Bob Labbance, 1952-2008

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, Simone.

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 project.

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.