Golf pro Bud Lewis dies at age 103

Joseph J. "Bud" Lewis was pro emeritus at Manufacturers.
Joseph J. "Bud" Lewis was pro emeritus at Manufacturers.
Posted: November 27, 2011

Bud Lewis made a lot of friends through golf. Even well into his 90s, he always tried to make more on a daily basis.

"You play golf?" he'd ask anyone he might come across on a given day. "Give me a call, and I'll give you a lesson."

Joseph J. "Bud" Lewis, 103, the oldest and longest-serving member of the PGA of America and a member of the Philadelphia Section PGA Hall of Fame, died Tuesday at his home in Wyncote, leaving behind a lot of friends and countless pupils who learned how to play, or how to play better, from him.

Mr. Lewis, who joined the PGA in 1931, was employed as a professional at five clubs before landing the job as head professional at Manufacturers Golf and Country Club in Oreland in 1943. He stayed there until his retirement in 1979 but remained as pro emeritus and gave lessons well past the age of 90.

"Why do I still give them?" he said in a 1996 interview. "I have 12 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Whatever I make, I give to them."

Since that interview, the number of great-grandchildren has risen to 18.

Mr. Lewis decided before the Army called him for World War II that being a club professional would suit him better than going out on tour. But his game was good enough to impress no less an authority than Byron Nelson.

"I was playing with Nelson and [Gene] Sarazen at Torresdale-Frankford, and I broke 70 twice," he said. "Nelson asked me, 'Why aren't you playing the tour?' I said, 'Hell, no. I've got kids. I've got to make some money.' "

Mr. Lewis won Philadelphia Section PGA championships in 1943 and 1948, and the Philadelphia Open in 1942 and 1950. He also competed in three U.S. Opens and six PGA Championships.

He received rave reviews for his teaching. In his book, A Centennial Tribute to Golf in Philadelphia, author James W. Finegan wrote that LPGA Hall of Famer Patty Berg called Mr. Lewis the best teacher in the game. He taught blind golfers and set up tournaments for them.

Mr. Lewis, who grew up in West Philadelphia, started out in golf as a caddie at Llanerch Country Club in Havertown. He set up an indoor golf school in 1935 at the old Fox building at 16th and Market Streets, where one of his students was Huntingdon Valley's William Hyndman 3d, who became one of the nation's top amateurs.

After he retired, Mr. Lewis remained active, giving lessons and working with high school players and other junior golfers.

The refurbished grill room at Manufacturers, which was damaged in a 2002 fire, was named after Mr. Lewis. The club also honored him in 2008 on the occasion of his 100th birthday, attracting more than 200 people.

At that point, everyone knew his age. In 1996, Mr. Lewis gave a humorous answer on the subject, noting that he was known as Raymond Joseph Lewis before he saw his birth certificate, which revealed his first name to be Joseph.

"On my marriage records, my name is Joseph Joseph Lewis," he said. "So the name on my driver's license is Raymond, the name on my owner's card is Joseph, and the name on my PGA card is Bud. People ask me how old I am, and I ask them, 'Which name do you want?'

"I've been married 60 years, so Joseph is 60. Bud's about that old, too. But as for how old I really am, I won't say. I haven't told anybody."

Mr. Lewis was preceded in death by his wife, Jean, and a daughter, Diana. He is survived by another daughter, Jean Kriz of Oreland, and two sons, Joseph, of Las Vegas, and Daniel, of Warrington, along with 12 grandchildren and 18 great-grandchildren.

A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Monday at Immaculate Conception Church in Jenkintown. Visiting hours at the church will be 7 to 9 p.m. Sunday and 9 to 10 a.m. Monday.

Memorial contributions may be made in Mr. Lewis' name to the J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust, 1974 Sproul Rd., Suite 500, Broomall, Pa. 19008.

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or

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