Her mother told Bobbie Rose to “go out and play” one day after school. Off she went, and the now 101-year-old never looked back.
Rose, of Meadowbrook, Pa., embraces outdoor recreation. Check out her activities list as a youth: badminton, biking, dodgeball, hopscotch, jacks (remember jacks?), field hockey, skating, swimming and tennis.
“Outdoors became my thing,” Rose, a four-time Athlete of the Year at Cheltenham High School, said. “They used to call me a tomboy. I was fascinated with sports in school.”
Golf, surprisingly, didn’t enter the picture until age 32. Rose became pregnant with son Michael, a Golf Association of Philadelphia stalwart, and pursued the sport following her husband Leon’s suggestion.
“The first feeling of holding a golf club … I knew that would be the game I would play the rest of my life,” Bobbie, a Temple University graduate, said. “I love to go on the range. I could spend hours, and still do, hitting one ball after the other. I’ve always tried to better myself.”
The Rose family joined Ashbourne Country Club (now defunct) in 1947. Clarence Ehresman, the club’s head professional at the time, taught Bobbie how to hold a golf club; she took care of the rest.
“He just let me go. I think I’ve been let go all of these years,” Rose said. “I haven’t had too many people help me. Golf just seemed to be my thing.”
Rose captured the women’s championship at Ashbourne a remarkable 13 consecutive years (1949-61). In 1961, she joined Philmont Country Club because of playing restrictions for Michael and her daughter Bonnie. (“They weren’t allowed to play at Ashbourne until they were 12 years old. When they did become 12, they had to step aside when the adults came behind them,” Bobbie said.). She captured Philmont’s women’s championship that year and represented the club during the WGAP Team Matches.
“I learned about other people, and what a wonderful group they were. Even today I have these friends that I’ve competed with and against,” Bobbie said. “Unfortunately, a lot of my friends are no longer living, but I’ve picked up some new friends. They’re my children’s age. What a wonderful thing that is. I’ve been accepted. I have a lot to look forward to.”
Also on the WGAP front, Bobbie paired with both Bonnie and Michael to win multiple WGAP tournaments. From 1967-95, she and Bonnie, 73, won the Mater Et Filia on four occasions (1973, 1982, 1987, 1995); she and Michael, 70, claimed nine Griscom Cup titles (1968-69, 1976, 1982-83, 1988-91) during that span, too. At age 90, Bobbie teamed with her daughter to win the Effie Derr Robey Cup. At age 91, she won the Super-Senior Championship (Class B), besting a field nearly 30 years younger. The WGAP made Bobbie an honorary member of their organization in 2006. She is one of 11 individuals, including Dorothy Porter and Glenna Collett Vare, to receive such an honor.
In 2014, Rose joined both Bonnie and Michael as a Philadelphia Jewish Sports Hall of Fame inductee. Golf is their permanent bond.
“We can sit and talk golf. Unfortunately, sometimes we do it too much,” Bobbie said. “I’m still playing in the Mater Et Filia and Griscom. Even as we speak today, I’m looking forward to this year. This is the year my golf swing is going to be better. I’m going to do especially well with my chipping. I’m looking forward to proving myself.”
When she isn’t presenting evidence of her competitive course chops, Bobbie is likely producing works of art inspired by her imagination. She’s created more than 2,000 decorative pieces — for interior and exterior display — and counting.
“If I just had one sport to play, I’d probably be one of the best, but I varied in so many different ways. I like so many different sports,” Bobbie said. “It’s the same thing with art; I like to do it all, and that’s my fun.”
Age is just a number, as the cliché goes. Bobbie Rose is living proof.
“Numbers don’t make you who you are; it’s what you make yourself,” she said. “I didn’t think 50 and I didn’t think 75. I thought about what fun it is to have a birthday. I always tell people, ‘Don’t tell me about how old you are; tell me about how young you feel.’
“I know I can’t be what I used to be, but if I can be presentable — as good as I can be, I’ll be satisfied. That’s why I keep working. I love challenging myself. I’m not going to give it up.”
GAP Chat GAP Chat is a Web-based series that features past Golf Association of Philadelphia tournament players, supporters and regional figureheads recalling their experiences and accomplishments both on and off the course. Formerly known as the Legends video series, it acts as a gateway to the story behind the story and further showcases the organization’s rich history.
Golf Association of Philadelphia
Founded in 1897, the Golf Association of Philadelphia (GAP) is the oldest regional golf association in the United States and serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. Its 151 Full Member Clubs and 57,000 individual members are spread across parts of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. As Philadelphia’s Most Trusted Source of Golf Information, the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.