February 8, 2014
Four Elected to the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame “Class of 2014”
The Iowa Golf Association Foundation recently announced the election of four new members to the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame. John Bermel of Cedar Falls, Dave Sergeant of Fort Dodge and author Larry Dennis, a Marshalltown native, will be inducted this spring. In addition, the late Norman Westfall of Des Moines, an influential golf course superintendent whose career spanned from the 1930’s through the 1960’s, was elected in the “historical category”
The “Class of 2014” will raise the total membership in the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame to 66.
Successful as a college player, a club professional and Division I college coach, John Bermel’s involvement in golf has spanned more than 40 years so far. His playing career began in high school and he attended Central College in Pella where he earned NCAA Division III All American honorable mention in three of his four years. He helped Central win four Iowa Conference team championships and earn four NCAA Division III tournament appearances. Bermel was inducted into the Central College Hall of Honor in 2013.
The Keota, Iowa native turned professional after college and served as an assistant professional at various clubs in Iowa until 1990. From 1990-95 he was the Head Professional at Beaver Hills CC in Cedar Falls. In 1996 he was named the Head Men’s Golf Coach at the University of Northern Iowa and became the Head Golf Professional at Pheasant Ridge Golf Course. Bermel continues to hold the Men’s coaching job at UNI and has also been Head Coach for the UNI Women’s team since 2002.
Despite his extremely busy schedule Bermel has always competed at a high level in Iowa Section competition as well as nationally. He has qualified for 16 PGA National Club Professional Championships, and has finished in the top 25 four times. He won the Iowa PGA Section Championship four times (1993, 2000, 04 and 05) and the Section’s Senior Championship twice (2012, 13).
He has twice competed in the PGA Championship, one of professional golf’s four majors. He competed at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla. in 1994 and Valhalla Golf Course near Louisville, Ky. in 1996. Bermel also qualified for a major on the Champions Tour in 2012, playing at the U.S. Senior Open at Indianwood Golf and Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich.
According to his peers John’s greatest contributions to golf have come as a leader in junior golf and growth of the game. He has directed the Iowa PGA Junior Golf Academy since 1999 and received the Section’s Junior Golf Leader award in 1999 and again in 2007. He has also received the Iowa PGA Teacher of the Year Award (2000), Labron Harris, Sr. Award for Coaches (2011), the Iowa PGA Professional of the Year Award (2012) and the Iowa PGA Horton Smith Award (2013).
Jeff Smith, 2013 inductee to the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame, has known John since the start of his career. In his letter of recommendation to the Hall of Fame Committee Smith stated that Bermel is “a leader in growing the game through his public facility with strong emphasis on junior and college golfers.”
Jim Hasley, a 2010 inductee made the following observation: “He is the ideal of what a person can accomplish as a player, junior leader, administrator, coach and community leader. John wears many hats and they all seem to fit because he keeps his head on straight.”
Dave Sergeant’s life-long commitment to golf began at age seven. His success as a player and his many years of service as a volunteer for the Iowa Golf Association and for the Fort Dodge Country Club, combine to represent a remarkable lifetime of devotion to the game of golf.
Sergeant’s best friend growing up was Tom Chapman, Jr. (2008 Iowa Golf Hall of Fame inductee). They played almost daily at the Fort Dodge Country Club where the two teenagers once walked and played 108 holes in one day! After a successful high school and junior career Sergeant attended St. Olaf College in Minnesota. He was a member of the golf team from 1963-67 at the NCAA Division III school, and was the team MVP for the 1965-66 season. During his career at St. Olaf he won a Midwest Conference title and a NCAA regional title and competed in two NCAA D-3 National Championships. He was also a match play qualifier at the 1965 Western Junior played in Colorado Springs.
According to Fort Dodge friend Tom Schill, Dave “took 12 years off from competitive golf during the prime of his career”. The 1970 Drake Law School graduate devoted most of his time to his family, law practice and other community and church volunteer activities. He played occasionally in local and state events and his name started to appear more frequently on leader boards again in the early 90’s. After turning 50 Dave devoted more time and effort to his game and became a dominant force in Iowa senior golf.
From 1996 through 2001 he was IGA Senior Player of the Year four times (1997-99 and 2001) and finished second in 1996 and 2000. In that six-year stretch he won the Iowa Senior Match Play, the Iowa Masters and the Fort Dodge Amateur four times each and recorded a total of 10 runner-up finishes in those three events. He was runner-up three times (1995, 1999 and 2002) in the Iowa Senior Amateur but it was the one state senior title that eluded him.
