Joe Novak, PGA“Mr. Bel-Air”
From cleaning golf clubs for $50 a month in the small mining town of Butte, Montana, to helping mold one of the premier private clubs in all of Southern California, Joe Novak was the author of an extreme life arc.
In 1927, Novak pondered upon joining the year-old Bel-Air CC after working for a club in Spokane, Wash. He decided to take a leap of faith, and the marriage between Novak and the club progressed through his position as head club professional, battling through the nation’s more difficult times.
Novak was the glue to Bel-Air CC’s troubles during The Great Depression and World War II. He would meet with federal officials to seek solutions and prevent closure. Though his hard work and support for Bel-Air CC never stopped, he assumed a leadership position as the PGA of America President from 1949-1951. As the first president elected from the Pacific Coast, he was an ideal ambassador for golf professionals across the country. He was inducted into the PGA of America Hall of Fame in 2005.
Novak authored four books about golf. He also upstarted the Bel-Air CC award-winning newsletter “CHIPS” in 1929 and wrote it himself for 50 years until 1979.
Meanwhile, Novak always kept his own game in gear. 66 was his magic number, shooting it many times at Bel-Air CC and his past clubs. Prior to his tenure at Bel-Air CC, he won the 1925 NorCal Professional Championship and was runner-up in the California Professional Championship.
In 1962, Novak assumed the role of Bel-Air CC’s Director of Golf Emeritus. The annual Joe Novak Pro-Am tournament, which ran from 1971-1988, brought in many golf professionals from across the country to honor and pay their respects to Novak. Since 1989, the tournament has continued as a member event at Bel-Air CC.
Bel-Air CC recognized Novak’s 50 years of dedication to the club with a celebration in 1979, honoring his contributions through the decades. “Mr. Bel-Air” who passed away in 1982 at 83 years old, became an icon among the club and lives on till this day.