Hall of Famer: Bruce Patterson


Bruce Patterson, a rock star at Butler National

By Jeff Vorva

Some of the best golfers and local celebrities played at least one round of golf with Bruce Patterson.

Arnold Palmer? Yep.

Jack Nicklaus? Affirmative.

Phil Mickelson? You bet.

Michael Jordan? Check.

Mike Ditka? Yes sir.

And there were many others too numerous to mention.

Patterson was the director of golf at the Butler National Golf Course in Oak Brook for 38 years. He’s retired now, but he was like a Bruce Springsteen-like rock star when it came to his popularity in his heyday.

If you wanted to play a round at that famed course, Patterson was your guy.

“He was always the go-to person for that,” his wife, Dru Patterson, said. “His reputation was just stellar. People loved him.”
During his extremely long and distinguished career, he was co-founder of the Illinois PGA Foundation and founding president of First Tee, which helped more than 50,000 youngsters in the Chicago area.

Patterson, who turns 68 in May, was inducted into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame in November at the Glen Club in Glenview.
It was a night of joy mixed in with a little sadness.

Patterson is now in a memory care center, and the millions of stories he has hobnobbing with some of the biggest names may never get told.

But he made it to the event. Although he didn’t speak publicly, he appeared to enjoy himself, Dru said. With his children attending, it made it even more special.

“I think he totally enjoyed being back at the Glen Club,” Dru said. “He saw all of these familiar faces, but I don’t think he knew many of the names. But he knew that he knew them from his career and all of his time spent with the Illinois PGA.
“There were a lot of Butler members that came out whom he knew.”

Some may not have known about his memory issues that night as he greeted well-wishers.

“He put on a show,” Dru said. “He went from table to table and talked to people – even those he didn’t recognize or know. He said ‘hello’ to everyone. That’s just what he does.”

It’s been a tough time for Dru, watching a man she loves and many people admire wrestling with memory problems. She said it weighs on him, too.

“Bruce is still the graceful man that he always was,” she said. “He’s always looking to make somebody smile and make somebody happy. He’s not aggressive, and he’s not angry. I think he’s sad that he’s in the situation that he’s in. He says, ‘I just want to be me, again.’”

Author Tim Cronin, who is chairman of the Hall of Fame selection committee, was the master of ceremonies at the event.
“He is a gentleman,” Cronin said of Patterson. “He has infinite patience. He proved it by playing golf with me many moons ago at Butler National. In forming the foundation, and seeing it come of age, showed he had a vision far beyond fairways and greens.”

According to his Hall of Fame biography, Patterson was a two-time Illinois PGA Professional of the Year in 1993 and 1996.
He was instrumental in creating and nurturing the Illinois PGA Foundation. The longtime head PGA professional and director of golf at Butler National Golf Club spent a decade as president of the foundation and was also the section president in 1995-96.

He was a PGA of America regional director and was named the Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year in 2001.

Also inducted were Margaret Abbott Dunne, Harry Collis, Dr. Randy Kane, Tim O’Neal, and Dave Ryan.

A video was shown highlighting Patterson’s career, and he received plenty of adulation.

“We could applaud Bruce all night, and it wouldn’t be enough,” Cronin said. ■

Bruce Patterson has played rounds of golf at Butler National with some of the best, including Arnold Palmer (right).



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