Longtime VCC pro Stahl gets into Hall|[01/26/07]

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 26, 2007

In nearly a quarter of a century as the head pro at Vicksburg Country Club, John Stahl worked tirelessly to introduce hundreds of people to the game of golf.

Stahl died in 1990, but his memory lives on. His work in building and operating courses, as well as teaching the game to the next generation, were rewarded recently when he was inducted to the PGA of America Gulf States Section Hall of Fame.

&#8220I think he’s been deserving of it,” said Bill Caldwell Jr., a former Gulf States Section president, Vicksburg native and fellow Gulf States hall of famer who learned the game under Stahl’s tutelage. &#8220He’d have been in sooner, but with the issues in New Orleans with Katrina, we’ve had no inductees for the last two years.”

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Stahl was born in New Orleans in 1922 and played in the 1947 U.S. Open. Not long after that, he married his wife Shirlye and the couple moved to Vicksburg in 1950 when John Stahl took over as head golf pro at Vicksburg Country Club.

John Stahl immediately set about making improvements to VCC. He had a trolley installed to make the course more accessible and became a pioneer of sorts in his use of organic fertilizers to make the course playable year-round.

He also made the game accessible to scores of people by offering discounts to less-fortunate golfers.

&#8220He was a very big-hearted guy. Back in the years where business was tough, he discounted goods and services for people that needed help,” Caldwell said.

In addition to his generosity, Stahl also taught a lot of people the business of golf. Caldwell, who got his start working in the cart shed at VCC, was one of four Gulf States Section presidents who worked for Stahl at one time or another.

Stahl left Vicksburg and the Country Club in 1970, and went on to work as the head pro at courses he owned in Jackson and Monroe, La. Caldwell said Stahl’s easygoing demeanor made him a likable mentor.

&#8220He was one of the main reasons I went to LSU on a golf scholarship,” Caldwell said. &#8220Because of his attitude, he kept the game fun. He was never high-pressured. He always had a calming effect on me. I might have burned out at an early age, but I didn’t and it was because of him.”