Sergeant also made his mark on the national senior scene by qualifying for the1998 U. S. Senior Open played at Riviera CC in Los Angeles and the 2003 Senior Open played at Inverness in Toledo, Ohio. In 2001 he qualified for the U. S. Senior Amateur played in St. Louis and advanced to the round of 32 in match play. The next year he qualified for the U. S Senior Amateur played in Jacksonville, Fla. and won two matches before being eliminated in the round of 16.
In the same time period as his on-course success as a senior Sergeant’s activities included extensive service to the game. He served on the Fort Dodge CC board of directors from 1994-97 and again from 2007-2012, and included a two year term as club President from March 1995 to March 1997. He also served on the board of the Iowa Golf Association from 1995-2002 and was part of a committee that created The Golf Foundation of Iowa in 1999. In all these volunteer activities for his club and for the IGA, Sergeant provided pro bono legal service and advice.
In his letter of support for Sergeant’s nomination Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark S. Cady said: “His record as a golf champion is as remarkable as the very best in this state, but so too are his accomplishments as a lawyer, community leader and ambassador of the game.”
In a 2003 article Marshalltown author Rick Deines stated: “These days Larry Dennis is mostly unknown in his hometown of Marshalltown, Iowa. Nationally, however, Dennis is famous as a prolific writer of golf books, founder of the magazine Senior Golfer, Senior Editor and Technical Editor for Golf Digest, and winner of numerous awards for his writings on golf.”
The awards Dennis has received include the 1989 USGA International Book of the Year for “Golf’s Magnificent Challenge”, with famed golf course architect Robert Trent Jones. In all, he has published or edited more than 20 books, most of them instructional books co-authored with famous instructors like Bob Toski, Jim Flick, Jim McLean and Peter Kostis. He has also published books with famous players including Byron Nelson, David Graham, Al Geiberger, Raymond Floyd and Tom Kite.
Dennis honed his golf and writing skills in Marshalltown in the early 1950’s. He graduated from Marshalltown High in 1951 and Marshalltown Junior College in 1953. After serving in the army from 1953-55, and graduating from the University of Iowa in 1957, he returned to Marshalltown as Sports Editor of the Times-Republican. He won the Elmwood Four Ball in 1957 with partner Don Olson and lost in the semi-finals in 1963 to future PGA Tour player Jim Colbert and his partner Matt Tabor.
His newspaper career moved him to Lincoln, Neb. and Chicago before taking a job with Golf Digest in 1972. There he directed the magazine’s instruction and equipment programs; wrote extensively in those areas plus features on personalities, the PGA Tour and worked extensively with the magazine’s golf schools. He also wrote and helped direct the Bob Toski television series for NBC. By the time he left Golf Digest in 1985 he had published his first nine books.
He founded his own company “Creative Communications” in 1986 in Huntington, Conn. In 1992 he became the founding editor of “Senior Golfer” magazine, a position he held until 1998. Dennis, who celebrated his 80th birthday on November 7, 2013 is retired and lives in Florida.
Norman Westfall (Elected in Historical Category)
Mr. Westfall began his career in 1932 at Des Moines Golf and Country Club, his first Superintendent position started at Crestmoor Golf Course in 1938. Norm was Superintendent at Wakonda Club from 1953 to 1967.
Westfall was an innovator in turfgrass irrigation technique and disease management, as well as a patient teacher and personnel manager. During his tenure, the Wakonda Club Turfgrass Management department became known as “Westfall University.” Mr. Westfall trained and mentored many future Golf Course Superintendents including Bob Burns, Dick Wynn, Gerald Hall and the legendary ‘fast greens guy,’ Wendell Boken, who had a long & distinguished career at Atlantic Golf & CC.
Westfall hosted a number of Championships at Wakonda, including the 1955 Trans Mississippi Amateur, the 1956 U.S. Women’s Western Open and the 1963 U.S. Amateur. Norm was cited by the USGA for the outstanding work he did preparing Wakonda Club for the 1963 U.S. Amateur.
He was President of the Iowa Golf Course Superintendents Association in 1955. (Iowa GCSA, formerly Iowa Greenkeeper Association) Mr. Westfall was awarded the first ever Iowa Golf Course Superintendent of the Year Award in 1961 and the Iowa GCSA Distinguished Service Award in 1963.