On August 24, 2008, Bob
Labbance passed away, succumbing to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He
is survived by his wife, Kathie Hickman; son, Griffin; and daughter,
Bob was an industry stalwart: one-time editor of Turf
magazine, later its golf editor, and monthly contributor to Superintendent,
Bob was a constant voice for the “keepers of the green.” He
felt that golf course superintendents were the kindest and most sincere
people working in the golf industry, often underappreciated and the ones
most concerned about the integrity of the course and game. Calling
attention to the accomplishments of
superintendents was among his greatest joys as a writer.
He wrote and edited for numerous golf publications,
and wrote and co-wrote many club histories for courses around the country.
Among his many golf books, he wrote the seminal biography of Walter Travis,
“The Old Man: The Biography of Walter J. Travis.”
For 20 years, Bob held a “Cayman” golf
ball tournament in his and his neighbors’ backyards and fields,
bringing friends together to play golf the way it was first
played—with only a few clubs, a ball that didn’t fly very far,
grass that was mowed pretty high and a drink in hand. In many ways, it was
the most traditional golf you could play.
Bob was diagnosed with ALS, Lou Gehrig’s
Disease, in December 2007. As a lifelong Yankees fan, he joked that at
least he “had a disease named after a Yankee.” Throughout the
last eight months, Bob showed grace, humility and humor beyond all
expectations. Faced with the inevitable, he forged ahead to complete
projects (including two books) and ensure that his family was taken care of
once he was gone. He also made time for his many friends, never shying away
from sharing a nice stout and chatting about baseball.
Bob was best known among our readers as a writer and
golf enthusiast, forgetting more about golf than most of us will ever know.
His collection of notes and information about courses around the world was
astonishing. His library of world-class photography, meticulously organized
and noted, covered hundreds of courses around the country. Bob undoubtedly
logged more miles than any other Turf writer—Thrifty car rental
once joked that they might have to do away with their “unlimited
miles” policy because of Bob.
A consummate professional, Bob knew and was friends
with nearly everyone in the industry involved with golf course architecture
and design. In Bob’s office, there were literally thousands of
business cards from superintendents around the country. He always wanted to
keep their contact information, just in case he had a question or wanted to
compliment them for hosting a tournament or completing a renovation
To us, he was an extended member of our family here at
Moose River Media, as well as a good friend over the years.
Written by Bob M. Montgomery and Patrick White.