MILTON J. BURKHART
It would have been a terrific movie!!!
Actually, it WAS a terrific, widely acclaimed movie, made in 2005 and called “The Greatest Game Ever Played”, which told the story of a very young, poor American caddie, Francis Ouimet, who shocked the golf world by winning the 1913 US Open defeating two of the game's greats, Englishmen Ted Ray and Harry Vardon, in the finals. The youngster's amazing victory was said to have provided a tremendous impetus to the growth of golf in America.
The quiet and very respectful young Ouimet won the Open playing with a used golf ball, some borrowed and a few homemade clubs on the same golf course, the Country Club of Brookline, Massachusetts where he worked as a caddie. His fellow caddies and the people of Brookline went nuts with excitement and pride.
Francis, 20 at the time of much heralded victory was elected to the Golf Hall of Fame in 1974.
Okay, zip ahead to 1932, change the site to the Teugega Country Club in Rome, N.Y.,
where an equally poor, very quiet, respectful, young caddie, 17-year-old Milton J. Burkhart, shocked the world by defeating both the reigning city champion and the defending city amateur king to win the Rome Sentinel sponsored City Amateur Golf Tournament. Milt, by the way, was using some borrowed and some homemade golf clubs. The loaners were given to him by Teugega member Harry W. Barnard, who in turn presented the clubs to Milt after the match as a reward for his inspiring win.
The Sentinel, in writing about the city tournament described the gallery as large and enthusiastic, and described the players involved as really good sports and true gentlemen.
When the championship match ended, Milt's fellow caddies “hoisted him on their shoulders and carried the new titleholder all around the clubhouse to the delight and warm applause of the gallery who showed their appreciation of the young man's skills.”
Milt would go on to win the next two city tourneys retiring the Sentinel Trophy for having won the tournament three times in a row. He might have won more, but at the age of 21 Milt accepted a job as the pro at Beaverbrook and as a professional became ineligible for the amateur tournament.
Following his service in the Army during WW2, Milt, still in love with game of golf,
decided to forgo a professional playing career, and opted instead to build and then operate a driving range on the Oriskany Road, and then after 20 years of demanding and very hard work, Milt opened the Oriskany Hills Golf Course which he and his family operated from 1962 until his death in 1986.
Milt, his wife Frances and their three daughters operated the golf course as a true family oriented facility. Because of the demands of owning and operating a golf course, Milt didn't get to play the game he so enjoyed very often, but according to the family, he delighted in making golf available to youngsters. A deeply religious man, Milt invited any member of the clergy and the students at Rome Catholic to play his course at no cost. He gave free lessons to kids, and as a remembrance of the kindness of the members of Teugega, particularly Mr. Barnard, Milt made sure every kid had free clubs that he cobbled together for them.
His daughter Karen, the oldest, recalls being awakened mornings at 5am once her father found a church with a 5:30 mass. She accompanied dad to church and then to work at the golf course where, from the age of five on, she was paid a quarter for collecting the golf balls from the range.
Gail, Milt's middle daughter, lettered in golf for the Rome Catholic High School Boy's golf team, a trailblazing accomplishment at the time, and inspired by her father's accomplishments, won the Rome City Amateur Women's Golf Tournament in 1973 and again in 1980.
----and now, in 2014, the late and much admired, Milton J. Burkhart, who went on to have a very successful golf career as a player and a golf course owner, has been elected to the Rome Sports Hall of Fame.
His children and grandchildren describe him as a wonderful, talented, friendly, kind, generous, loving man who lived a lifetime of excellence as a golfer and as a human being.
The Rome Sports Hall of Fame agrees.