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Clemson’s First Golf Coach

Clemson’s First Golf Coach

By Sam Blackman

Out of devotion for the game and the love of teaching the game, the Clemson men’s golf team was born in 1930. 

Reverend George Hodges, who was the minister at the Clemson United Methodist Church, enjoyed golf and wanted to teach as many Clemson students about the game as he could. He organized and coached the first Clemson varsity golf team 85 years ago.  

“My father was the pastor at the Clemson Methodist Church that was located across from Riggs Field,” said Louisa Hodges Dodkin, daughter of Mr. Hodges.  

“He encouraged students to play golf, and they had fun. Some had a few clubs and others had more, but they shared and had a great time learning the game.  

(The 1930 Clemson Golf team is pictured below on Bowman Field. From Left to Right are:  Charlie Moss, Tom Dashiell, John Cohen, Arthur Ramseur, Allan Hicks, Alan Johnstone, and the Head Coach, Reverend George Hodges.)

Special Place

Dodkin and her family fell in love with Clemson and the local area.

“Clemson has always been and always will be close to our hearts,” said Dodkin.   “It was a great place to grow up. We would go to the YMCA which is now the Holtzendorff building on campus.   I spent a lot of time in the swimming pool.   My mother played piano for various services that were held in the YMCA.

“Mr Holtzendorff would show movies on the weekend to entertain the Clemson cadets. He would also offer different intramural sports for the students to enjoy as well.  

“As a family we would go to all of the sporting events. Riggs Field was where the football games were played and what is now Fike Field House is where they played the basketball games. The baseball field was adjacent to the football field.  

“At that time Furman was the biggest rivalry in sports, more so than South Carolina,” said Dodkin.

“One thing about Clemson, there was a bond between the cadets.  It was one big, happy, family. Everyone knew one another and would support one another. What a special place!”    

Famous Uncle

“My Uncle was Rupert Fike, my mother’s brother,” said Dodkin.  We were so proud of him.   He is the one that started IPTAY.  He was also a cancer doctor in Atlanta, GA.    He was credited with being the first, if not one of the first, to use radiation in the treatment of cancer. He even gave a program and lecture in Germany to some doctors there on the use of radiology in the treatment of cancer.  

“He was Margaret Mitchell’s personal physician.  She was a very famous author who lived in Atlanta and wrote Gone With the Wind.  We are so proud of what IPTAY has done over the years. It has helped a lot of people receive an education.”  

Reverend Hodges, The Man

Hodges was born in Orangeburg, SC May 19, 1889, ironically, the same year Clemson was founded. Mr. Hodges graduated from Wofford in 1913 and this is where he learned the game of golf.  Many of his friends played, and he taught himself the game, and according to his family he was a good golfer. 

After graduating from Wofford, Hodges was the pastor at several Methodist churches in South Carolina.  He was also the first minister of Trinity United Methodist Church in Spartanburg, before becoming the minister at Clemson United Methodist Church.  When he left Clemson, he was the pastor at other churches in the upstate of South Carolina.

He was a charter member of the Civitan Club in Spartanburg, and a former member of the Rotary and Lions Clubs.  He was instrumental in organizing and serving as the first administrator of the hospital insurance program for Methodist ministers in South Carolina.  

He received the Wofford Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 1974 and was a former trustee at Columbia College.   He and his wife, Louisa Fike Hodges had three sons, George H. Hodges Jr., Robert Fike Hodges, and Dr. Rupert Edward Hodges and a daughter, Louisa H. Dodkin.  Two of the sons were named after Dr. Rupert Fike, the founder of IPTAY.  

“He was a great man and a great community man,” said Dodkin.   “He was a good pastor.  He often said that he would not go over 10 minutes total when delivering a sermon in his churches.  He would say that if you go over 10 minutes you would lose your crowd–no one would listen.  He would give good sermons that were to the point.” 

Sometimes golf can be a very frustrating game explained Dodkin.  “When my father hit a bad shot, he was like anyone else and could get frustrated.   The only thing my father would say would be “Rats in the barnyard!”   He was a good man and he never cursed, he would just say that expression after a bad shot, ‘Rats in the barnyard!’”

Where that expression came from, I will never know.”

The First Season 

The Tiger, Clemson’s student newspaper, reported that there was a meeting held in the Main Building (Tillman Hall) to discuss the start of a golf team on Monday, March 3, 1930. (85 years ago this week)  It stated: “that from now on golf with its attending miseries and pleasures will be a fact at Clemson.  Drastic steps have been taken to put a team on the field.”

Those attending the meeting were Reverend Hodges, Arthur Ramseur (Sr.), Allan Hicks (Sr.), John Cohen (Jr.), Alfred Kent (So.), Charlie Moss (Fr.), P.A. Wattley (Fr.), Joe Workman (So.), Howard Hicks (Fr.) and Tom Dashiell (Jr.). 

The first match for the Tigers was a dual match with Presbyterian on April 8, 1930, at the Laurens County Country Club. The Tigers defeated Presbyterian 13.5-4.5.  Four days later, Clemson defeated Presbyterian 15.5-2.5 in the Tigers’ first home golf match played at Anderson on April 12.

Clemson defeated Furman 11-7 on the Greenville Country Club links.  The players taking part in the matches were Charlie Moss, Arthur Ramseur. Tom Dashiell,  Francis Nimitz, and Allan Hicks.  The reserve players were Alan Johnstone, John Cohen, Howard Hicks.  It’s interesting to point out that Alan Johnstone was the last surviving charter member of IPTAY, that was formed in 1934.   Johnstone’s grandfather, was one of the original board of trustees at Clemson, and the infamous Johnstone Hall was named in his grandfather’s honor.

(Alan Johnstone is pictured below with a picture of Clemson’s first golf team. In the team picture, Johnstone is pictured on the far Right next to Hodges)

 

The Tigers lost to Furman in the second match against the Paladins and finished the season with losses at Georgia and Emory. The Tigers finished with a 3-3 mark overall.  

Hodges coached golf only one year at Clemson, as he was called to become a minister at another Methodist chuch. While at Clemson, he also taught religion courses.       

Reverend Hodges died on November 12, 1987 at the age of 98, at Camp Care Nursing Home in Inman, SC.  His love of the game and his willingness to teach and share his knowledge of golf, started a nationally-recognized program that has been very successful, and Clemson fans still take pride in 85 years later.  

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