July 8th, 2011

Hyland's Heroes: Dave Baron

Chris Jung

Senior Writer

Hyland's Heroes: Dave Baron
photo from LouCSAA.org

CSAA golf director has had large impact on local level

The following feature is a part of a weekly series, sponsored by Hyland, Block & Hyland, called "Hyland's Heroes" - a set of profiles that will spotlight Louisville area Catholic volunteers, coaches and administrators who assist athletic programs and teams, and help promote excellence in all aspects of sports. Know someone that you think should be featured as the next "Hyland's Hero? Send your recommendation to editor@catholicsportsnet.com.

After stellar golf careers at St. Xavier High School and Bellarmine University, Dave Baron became the first golf pro in Jefferson County at the age of 22, which was before the city-county merger in 2003.

But despite getting out of golf following stints at Bobby Nichols, Crescent Hills and Seneca Golf Courses, Baron has been encouraging young golfers to give the sport a try for decades by overseeing a two-day Catholic elementary golf tournament as the Catholic Sports Athletic Association Golf Director - a role he's fulfilled for the past 25 years.

"I enjoy golf. I enjoy the people," says Baron. "Growing up on the public courses was wonderful and the years I spent in golf were fabulous."

With such a rich golf tradition, Baron's route to the golf director job was rather unique. He was asked to start a basketball league at Ascension Catholic Elementary School after the parish built a brand new gymnasium. Soon after, he was asked to become a member of the CSAA basketball board and got his official start within the Catholic elementary athletic community.
Several years after that, CSAA Director Jim Frame approached Baron and asked if he would be interested in stepping into the golf director position. Baron, who didn't have to be sold, had a simple reply for Frame.
"Well sure," Baron told Frame.
Baron says that his main motivation for taking the job was his children. Baron's son Danny played at Trinity High School before graduating in 1996. Danny Baron recently returned to Kentucky to take over as the golf pro at Hurstbourne Country Club following several years at The Course at Wente Vineyards in Livermore, Ca.
In Louisville golf history, Dave and Danny are credited with being the first father-son duo to ever both be victorious at the Junior Falls Cities Tournament.
Wanting to provide an enjoyable golf tournament for local elementary student-athletes, Baron has taken a relatively small event and spent 25 years developing the CSAA Golf Tournament into a significant gathering on the links. Today, nearly 700 kids participate in the fun-first "competition," which jumps around between local courses on an annual basis.
"It's a golf tournament that's mainly for fun. The majority of our (participants) are not what I would call year-round golfers," said Baron. "We run this tournament for these kids to play for their schools and to have a good time. The kids really look forward to it. We need more fun tournaments around the city."
This past year's tournament was held at Seneca Golf Course and Baron says the parking lot was in overflow mode, as parents and grandparents flooded the course to watch their children and grandchildren play an exciting nine holes of golf. The tournament does not play by tournament-golf regulations or recognize USGA rules.
Baron says that they play by "loose rules," don't let players write a score higher than a 10 on a single hole and that children are participated to give it a shot, even if they play just a couple times per year.
Throughout his time on the golf course, specifically as CSAA golf director, Baron has seen some remarkable things. But three years ago, in 2008, he got a call on his radio just before the elementary tourney was set to get underway. In retrospect, it was a moment that would be the highlight of his CSAA career.
"There was a parent who wanted to take their player around in an electric cart, but our rules state that you have to walk the course and carry your own bag," said Baron. "But they came over and explained that he had been going through (chemotherapy) treatments for cancer and that he was so looking forward to playing a round of golf for his school - it would be the highlight of this summer."
Baron would quickly agree to let the cancer-stricken player to use a cart to play and complete his round. In 2009, that same player's grandfather approached Baron during the tournament to say "thank you" for making an exception.
"(He) came up to me the following year and said, 'You have no idea how much it meant to him just to go around and hit a golf club as part of his school's team'," said Baron. "In my 25 years (of doing this), that is my best memory."
Baron, who says he will retire soon, says he sticks around because of the smiles on the kids' faces.
Said Baron: "I don't care if (the kids) shoot a 75 or 105 or 125, the kids enjoy seeing their name up on that scoreboard, and that's what it's all about."
To read about past Hyland's Heroes, visit: http://catholicsportsnet.com/louisville/page/hyland-s-heroes

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