The Iowa Golf Hall of Fame will add three members in 2020, bringing the total number in the Hall of Fame to 86. Those three include Beth Bader, John Benda and Judd Gibb. These three individuals will be enshrined on at Wakonda Club in Des Moines on a date TBD.
Beth Bader, originally from Eldridge, began playing golf at the age of 12 and never looked back.
Bader, who was quite successful in Iowa, won the 1991 Iowa Junior Open, 1991 Des Moines Open and 1992 Waterloo Junior Open. She continued to build her resume with a win at the 1995 Quad City Women’s Amateur and a runner-up finish at the Iowa Women’s Amateur.
As a member and captain of the Iowa State University (ISU) women’s golf team, Bader was a medalist at the 1993 Northern Illinois Huskie Invitational and was the team’s most valuable player in 1993-94. Bader also was a runner-up at the Big Eight Championship and is the only player from ISU to earn All-Big Eight honors for two years. In 1996, Bader was named ISU’s Female Athlete of the Year. Bader earned her bachelor’s degree from ISU in 1997 in Sport Management.
Bader never missed a tournament in her stellar ISU career (42-straight meets), ranking among the top-100 players nationally throughout the majority of her time in Ames. Her 24 career top-10 finishes is still an ISU record.
“This is quite an honor,” Bader said after hearing of her induction. “I remember starting out in Eldridge. My sister and I would hit balls into a field, pick them up and do it again. That brings back a lot of memories for me. Playing in Iowa toughened me up. I became one of the best players in tough conditions. I was never a great ball striker, but I could play in those tough conditions. I had a great imagination that helped my short game. I owe a lot to growing up and playing in Iowa.”
Following college, Bader continued her outstanding career on the Futures Tour for four years before earning her card onto the LPGA Tour (2000-20012), as one of the few native Iowans to compete in the pinnacle of women’s golf. She played on the LPGA Tour for more than a decade, totaling over $1 million in career earnings and competing in 26 major championships. Her best finish in a LPGA event was a tie for fourth at the 2007 LPGA Corning Classic.
“Beth was an incredible athlete for ISU but, an even better teammate and individual to coach,” Bader’s college coach Julie Manning said. “She had an infectious personality and was a true leader. She loved to compete and was an athlete that loved competing for the win when the competition was tight and the pressure was on. She was a ‘gamer’ and loved to win tournaments and championships. She always represented ISU with class and was a true sportswoman, sustaining relationships to date, from her days on the ISU fairways.”
John Benda’s impact on the game of golf far outreaches the borders of Iowa.
Growing up in Clear Lake and then Humboldt, Benda had a fondness of the game of golf early on. He would captain both his high school team in Humboldt in 1965 and then the 1967-1969 Iowa State men’s golf team. From 1969-1986 Benda worked with the ISU Cyclone Country Junior Golf Camp and from 1971-1986 was a professional instructor. Over those 17 years he is credited with teaching the game to approximately 2,400 junior players.
While teaching the game to so many, Benda also played on various professional tours around the world, finishing high several times. Benda toured until 2011 making stops along the Asian Golf Circuit/Asian Golf Tour, the European Tour, the Australian/New Zealand Tour and the European Senior Tour. Benda twice qualified for the The Open Championship (1979, 1980) and claimed victories at the 1973 Iowa Open and 1985 Waterloo Open.
“This is a huge honor,” Benda said on receiving news of his induction into the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame. “I have always considered myself as an Iowan. I was born, raised and learned the game in Iowa. Golf was special in the generation and time I grew up in. To be part of this (Iowa Golf Hall of Fame) is overwhelming and to be recognized is emotional for me.”
Benda’s greatest achievement and impact in golf was his role in growing professional golf in Asia.
“John Benda, when he arrived in 1972, started to spread the word to U.S. pros to come play the Asian Circuit,” a 2009 Golf World article stated. “From this start he would serve many administrative duties for the Asian Golf Circuit, culminating with being Executive Director from 1992-1998.”
For 16 years Benda’s resume in Asia included the following:
1974 – Assistant to the Asia Golf Circuit Coordinating Director.
