The Scorecard King

By: Bob Spiwak

Golfers, like many others are collectors. They collect old clubs, balls, bag tags, autographs and of course, photos.

Meet B.J. Burgess of Bay City, Mich., World War II vet who was a gunner in a B-29 and stationed on Tinian in the Marianas Islands in the Pacific. After the war Burgess returned to Michigan and, about 40 years ago in his garage, he found the scorecard of a local course that no longer existed. He thought it "a nice keepsake" and tossed it in a drawer.

A few years later Burgess (an 8-10 handicapper) and his wife Clara, (a 10-13) took a vacation to Myrtle Beach. This led to five years of vacationing and wintering at the Carolina golf Mecca. Each course had its own colorful photo and he decided to save them, taking an extra from each course they played. Back home he showed the cards to golfing friends and word got out he was collecting. "I could hardly go to the club without someone handing me a card."

He and Clara took a lifetime membership to The Golf Card along with another couple. Every weekend, and on short vacations, they played courses in northern Michigan, always collecting cards. Snowbird friends from Myrtle Beach were sending him cards from their home states. This led to a decision to have his cards represent all 50 states. He got the addresses of courses from all over the U.S., sent stamped, self-addressed envelopes and estimates he got a 90% return.

Meanwhile, his son Gary worked for a short time in Egypt. Gary provided his dad with cards from courses there, which led B.J. to the idea of collecting from every foreign country with a golf course. When his collection numbered slightly over 3,000 cards the local newspaper wrote a story about the milestone.

"Every time I surpassed a thousand mark, the desire was to reach the next thousand," Burgess said.

Coming to the present, B.J. will be 90 years old in October. Son Gary recently sent a request to the Golf Nuts Society of America asking for members to send cards to his dad who, in June 2007, was nine cards shy of reaching 6,000. There was a good response to the request, which took him over the target. Of course there have been duplicates, whose number he estimates at over a thousand.

"My filing system is terrible," he said. "I have them grouped in shoe boxes as to states and foreign countries."

Among his foreign treasures are cards from golf courses in Iceland. There are, he notes, 18 courses in the south of that country. "This time of year they are probably playing 24 hours a day. What I would like are cards from the Phillipines, India, Mexico and at least one from Sweden, Finland and Norway."

B.J. no longer plays golf. His lifelong partner, Clara, passed away in 2005 and that was when he quit at age 87. "I have to use a cane or a walker now, and can't bend down to pick up things." But, he's still collecting and is now a mere 304 cards from reaching 7,000. "I never thought I would reach this number," he says.

Maybe you can help him achieve the 7,000 mark. If you're interested, mail scorecards to B.J Burgess at: 4455 E. Wilder Court, Bay City MI, 48706-2209.

The 7,000 number would help make for a great 90th birthday celebration.

Bob Spiwak took up golf in 1953 as a respite from the rigors of selling bibles door-to-door in North Dakota. Though suffering a four-year lapse, he's back to being a fanatical golfer. Now a contributing editor for Cybergolf, Spiwak has written articles for almost every golf magazine in the Western world. Bob's most treasured golf antiquity is a nod he got from Gerald Ford at the 1990 Golf Summit. Spiwak lives in Mazama, Wash., with his wife and several pets next to his fabled ultraprivate Whispering Rattlesnakes Golf & Flubbers Club.

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