Phoenix – Inez “Nez” Muhleman of Houston accepted the Joe Dey Award Saturday night “on behalf of all the volunteers in golf.”
Known for her dedication to assisting young female golfers from Texas for more than three decades, Muhleman also devoted herself to the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship. She officially retired from the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship Committee this past December after 31 years of service.
At 89 years old, it was becoming more difficult to travel.
Through the years, bouts with lung cancer and heart bypass surgery could not keep Muhleman away. In 1980, she was asked to join the U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship Committee and, despite her illnesses, she attended every U.S. Girls’ Junior from 1980-2010.
“Isn’t that incredible?” said Muhleman. “It’s the one thing that has been the carrot in front of the rabbit. I look forward to [the Girls’ Junior] every year.”
Muhleman was driven to tears Thursday night at a get-together among committee members, according to her son, 58-year-old Tom Muhleman. A steady stream of people she’s known through the years came up to offer their congratulations.
During dinner Friday night, Muhleman estimated she had put in 1,500 days of volunteer service.
On Saturday, when Muhleman accepted the award, she said, “Oh, this is so beautiful. I accept it not only for me but for all of the many, many volunteers throughout the country.”
When she received the phone call from John Kim, chairman of the Joe Dey Award Committee and a member of the USGA Executive Committee, Muhleman said: “I was speechless. My husband said he’s never known me to be speechless. My only comment was, ‘Oh my goodness, oh my goodness.’”
The Joe Dey Award, which has been given since 1996, recognizes an individual’s meritorious service to the game as a volunteer. The award is named for Joseph C. Dey Jr., who served as the USGA’s executive director for 35 years, from 1934 to 1969, and later became the first commissioner of the PGA Tour.
Muhleman oversaw the U.S. Girls’ Junior sectional qualifiers, served as a Rules official at the national championship and created the Girls’ Junior Travel Fund for Texas-based qualifiers. What began with a modest $250 of her own money quickly evolved into a fund that has provided reimbursement for airfare and caddie fees to every Texas qualifier, more than 340 girls to date.
Muhleman, a member at Riverbend Country Club in Sugar Land, Texas, can be credited for helping 1994 U.S. Girls’ Junior champion Kellie Kuehne, 2005 U.S. Women’s Open runner-up Brittany Lang, Stacy Lewis, 2003 U.S. Women’s Open runner-up Angela Stanford and Wendy Ward find their way to the LPGA Tour. But perhaps her greater legacy was to see to it that each and every player she came across had a memorable experience playing golf. She said there were too many memories over 31 years to pick one favorite.
“Beyond the sheer length of Nez’s service to the USGA is her true devotion to the game,” said Kim. “She sets new standards for volunteers. She embodies all of the attributes that distinguish past and future recipients of the Joe Dey Award.”
Muhleman looked skyward when asked what she would do with the award.
“I have some other awards, but this one is the epitome for all of those,” said Muhleman. “Thirty one years go by so fast, it’s unbelievable. Mark Twain is quoted as saying, ‘Golf is a good walk spoiled.’ He was so wrong, he was so wrong. I made so many friends through the years.”
Ken Klavon is the USGA’s Web Editor. E-mail him with questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.