1975 – Elected President of the Asia Golf Circuit Tournament Players Division and gained a seat on the Executive Committee of the Asia-Pacific Golf Confederation, the governing body of the Asia Golf Circuit.
1988 – Appointed the Asia Golf Circuit Coordinating Director.
1992 – Appointed the Executive Director, a position he held until retirement in 1998.
“As a young golfer with aspirations of playing on the PGA Tour, my travels took me to Southeast Asia in 1988 for participation on the Asian Golf Circuit,” 2004 Open Championship winner Todd Hamilton said. “During my five years of participating on The Asian Golf Circuit, John was its Coordinating Director. If you needed visa help – you talked to John, a good restaurant – you talked to John and any help with your putting – you definitely talked to John. He was our calming influence when things didn’t work out as quickly as we all would’ve liked. For all of this, I owe John Benda a small debt of gratitude. His work off the course allowed me to focus on the course.”
Jerry Smith, a 2017 Iowa Golf Hall of Fame inductee and PGA Champions Tour Member, commented that he honestly does not know anyone coming out of the State of Iowa who has had a bigger influence on the game of golf worldwide than Benda.
“The early years of the Asian Golf Tour was very unique and touched hundreds of players each season,” Smith said. “It was the process going through the Asian Tour that players then would move onto the Japan Tour, the Australian Tour, the South African Tour, the South American Tour and the PGA Tour. I would imagine that people from the State of Iowa do not fully understand the impact John Benda has had worldwide with professional golfers. John Benda is a by-product of the rich Iowa golf heritage that went out and onto a bigger stage to impact the game of golf as we know it today.”
“A huge part of my life is having that involvement with players that have gone on to great things, even though it was a small part,” Benda humbly said.
Judd Gibb, originally from Fort Dodge, has been household name in the state for many years. Not only is Gibb described as a a highly esteemed teacher of the game, he also is an tremendous player – excelling within the Iowa Section PGA and nationally.
“I am overwhelmed when I look at those names in the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame,” Gibb said. “I know so many of them and am honored that my name will be added to that list. I have been so lucky to have helped and worked with people who helped me along the way. It’s fun to look back at with all the junior players I have been able to help. Golf is a great game.”
Gibb, a five-time Iowa PGA Player of the Year and two-time IPGA Teacher of the Year, has competed in a total of 12 National Club Professional Championships in addition to three National Assistants Championships. He was also a four-year letter winner (1992 team captain) at Iowa State University, participating in the team’s first two NCAA Regional Championships. This year will mark the third time Gibb will tee it up with the ‘big boys’ at the John Deere Classic on the PGA Tour, previously playing in 1999 and 2010. Gibb, who won the 2004 Herman Sani Tournament and is a two-time Iowa Section PGA Champion (2009, 2019), is currently the Director of Instruction and Tournament Coordinator at Lakeside Golf Course, Fort Dodge, and a Ping Golf Tech Representative.
“Judd has had a remarkable teaching career and I have seen first-hand his considerable skills,” Iowa Golf Hall of Fame member Ken Schall, PGA said. “He led a junior winter camp in Ankeny called Operation State Champ for nearly 10 years and exposed hundreds of aspiring junior players to the game.”
Schall also marveled at Gibb’s playing ability.
“Judd has a tour quality tempo to his swing that makes me marvel over how far he can move the ball with seemingly no effort,” Schall said. “I am sure that those of you who have played with Judd would agree that he is an absolute pleasure to play golf with. Judd has touched a lot of golfers and has been a great ambassador for the game in Iowa.”
The Iowa Golf Hall of Fame is administered by the Iowa Golf Association on behalf of all golf organizations in and around the state, such as the Iowa Section PGA and the Iowa Golf Course Superintendents Association.
The nomination and induction process consists of two committees, the Nominating Committee and the Voting Committee. The Nominating Committee determines the eligibility of nominees submitted by the general public as well as identifies individuals to nominate. They finalize the ballot. The Voting Committee has the task of researching and studying those on the ballot and casting votes for induction. The Voting Committee consists entirely of individuals who are current members of the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame.
The three individuals mentioned above will be enshrined at Wakonda Club in Des Moines at a date TBD.