2005: Newsmakers - Merle Marting Sr.: A true grower of the game

Merle Marting was so surprised to hear that he had been named Golfweek’s Father of the Year that he thought it was a joke.

Golfweek caller: “Merle, you’re our Father of the Year.”

“Yeah, right,” said Marting. “Sure I am. Who put you up to this?”

It took a few phone calls over a couple days for Marting to believe that his honor was for real. Marting’s reaction is an indication of his humility, but the 64-year-old Dubuque, Iowa, father of seven – six of whom played college golf and three of whom make their living in the golf business today – certainly is deserving.

Marting, who owned five shoe stores before retiring in 2003, has done his part to help populate Iowa with golfers. He and his wife, Mary Lee, are parents to Merle Jr., 39, an executive with TaylorMade/Adidas Golf; Beth, 38, and Dawn, 37, who played at Wisconsin and Iowa State, respectively; Trent, 35, a walk-on at Northern Iowa and a sales rep for Nike Golf; Lance, 32, who played golf at the University of Wisconsin and is a PGA professional at Janesville (Wis.) Country Club; Gigi, 23, a former Northern Iowa player; and Travis, 21, who will be a senior on Northern Iowa’s team this fall.

The Martings, you might say, have instilled their own private “Grow the Game” initiative.

“It was always something we could do together as a family,” Merle Marting says. “We were fortunate that the kids loved to do it, so it gave us something that we could all do together.”

Marting, a member at Dubuque Country Club who purchased a condo at Pinehurst in the ’90s, recalls weekend outings where some of the kids were playing a full round, and others were just walking with the family and putting on the greens – using putters that were taller than they were.

“I can’t tell you how many times one of the children would be competing out of state, and the rest of the family would jump into the motor home to go watch,” says Mary Lee. “It was just something we did.”

The Martings were the beneficiaries of a strong junior program at Dubuque CC, and Merle, who was nominated for Father of the Year by Dubuque head pro Dave Edwards, says he never pushed them.

“Some of the kids were swinging the club when they were 3, but Gigi didn’t take it up seriously until the eighth grade, which was fine,” Marting says. “But, then, when she decided it was something she wanted to do, we supported her and got her involved with the right people to teach her.”

What most epitomizes the Marting family commitment to golf might be the 1988 Adult-Junior Tournament at Dubuque CC. The family showed up in matching red-and-white outfits, made by Mary Lee, Beth and Dawn, that featured red shorts with white polka dots. Everyone matched exactly, with one exception.

“Well, I wouldn’t go for the polka dots,” Marting says with a laugh. “But I wore some very bright red pants.”

Polka-dots or no, the reception the family received at the club that day made the seamstresses know their efforts were appreciated.

“It was unbelievable,” Marting recalls. “People were applauding us all around the golf course. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

Marting will have another memorable day June 19 – Father’s Day – when he is officially named the 23rd Golfweek Father of the Year at World Golf Village in St. Augustine, Fla. Marting will receive the award at a banquet following Golfweek’s annual Father & Son Open, in which Merle Sr., Merle Jr., Lance and Travis will compete.

No word yet on what they’ll wear.

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