were paired with Jerry Kirksey, who had played with Don the previous day. The first hole at Meadow Lake Acres is a 281 yd par four and the second is much longer at 394. Don drove the green on the first hole and sank 60 footer for an eagle 2 and followed that up with an eight foot putt for birdie 3 on the second. As we walked off the green, Jerry said, “Same as yesterday, huh, Don?” I stopped and looked at Dupske and said, “You did the same thing yesterday?” Kirks said, “He sure did.” Don had played the first two holes, each par fours, in a total of 5 shots and he did it two days in a row! How do you beat a guy who shoots 6 under on four holes?
There are players who come to the game as juniors. Others enter competitive golf at the amateur level and a few continue to play as seniors. Health issues alone greatly reduce the numbers who go on play as “super seniors” and on into the “legends” category. Don has played, and won, at all of these levels of competitive golf.
For over 63 years I have had the privilege of chasing Don Dupske around golf courses all over Missouri and these United States. I have admired the tempo of his swing and watched the birdie putts go in. But most of all, I have marveled at the continued high level of Don’s play throughout the many years. In the twilight of his career he still hits it long, putts it straight, and is a true gentleman on and off the golf course.