For the past 30 years, Dale Anderson has been a driving force at Ken McDonald Municipal Golf Course in Tempe. Whether it was giving a lesson to a beginner, fixing a broken club, or helping a kid find that first set of clubs when there was no money to pay for them, Anderson always has been there.
But a big part of Anderson’s effort — Team Anderson, if you will — was his wife, Eileen, who passed away in December.
"Eight days short of our 59th anniversary,’’ said Anderson, 78, holding back a tear.
"It has left a tremendous gap in my life, because we did everything together, and she helped me every step of the way — running the golf shop back in Indiana, helping me with my teams (at St. Joseph’s College), helping me with the kids clinics out here at Ken McDonald, running golf tournaments in Tempe — whatever the workload, she was there.
"Fortunately, I have some really good friends, and they’ve helped to pick me up. Otherwise, I might not have been able to get through all this.’’
Some might say it’s about time the roles were reversed since the Andersons had been picking others up most of their lives. The Andersons’ legacy began in Rensselaer, Ind., where Dale got into the golf teaching business at the ripe old age of 40 — very mature by golf standards.
"Actually, I didn’t play golf until I was 35 years old,’’ Anderson said. "All I can remember is, the first time out I had a double eagle, and you can imagine what that does to you.’’
From there, Anderson "worked and worked’’ on his game, and spent his winters in Arizona, where a couple of former pros at Ken McDonald — Red Curry and Dick Sanders — gave him some pointers and lots of encouragement. More instruction on how to teach followed by such noted authorities as Davis Love Jr., Bill Strausbaugh, Dee Dee Owens and Jim Flick.
A quick learner, Anderson quit his job as a salesman and took a job as head pro at Curtis Creek in Rensselaer, and later at Lafayette Country Club. Along the way, he became the golf and baseball coach at St. Joseph’s, a Division II school.
"I used to always say, ‘We’re Indiana’s other Catholic college (to Notre Dame),’ ‘’ said Anderson, whose former players and a lot of students still call him "Coach.’’
After eight years at St. Joe’s, Anderson decided it was time to move to Arizona full-time.
"My wife had arthritis pretty bad, and we both liked the warm weather,’’ he said. "I tell you, it’s 95 in Indiana in the summer, and it’s also 98 percent (humidity). Plus, we had mosquitoes that could carry away tents.’’
Anderson also had developed close ties to PING, having sold its clubs in both Indiana and in Tempe since the mid-1970s. It was a relationship that eventually would become "family,’’ said Chuck Renner, the director of customer relations for PING.
"We all love Dale, because we know what he has done for people over the years,’’ said Renner. "He spends his own money to come over here and pick their clubs, and a lot of the things he does for kids come right out of his own pocket.’’
Always the reluctant one when it comes to praise, Anderson did admit: "We do spend most of our extra money (to buy clubs for kids). But I get a lot of help, too. A lot of people at the club give me as much as $300, $400, $500 every year to take care of that, and PING also helps me out.’’
Such dedication is why PING honored Anderson in 2002 by making him the Southwest Section Club Fitter of the Year. According to PING’s Beth Kelling, it’s also why Anderson has his own "honorary PING employee badge,’’ one of only two ever given to a non-employee.
"He is so faithful to the kids, to the people who play at (Ken McDonald), to PING,’’ said Kelling, a sales and marketing coordinator. "Dale goes so far beyond what a normal retailer would do, it’s why all the people over here at PING have become his dear friends.’’
Anderson feels a similar bond: "I like what PING is about — family. They’re good people who stand behind their product.’’
The same could be said of Anderson, who often reminds people he still is "just a little country boy.’’ And he still has two homes, which is why there was a special memorial service recently for Eileen Anderson in both Rensselaer and Tempe.
"Our former pastor (Rev. John Vawter) at Bethany Community Church (in Tempe) came back here to give the service, and a lot of the fellows from my teams (at St. Joe’s) showed up back there,’’ Anderson said. "They helped to cheer me up a little bit.
"In fact, one of my captains from one of those teams, Pat Bailey, gave a nice little talk, and he said, ‘If you knew who ran our team, well, she’s not here now.’ ‘’
Anderson said the question he gets asked most since his wife’s death is, "Are you going to move back to Indiana?"
"No, this is my home, and I’m going to stay right here,’’ he said, glancing off in the distance to seemingly gather his thoughts.
"I suppose some people think I’m going to retire, because I’ve slowed down a little bit. But somehow, the kids, they still know how to find me.’’