Jeff Kolpack, Published June 25 2012
After 20 years, golfer still doing his part at Maris tournament
The sixsome was not very accurate on its six approach shots to the No. 11 green at Edgewood Golf Course. There were a couple of balls just off the fringe, both facing downhill putts worthy of a bobsled track.
They weren’t exactly hopping to the green to see their options. But that’s when the designated putter walked down to greet the players in the Roger Maris Celebrity Golf Tournament to brighten their hole. It didn’t take Woody Woodbury long to do it, having them laughing with a joke about martinis.
That’s Woody, who treated every golfer on Monday like they were the only ones he talked to all day.
“He can change his story to whoever he’s with,” said John Jenson, a long-time Maris committee member. “He keeps them laughing.”
Woodbury was the designated putter because surgery to replace a hip has made it tough to meander through 18 holes these days. Still, he and his girlfriend got in a car in Florida and drove eight days to reach Fargo, making several social stops along the way.
This is his 20th Maris tournament, and at 88 years old, he is doing what he can to help. The hip surgery was followed with complications including an infection.
Yet, it was Woodbury who was the first to bend down and mark a ball to Maris golfers. He didn’t hesitate to lower his torso to get a good read of the putt. If he was putting with pain, he didn’t show it.
“It’s worth every bit of it to be here,” he said. “The people are magnificent.”
His connection to Roger Maris goes back to the 1960s when the New York Yankees held spring training in Fort Lauderdale. Woodbury was living in a local hotel.
“They used to come in there all the time,” he said.
He called Maris an “unobtrusive, quiet, super nice guy.” He still has a note written by Mickey Mantle, after the Yankees came into the hotel and Woodbury was working a show somewhere else.
“You can plainly see it, it says, ‘We come in here just to see you and you’re not here you rich son of a gun,’” Woodbury said.
He still hits the road often for engagements all over the country. He’s lived in Los Angeles. He’s lived in New York.
But he was born in St. Paul and those roots hit home when he comes to Fargo every June.
“There is something about the people here,” he said.
He then greeted a group led by former Major League pitcher Rick Helling from Fargo. The first five players missed it, but Helling drained the downhill 15-footer.
Nobody was happier than Woody.
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found
Kolpack is the host of the WDAY Golf Show Saturdays from 8-9 a.m. on 970-AM.