Opinion

Hail the Madison Sports Hall of Fame

Mike Plautz induction good for city golf courses

Call me a grumpy old man, but these days I will do just about anything to avoid attending a big banquet with the requisite small talk and speeches.

I didn’t see any way out of last week’s Madison Sports Hall of Fame Club’s annual dinner and awards banquet, June 5 at Monona Terrace. Truth is, I wanted to be there. Mike Plautz was being inducted into the Hall of Fame. Plautz’s induction is a shot in the arm for municipal golf in Madison at a time when the city-owned courses badly need it.

I’ve known Plautz forever. As a 16-year-old in 1972, I caddied 36 holes for Plautz on the last day of the Wisconsin State Open at Blackhawk Country Club. I don’t recall his exact finish behind the winner, Bobby Brue, but Plautz earned enough merchandise, which amateurs could accept, for my caddy fee to be a gleaming new Ben Hogan sand wedge out of the golf shop. I only wish he had taught me how to hit it.

I wrote six months ago in this space about Plautz’s pending induction after it was made public and why it’s a victory for public links golf. Not only did he always compete out of either Odana Hills or Yahara Hills, Plautz used his influence as a top tournament player (four Madison city men’s titles) to expand playing opportunities for public links golfers in important state championships.

My wife, Jeanan, and I went to the banquet last week to honor Plautz and his wife, Mary. What delighted me was how many other people we knew there and how much fun it was. Maybe I need to get out more.

The Madison Sports Hall of Fame evolved out of the old Madison Pen and Mike Club, a mix of media and advertising folks who liked sports and weren’t averse to a second drink at lunch. Pen and Mike started in 1962. They began inducting Hall of Fame members almost immediately — last week was the 57th annual enshrinement. By 1996, when the organization morphed into the Madison Sports Hall of Fame Club, it was less media driven, and, I think it’s fair to say, a bit more serious about its purpose.

Certainly Greg and Peg Mueller have done a terrific job coordinating the banquet, which drew about 500 people last week. (The Muellers — Peg, a former Olympic speed skater, was inducted into the Hall in 1996 — are passing the banquet baton after this year.)

Many past inductees come back for the banquet each year. Andy North (inducted in 1995) and Pat Richter (1976) were on hand last week, as was Pat’s son, Barry Richter (2015).

I got a kick out of introducing Jeanan to J. B. “Joe” Chung (2017), the martial arts master. Fifty years ago Vince Lombardi asked Chung to come to Green Bay and teach the Packers’ linemen martial arts.

“Lombardi and I agreed on discipline,” Joe once told me. “I told him when I’m teaching, I’m the boss. He said, ‘Me, too.’”

News 3 Now sports director Jay Wilson acted as master of ceremonies at the banquet. He  recalled being hired for his first TV sports job by the late Marsh Shapiro. Jay was 22 then. Last fall he had a hip replaced. “It’s been a great run,” he said.

Jay should be in the Madison Sports Hall of Fame.

Along with Plautz, the 2019 inductees are former La Follette High School basketball star Craig Anderson; three-sport La Follette star John Krugman; and Peggy McCarthy Bailey, a standout on the University of Wisconsin–Madison women’s crew in the 1970s and a 1976 Olympic bronze medal winner.

I didn’t get a chance to talk to Bailey, but I hope to. One of my current projects is researching and writing a biography of Kit Saunders-Nordeen (1992), the first women’s athletics director at UW–Madison. The crew team’s 1975 victory in the National Women’s Rowing Association U.S. Championship was the Badger women’s program’s first national title. Peggy McCarthy, just a freshman, was in the winning boat.

Rather than have the inductees give speeches, the Hall produces videos that detail their accomplishments. That’s probably a blessing. Still, I would have liked to hear Plautz last week speak on the value of municipal golf courses.

I didn’t ask and don’t know what he might have said. Madison’s city courses are under fire, fairly or unfairly. That’s an argument for another day. For now it’s good to know that in Madison you needn’t join a country club to be Hall of Fame golfer.

Doug Moe is a Madison writer. Read his monthly column, Person of Interest, in Madison Magazine.  


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