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Legendary local golf pro 'Skee' Riegel, second in 1951 Masters, dies at 94

fisher

Well-Known Member
Nov 16, 2008
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Legendary local golf pro 'Skee' Riegel, second in 1951 Masters, dies at 94


LOWER TOWNSHIP - Cape May National Golf Club, like most golf courses, has a dress code. Visitors must wear collared shirts and denim is not permitted.

Each morning would find Riegel at a table on the porch, where he would eat his favorite fruit, pineapple, with his French poodle, John Paul, at his side. One steamy August day, a waiter interrupted a staff meeting to ask Mullock to come outside.
"Skee was sitting there wearing nothing but a pair of boxer shorts with the button undone," said Mullock, 59, who shared the same birthday (Nov. 25) with Riegel. "When I asked him why, he just said, 'Bob, it's too (bleeping) hot to wear pants today.' I was laughing too hard to argue with him, but I made him promise to wear pants when he was out in public."
Once Mullock received word on Monday that Riegel had died in a West Chester, Pa., hospice facility, he promptly went outside and lowered the flag to half-staff at the golf club. He then arranged a series of his favorite photos on the table where Riegel would spend his afternoons regaling visitors with tales of his days as one of the world's most decorated amateur golfers.
Riegel, a longtime Cape May resident, won the 1947 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach, Calif. He was also 4-0 in Walker Cup matches played at St. Andrews in Scotland (1947) and Winged Foot in New York (1949), respectively, and finished as low amateur at both the 1948 Masters and 1949 U.S. Open at Medinah in Illinois.
<!-- START /PubSys/AdComponents/button3.comp --><!-- END /PubSys/AdComponents/button3.comp -->"In 1948, Skee was low amateur at the Masters and asked the officials if he got anything for it," said John Petronis, a former golf pro at Cape May National who first met Riegel in the 1990s. "They initially told him that he should be honored just to be there, but he pressed on and they eventually got an ash tray from Augusta National, engraved it for him, and presented it to him. That made Skee the first low amateur to actually bring something home from the Masters."

In 1951, a year after he turned professional, Riegel finished second to Ben Hogan at the Masters. Besides Hogan, Riegel also counted Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead among his friends.
"I took Skee up to Winged Foot a few years ago for a ceremony and at the dinner that night he was supposed to meet with Arnold Palmer," Mullock said. "I took him over and Arnold introduced us to the president of Winged Foot. Skee looks over at the wall and sees a huge portrait of a golfer and asked the president who it is.
"The man told Skee, 'It's Bobby Jones.' Skee says, 'That's not Bobby Jones. I knew him for years and played golf with him and he looked nothing like that.' The president says, 'Of course he did. I painted that portrait myself.'"
Athletic prowess well-known
Riegel was nicknamed Skee by his childhood friends after they watched him take a pair of wooden planks off a barrel, tie them to the bottoms of his shoes and ski down a hill near his suburban Philadelphia home.
Riegel's athletic prowess was well-known within golf. Cape May National's banquet room, called the Skee Riegel Room, features a large mural painted by course staffer Emilie Randolph that depicts Riegel making good on a bet. On the trip home from the 1947 Walker Cup aboard the Queen Elizabeth, Riegel shimmied up a pole in the middle of the dining room.
A few years later, while he competed in the Canadian Open, some fellow players bet Riegel $5 apiece that he couldn't do a handstand on the bar, then jump off the bar and land on his hands. Riegel not only did it, he walked out of the bar, down a flight of stairs and made it all the way to the 18th green ... on his hands.
As their friendship grew, Mullock often became an unwilling participant in some of Riegel's escapades. A few years ago, Mullock drove him to USGA headquarters in Far Hills for a ceremony that included, according to Mullock, "about 300 bluebloods dressed in blazers and Skee and me." After the gathering, the USGA executive board retired to a meeting while Mullock and Riegel got ready to drive back to Cape May.
"We got out the front door and Skee decides he has to go to the bathroom," Mullock said. "I wanted to go back inside, but he insisted on going next to this huge oak tree out front and he takes his dog with him. I didn't want him to feel bad, so I wandered over to go to the bathroom, too. Skee and John Paul had finished and I was still at the tree when the door opened and all the USGA members came out."
Connected with young golfers
Back in 2003, Petronis, who's also the founder of the Cape May County Junior Golf Foundation, started a team match play competition for the golfers in his foundation against a group of junior golfers from Lewes, Del. Knowing Riegel's history competing in the Walker Cup, Petronis approached Riegel about using his name on the trophy.
"He donated one of his old trophies for us to use," Petronis said. "When the matches were played in Cape Henlopen, Del., he would ride the (Cape May-Lewes) ferry over with the kids. Just Skee, a bunch of kids and a box of Dunkin' Donuts. And every time we made the trip, someone would always bring up his escapades on the Queen Elizabeth on his ride home from the Walker Cup.
"One of the things I loved most about Skee was the way he always seemed to connect with anybody he came into contact with. It was just incredible. He always drew on something about the person, where they were from or where they went to school, and just made them feel special.
In later years, especially after the death of Riegel's wife of 60 years, Edith, in 1996, Mullock became more than just a friend. He tended to his aging companion, making sure he had fried chicken and fresh pineapple at least once a week. When Riegel stopped carrying his clubs a few years ago, Mullock accompanied him on his long walks around the course.
He began to get the sense his friend was failing last winter, when he would stop by his house across the street from the Chalfonte and discover that Riegel had unplugged the electric heater and blanket Mullock had bought him. That was when the decision was made to have Skee spend this winter with his devoted niece, Felicia DeGiacomo, in Upper Darby, Pa., and return to Cape May in the spring.
He planned to be back in time for the Skee Riegel Invitational tournament, which is held at Cape May National every April.
"Skee shot an 82 at age 84 at Pebble Beach, but hadn't been playing much golf the last few years," Mullock said while his eyes welled up. "But he still had his pride. He knew he had to hit the ceremonial first ball at his tournament, so he would always practice. Last year, he hit one 200 yards right down the middle." In lieu of a funeral, Mullock will be hosting a gathering in Riegel's memory in the Skee Riegel Room at Cape May National on March 7 at 3 p.m.
 

IrishGolfer

Fac ut gaudeam
Supporting Member
Sep 1, 2004
6,401
4,809
Thanks for posting this, a nice wee piece of history and it sounds like he was a great guy. 94 is a great innings!
 

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