During this time of reduced travel and, for most of us, limited time on the golf course, it’s a wonderful opportunity to look for silver linings. To ponder the connections that keep bringing us back to the ancient game — and to remind ourselves of the aspects that mean the most to us. In the case of “Talking GolfGetaways” podcast hosts Mitch Laurance and Darin Bunch, a big part of their joy in playing and thinking about the game comes from a love of hickory golf and the immense historical backdrop that golf offers across the centuries.
In Episode 150, Mitch speaks with Dr. Bernard Bernacki of Pittsburgh, a man who is connected to that history every day, whether playing or not. Dr. Bernacki is current president of the Golf Heritage Society, a worldwide organization that “stands as a robust resource for golf historians, collectors, hickory golfers, researchers and writers.” As such, “Doctor Bern” is responsible for guiding the society in outward reach and shepherding its participants and contributors.
Bernacki begins the podcast with a discussion about the topic on everyone’s mind — coronavirus and Covid-19 — and details from a doctor’s perspective how this time in history impacts us all. That perspective comes from decades of running a family practice, and Bern shares his own continuing routine through this most challenging time, as well as discusses the ongoing debate among golfers about whether to play or not to play.
Bern then details his own journey in the game, starting at a young age. When asked how he became interested in the history of the game, he shares a great story about the clubs he used when he began, at age 10, and how those three hickories gave him a sense of the early game in a way most people don’t have today.
Next, Bern goes into detail about the Golf Heritage Society, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary, sharing the history of an organization that began in 1970 as the Golf Collectors Society and explaining why, in 2018, that name was changed to the Golf Heritage Society in order to be more inclusive of anyone who was interested not only in collecting clubs but also in the game’s vast history and other items worthy of collecting and sharing — such as artwork, postcards and many other fascinating items.
Bern finishes the interview talking about a couple of upcoming events planned for later this year that are particularly special to Golf Heritage Society members. He shares details on the National Hickory Open to be held in Miamisburg, Ohio in June, with competitors using pre-1900s equipment. And he mentions a truly once-in-a-lifetime event, to be held at Latrobe Country Club, home of Arnold Palmer, in October. (For a full listing of events, visit the GolfHeritage.org website.)
Though the podcast is not a long one, it’s a great reminder of why people like Dr. Bern Bernacki are special and so important today, not only for serving so many as a physician during a national crisis, but for allowing all of us who love the game to revel in its history and share in the values and passion that has carried it forward for so long. Enjoy the connection.
—Words by Mitch Laurance