About the author Phil Roche

A word about Phil Roche

 Phil Roche has a great philosophy on the game of golf:

“This would be a better world if everybody played golf. Everyone should play golf,” he said.

His golf resume is equally impressive starting at 9 years of age at Rolling Green Country Club in Arlington Hights, ILL., earning 90 cents a round as a caddy and teeing it up at every Monday when he wasn't lugging heavy bags.

Starting back in the 1940s at Arlington Hights High School in Illinois, Phil competed on both the football and basketball teams. He lettered in football his junior and senior years, and lettered in basketball his senior year. In his senior year, he was named to the All Northeast Conference team and was elected co-captian of his gridiron team which went 6-1-1.  In his spare time, Phil began his writing career covering fastpitch softball games for the town newspaper and catching for several teams in the local league.

After working for a year on the section gang of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, Phil attended the University of Idaho where he played freshman football and basketball for the Vandals under Coach Steve Belko. 

In 1951, Phil transferred to Boise Junior College (forerunner to Boise State), where he played baseball, basketball and football and competed in the Junior Rose Bowl in Pasadena against Long Beach City College in front of a crowd of 47,000.  The game was announced by football Hall of Famer, Michigan's Tom Harmon. 

In 1951 and '52, while sports editor and managing editor of the college newspaper, Phil played football for two years at Idaho State College as an offensive and defensive end.  He was named to the All Rocky Mountain Conference team as a defensive end after his '52 team went 8-0.

From 1954 through September of 1955 Phil served his country in the US Army artillery and infantry at Fort Ord and Fort Lewis at the close of the Korean Conflict. After his discharge in 1955, Roche taught all the English classes at Mapleton (Ore.) High School. In the spring he coached baseball, and his team reached the State finals of the small school division.

In 1957, Phil became the first coach at Bishop Amat High School in La Puente where he was the head coach for football, basketball, baseball, and track  -- every sport that the school offered at the time.

In the fall of 1959, he was hired at Covina High School where he taught in the English department for 35 years and served at golf coach for 25 years until his retirement in 1993. At Covina, he also coached football, gymnastics, basketball and baseball and was named coordinator for the English deparment in 1985. He worked summers and weekends on the copy desk of the Pomona Progress Bulletin from 1964 to 1987. He wrote his weekly golf column "Tee to Cup" for 35 years until January, 2013. 

 Later he taught English and golf classes at Mt. San Antonio College, and served as men's golf coach for six years from 1998 through 2003

Of all the accolades that Phil has accumulated in his lifetime, none gives him more pride or satisfaction than his educational accomplishments and the thousands of dollars he has raised for cancer and comunity charies over the years through the Inland Valley Amateur tournament.

Valley Amateur Tournament

"We try to set up anybody who wants to play,” said Roche, who enjoys recalling moments that include youngsters and older players. “We can accommodate them. I believe there’s a place for competitive golf.”

Such as the upcoming gathering, which is no longer identified as just the Inland Valley Amateur Championship. It was renamed the Phil Roche Inland Valley Amateur Championship a few years back to recognize the man’s efforts in running such an event.

“That was really a highlight for me,” said Pat Roche, Phil’s son. “I can clearly recall (hostess) Jackie Amsler announcing on a Sunday night that they were changing the name of the tournament.

“When she said it was to be called the ‘Phil Roche Inland Valley Amateur Championship,’ the crowd stood up to applauded. I got goose bumps, I was so proud of my dad. It was such a great honor.”

If there’s a man to honor for his golf game, and not especially his play on the course, it’s Phil Roche. He’s an icon in clubhouses in eastern Los Angeles and western San Bernardino counties. He can walk into any golf club and at least one person will recognize him and pass along information.

That’s the result of writing a weekly column since 1975, chronicling the achievements of local golfers. And the annual Inland Valley Championship has its genesis in his writing.

In his daily contact with the golfing community, he constantly would be asked who was the best. Thus, he and Pomona Progress-Bulletin executive Don Russell started the tournament.

It’s grown in stature and survived the economic downturn that has claimed many such tournaments. Golfers from throughout the state return because, as son Pat put it, “the allegiance and integrity” the 83-year-old Roche has put into it.

“They keep coming back because we try to make it as though they’re playing in the U.S. Open,” said Pat, who along with professional Bruce Thompson has been involved with his dad for 29 of his soon-to-be 50 years.

So who are some of the best golfers in tournament history?

Claremont’s Gary Havro is a four-time winner and Sal Enriquez Jr., of Upland and Eric Fekin, now from Victorville, are three-time champions. Enriquez played only between 1989-92 and finished second. He also played in front of a gallery of about 200 to 300 family members and friends.

Tom Clark of West Covina is the defending champ and a two-time winner as well. The list also includes Billy Mouw of Chino and Glendora’s Greg Wells, who was all of 16 when he first won.

That effort filled Roche with pride in knowing a new generation was in place. Years earlier, a 12-year-old Brad Thompson stunned the field by shooting a first-round 77. On the opposite end, Roche also is proud of the 70 that 70-year-old Ken Johnson shot in 105-degree heat.

There also was a young woman who turned in a score of 162 and was recognized by Roche for her determination to finish.

His nephew is Terry Roche, the highly successful football coach who won numerous CIF-SS titles at Diamond Bar.

In 1985, in addition to his various other duties, he played with John Gilbert Jr., who shot a 64 at Marshall Canyon. That remains the one-round record.

“I fortunate I’m still able to play,” Roche said. “I’m interested in people and just interested in watching people play golf.”

Mike Green on Phil Roche

I first met Coach Roche in 1977, my freshman year on the Damien High golf team with his son Pat.  Through the ebb and flow in our lives during the following four years, Coach was always a friend and mentor to every player on that team.  He made an impression on me strong enough to be my first call twenty years later, at 37, when I decited to change my vocation and was considering the education and coaching fields.  Currently, I am in my ninth year as a Head Coach and Golf Instructor. This is only me; Phil's kindness to all and respect for the game are well documented over the years through his "Tee to Cup" articles in the Daily Bulletin.  He has clearly been a friend to this golf community, and all that reside within it.  His interest in the game of golf is still alive today through his stories available right here on mycommunitygolf.com.  The best is yet to come!

 Bruce Thompson on Phil Roche

My relationship with Phil started more than 40 years ago. Some of the memories go back to the mid 80's when Phil was Head Coach at Mt. San Antonio College and I was the Assistant Golf Coach under Dan Petta at Pasadena City College.  With a strong foundation of memories at the collegiate level and playing many rounds of golf together.  I began helping Phil run his yearly Valley Amature Tournament in the early 90's.  While I was Head Professional at Claremont golf course, Phil was always available to help the juniors, women's and men's club event results, as well as highlights from most local events at every level.  Having Phil as the voice on our golfing community over the past years has made the community as a whole a much better place to reside.  We are all blessed to have Phil as part of our new venture.