PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- B.F. "Bev" Dolan of North Palm Beach, Fla., who sparked a competitive boom in the game of golf in 1954 with the introduction of the E-Z-GO golf car, has been named the 2012 recipient of the PGA Ernie Sabayrac Award for lifetime contributions to the golf industry.
Dolan, 85, will be honored at The PGA of America Awards, Jan. 24, 2013, in conjunction with the 60th PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla. The program, featuring 2012 PGA national award winners, will be conducted in the Convention Center's Linda W. Chapin Auditorium.
"Bev Dolan's commitment to excellence resulted in one of the remarkable success stories in the business of golf," said PGA of America President Ted Bishop. "Bev's vision for a piece of equipment that we take for granted today had a monumental impact upon the golf experience and how PGA Professionals elevate their respective businesses. We thank Bev for energizing the industry by his craftsmanship and business acumen, and it is with great pride that we present him with the PGA Ernie Sabayrac Award."
Born in Augusta, Ga., Dolan graduated with a degree in physics from the University of Georgia in 1952, and was serving in the U.S. Army two years later when he and his late brother, Billy, were sitting behind the clubhouse at Augusta National Golf Club during the Masters. They observed an "Autoette" model golf car arrive at the clubhouse for legendary Bobby Jones. The scene inspired Billy Dolan to comment, "You know, somebody is going to make a lot of money out of those things one of these days."
After returning to duty at Fort Jackson, S.C., Dolan called his brother two weeks later to say, "When I get out in July, I'm going to start building golf cars. Would you like to join me?' "
Dolan served in the U.S. Army until June 12, 1954, and the following day used $200 from "mustering out pay from the Army" to help begin the business in a one-room machine shop. The only money invested at the time, said Dolan, was $103 for a B-17 24-volt electric motor that operated B-17 wind flaps.
"We hooked up a 36-volt battery pack and away we went," said Dolan. "We purchased them at an Army surplus store in Los Angeles (Pearson Electric). We had more than we needed at the time."
Often considered "the father of the modern golf cart," Dolan is quick to note that he and his brother's efforts were not alone within the marketplace. The 1950s featured approximately 1,000 golf cars in use. The numbers ballooned to 120,000 a decade later, and more than 2 million are in use in America.
"I wasn't a pioneer in building a golf car, because there were many different models around about the time we started our business," said Dolan. "What I am proud of is that our efforts opened doors to a whole new source of income for a golf professional. That is significant. The golf car replaced the caddie, and for about the same price."
When E-Z-GO was born, there were a small number of golf facilities using golf cars. By 1967, industry statistics proclaim that 92 percent of all U.S. golf courses featured rented golf cars.
In 1961, Rhode Island-based Textron purchased the company and Dolan became CEO of Textron before his retirement in 2002. With Textron's infusion, E-Z-GO evolved into a global leader in golf cars and utility vehicles, and is the oldest continuous manufacturer of golf cars in the United States.
E-Z-GO was launched the same year as the inaugural PGA Merchandise Show, which began in the parking lot of the former PGA National Golf Club in Dunedin, Fla. Dolan said that he remembers that event, which blossomed decades later into the world's largest golf industry gathering. Dolan also remembers his time meeting the late Ernie Sabayrac, regarded as a legend in golf shop merchandising.
"Those of us who attended the early days of the Show remember card tables being stretched out on the slope near a white bungalow and how it began to grow into tents and beyond that," said Dolan. "We all got to know Ernie Sabayrac; he was hard not to miss, because he was everywhere and knew everybody. As for this award, I am very humbled."
Dolan and his wife, Ada Alice, live in North Palm Beach, Fla. They are the parents of sons Frank of Augusta, Ga., and William of Charlotte, N.C.
Begun in 1994, The PGA of America's Ernie Sabayrac Award for Lifetime Contributions to the Golf Industry was first presented to its namesake, the late Ernie Sabayrac, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. A prominent figure in the origin of the PGA Merchandise Show and a pioneer in the development of the golf shop, Sabayrac revolutionized merchandising among PGA Professionals, introducing golf shoes, soft goods, and logoed products in golf shops nationwide.
The Ernie Sabayrac Award was created to reflect The PGA of America's commitment to golf industry manufacturers and distributors and to recognize the mutually beneficial relationship that has thrived for more than 50 years.