The Seattle Times - 5/11/2004

The Seattle Times - 5/11/2004

Porky OliverSports: Tuesday, May 11, 2004 
Washington connections: 'Porky' Oliver's personality, presence made difference

By Craig Smith 
Seattle Times staff reporter

One of the most colorful characters in American golf history served as head pro at Inglewood

Country Club in Kenmore for nearly three years until late 1950.

Ed "Porky" Oliver loved to eat and laugh.

"Money is important, but without laughs, life just wouldn't be worth the battle,"Oliver once said.

As a PGA Tour player, the portly 5-foot-9-1/2 Oliver was known for his prodigious appetite. He traveled from tournament to tournament in a station wagon that had two refrigerators. Sometimes during a round, he would eat four hotdogs at a sitting.

The Barron family that owned Inglewood (now Inglewood Golf Club) hiredOliver to give the club more national exposure. "We wanted to bringInglewood back to its former glory," said Mark M. Barron, 79, who lives near the 15th green. Barron said membership at the club almost doubled whileOliver was the pro. "He gave Inglewood a shot in the arm."

Barron said Oliver's popularity with fellow tour pros attracted the likes of Sam Snead, Jimmy Demaret and Doug Sanders to Seattle for clinics and exhibitions. Dale Johnson, a golf writer for The Portland Oregonian from 1947-58 and later executive director of the Northwest section of the PGA of America, recently described Oliver as "a big, fat, jolly guy, but a great player — one of the best sand players ever."

In "Ben Hogan, An American Life," author James Dodson said fellow pros affectionately called Oliver "Pork Chops" and said his playing weight fluctuated between 220 and 270 pounds. "In contrast to the gray and buttoned up Hogan, 'Pork Chops' was a friendly ape of a man who dressed himself almost as clownishly as (Jimmy) Demaret did in his canary yellow polos and billowing maroon pantaloons.

But as Ben knew from painful experience, there was nothing the least bit funny about Oliver's tournament game. He was prone to patches of brilliant play and putting streaks that could knock the breath out of you. At the Western Open of 1941, for example, Ben finished the tournament with a three-stroke lead over the field, not unreasonably assuming he'd won, only to seeOliver come back blazing home with a back-nine 28 to beat him by a stroke with 275." That was one of Oliver's eight career victories on Tour. He also was on the winning 1947 Ryder Cup team that beat the British at the Portland Golf Club.

Oliver twice finished second in majors. In the 1940 U.S. Open, he finished tied with Lawson Little and Gene Sarazen, then was disqualified from the playoff because he had started his round 22 minutes early.

In the 1946 PGA Championship at the Portland Golf Club, he made it to the finals of the match-play event and led Hogan after the morning round but lost 6 and 4.

 

Although Oliver's agreement with Inglewood allowed him to play in many Tour events, he wound up wanting to play more and left the club after his contract expired.

Oliver, a native of Delaware, died of cancer in 1961. He was 46.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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