5-time County Am champ Bob Whisman dies at 80

  • By Rich Myhre Herald Writer
  • Monday, March 30, 2015 10:10pm
  • SportsSports

Among golfers from Snohomish County, few have ever played the game better than Bob Whisman.

But Whisman’s real gift was a willingness to share his knowledge and understanding of the game with later generations of young golfers from in and around Everett. In this, he achieved a level of almost unmatched greatness.

When he saw kids practicing at a golf course or driving range, “there wasn’t anybody he’d just walk by,” said Greg Whisman, Bob’s son. “And he wouldn’t pass up the kid who wasn’t hitting it very good to go over to the one who was hitting it better. He liked everybody, and he also liked helping the ones who weren’t very good so he could help them to get better.

“He did all of that on his own, he did it out of good will, and he did it forever. I imagine anybody (who grew up in the Everett area) from the late 1960s and on, if they were in golf he probably helped them.”

Bob Whisman, who died Thursday of cancer at age 80, is one of the most significant figures in Snohomish County’s long and distinguished golf history. A 1952 graduate of Everett High School, he was a top player on one of the state’s premier golf teams. He also won five Snohomish County Amateur championships, a record that was his alone for almost five decades until it was tied by Alex Stamey of Mill Creek in 2013.

As a golfer, “he was a natural,” recalled Art Abrahamson of Everett, Whisman’s childhood friend and later a high school teammate. “He showed up at the golf course one day and he didn’t know anything about golf. But a year later he was shooting par.”

In the mid-1960s, Whisman became the head pro at Everett’s Legion Memorial Golf Course. In 1972 he also became the head pro at Walter E. Hall Golf Course, Everett’s second public course. He held both positions until his retirement in the late 1990s.

But for everything he accomplished as a player, and for all the later demands he faced as a club pro at two busy municipal courses, Whisman never gave up wanting to help other golfers improve, particularly youngsters.

“He’d ask politely first,” Greg Whisman said. “He’d say, ‘If you want a tip, I can show you a tip.’ It was always simple. Maybe it was a change of grip or of ball position, and then they’d hit a few good ones. … He loved doing that so much.”

Bob Whisman was born in Paradise, Montana, but moved with his family to Everett as a boy. After high school, he spent a year at Everett Junior College before joining the army, and while stationed at Fort Lewis south of Tacoma he continued to play golf.

After leaving the army he worked briefly as an assistant pro at Tacoma’s Allenmore Golf Course, and then returned to Everett, got a job outside of golf and also regained his amateur status, followed by two more County Am titles to go with the three he won as a younger man.

He later turned pro again to take the job at Legion Memorial, and it became his workplace for the next 30-plus years.

“Bob was a really good guy, and he was a fixture in the Snohomish County golf scene,” said Brent Webber, the head pro at Everett Golf and Country Club and a childhood friend of Greg Whisman. “And he always treated us kids really well.”

“I always thought I was going to be a golf professional like Bob until our family dentist talked me out of it one day,” said Bob Lee of Everett, himself a former County Am winner who had a long career in dentistry. “The impact Bob had on all of the junior golfers out there — and myself as a teen-ager — as a mentor and a role model … he was just a very generous person with his time and his talent.”

But for all his kindness, Whisman was extremely competitive. Lee worked at Legion Memorial as a young man, and in those years there was a Ping-Pong table in a back room. When the golf was slow on days of bad weather, the staff would pass the time playing Ping-Pong.

“I don’t think there was anybody out there that beat him,” Lee said. “He’d spot everybody points and still win. Whether it was pitching coins at a jar or playing gin rummy, he was always better than anybody else. He was very competitive and very talented, but yet he wasn’t one to really show it either.

“Bob was kind of the eternal optimist. He always saw the glass as being half full. He was an amazing talent and a remarkable individual,” Lee said.

In his later years, Whisman kept on playing golf while finding time for his other passions, especially fishing. Every year he showed up for the final round of the County Am, and in 2013 he was there to shake Stamey’s hand after the latter’s record-tying victory.

Even as his health deteriorated, Whisman never gave up wanting to help young golfers improve.

“If he said he was going to be there to help a team or an individual player, and even if he wasn’t feeling good that day, he’d still go,” Greg Whisman said. “He would never call anybody and cancel. He constantly wanted to be around (golf and golfers). It was life.”

Over the years, Greg Whisman added, “there was just a lot of people that he touched. He was a great man.”

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