For many years, every Monday morning during the PGA Tour season I have checked the sports section for final results of the past week’s PGA Tour event. In most cases I have heard the winner’s name and sometimes that of the runner up on Sunday night TV. However, I have always been interested in not just the winners, but all the players. As I have gotten older, and the familiar and not-so familiar names are no longer playing the tour, I have often wondered… “What are they doing now?”
In doing research for this column I found that some former touring pros are now leading lives as club professionals, some teach golf, some like Palmer, Nicklaus, and Player are famed golf course architects, some like San Diego area native Billy Casper have become celebrity speakers, and some are just plain retired. One name that I remember from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s,and 90’s, and have often wondered about, is Butch Baird. Baird, known for his famed Panamanian hat, played professionally on Tour from 1959 to 2000; won 13 PGA Tour events including the 1965 PGA National Four-Ball (with Gay Brewer), the 1961 Waco Turner Open and the 1976 San Antonio-Texas Open, and twice on the Seniors Tour.
Recently, at San Diego Country Club’s 50 th Anniversary Celebration of Billy Casper’s first tour victory, the 1956 Labatt Open, I happened to play in the pro-am event with a gentleman by the name of Jack Mishler from Fountain Hills, Arizona…you know, one of those “Zonies” who invade the San Diego beaches every summer. You have heard the cliché, “It’s a small world!” Well it’s true! It turned out Mishler answered my curiosity about Butch Baird as he is Baird’s partner in a very unique golf memorabilia company. Both Mishler and Baird, who met in 1994 at the Tradition Tournament in Scottsdale, are avid collectors of golf memorabilia. In 2000, when Baird was nearing the end of his professional golf career and Jack was in semi-retirement, they met again and discussed their mutual interest in golf history through memorabilia. One thing led to another. They decided to manufacture some golf plaques for their own collections featuring logo golf balls from the venues where golf greats Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player had won their 37 major championships. Thanks to Baird’s friendship with Nicklaus, Palmer and Player, he was able to get each ball autographed. When Baird showed what he had made to his friends, the feedback was very positive. So Baird went back to golfdom’s “Big Three” and asked for them to participate commercially, which they did…and Baird and Mishler’s golf memorabilia company, was founded. Baird and Mishler have added Billy Casper, Gene Littler and 1958 U. S. Open Champion Tommy “Thunder” Bolt to the list of collections produced by their company, BBJM Golf Ventures.
Bob Goalby, Rob Rosburg, Doug Ford and Gay Brewer have also agreed to participate and their plaques are currently in the design process. Baird was originally told he wouldn’t get anyone to participate. But he pulled it off utilizing his easy-going personality with these golf legends. An artist at heart, Baird put together the design and manufacturing team to meet the quality requirements that were prerequisites of the golf stars and now his unique plaques commemorate the achievements of some of golf’s greatest golfers.
I had never seen the Billy Casper plaque containing signed balls from Casper’s 51 PGA Tour winsand his nine Ryder Cup appearances until Casper’s 50 th Anniversary Celebration. Mishler showed me the one mounted over the fireplace at the San Diego Country Club. It not only highlights Casper’s phenomenal career, and is a true tribute to his golfing prowess, it is an amazing and wonderful golf collectible. Casper’s plaque, the commemorative collection of signed golf balls by “The Big Three”,and the soon to be released collections of other former Tour pros, is what Butch Baird has been doing and has developed since his days on Tour. Not only does Baird, who lives in Ruidoso,
New Mexico in the summer and Carefree, Arizona during the winter, develop these unique golf ball commemorative collections, he also works with a charity to promote golf to Native American children, and is assisting in the development of a golf museum. That’s what one Tour player has done with his “Life After The Tour”. For more information about Baird’s unique commemorative collections of signed golf balls, visit, www.bbjmgolf.com or contact Jack Mishler at 1-480-620-2555.