Ward Wettlaufer

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Professional Golfer

As any weekend hacker can attest, mastery of the sport of golf is among the most elusive of all athletic achievements. Since scores of golfers spend a lifetime pursuing par to no avail, the attainment of a high level of proficiency at a young age is indeed a notable accomplishment. Tonight, the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame recognizes Ward Wettlaufer, a golfer who not only tasted success early in his career, but developed into one of the finest golfers which the Buffalo area has ever produced.

Ward took up the game at the tender age of 10, and for many years trained under the tutelage of long-time pro George Smith. Wettlaufer further honed his golfing skills at Hamilton College. As a sophomore, the team captain scored his first major victory, a seven-stroke triumph at the “World” Amateur at Tam O’Shanter in Chicago. In the following years, Ward began to accumulate an impressive collections of hardware, with titles in the East Aurora Junior Masters, the Ahern Cup at Wanakah, the Eastern Amateur Championship, a North-South Amateur Championship, and fourteen Country Club of Buffalo Championships. Wettlaufer won the prestigious Porter Cup Title twice, and his second title in 1965 featured a Niagara Falls Club record of twelve-under-par 268 and a seven-stroke margin of victory.

While many of Wettlaufer’s exploits were local in scope, several of his accomplishments landed him on national and international stages. Ward made two appearances at the U.S. Open tournament, and also competed as a member of the 1959 Walker Cup team, winning both matches against the British. In 1958, Wettlaufer bested two-time National Amateur Champ Harvie Ward in the quarterfinals of the National Amateurs in San Francisco and in so doing, became the first Buffalonian ever to qualify for, and compete in, the famed Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia. The Walker Cup wins and San Francisco success take on added significance since these competitions were of the ‘match-play’ variety, a grueling test of endurance, concentration, and skill which demonstrates that a golfer be at his best at each and every hole.

Wettlaufer was known not only for his booming drives off the tee, but also for his calm, agreeable disposition on the course. While spectators marveled at the distance of his shots, competitors acknowledged what one commentator referred to as “an ideal temperament.” These characteristics served him well in his rise to local golfing prominence, and ensured that the memory of his excellence would survive for new generations of golfers attempting the unenviable task of following in his footsteps.