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Bon Stein – 2024 PNGA Hall of Fame Inductee

He was a young boy in Seattle, the son of German immigrants, born into a family of modest means, when Bronson “Bon” Stein discovered that golf could open up his life in ways he couldn’t have dreamed of.

Bon Stein
Bon Stein

As courses began to pop up in and around the city in the early 1900s, Stein became its first unbeatable golfer for the better part of a decade.

He was first drawn to the game by his ability to make money at it – as a caddie at Seattle Golf Club – before he turned to Jefferson Park Municipal Golf Course and learned how to play well, later returning to the private club to be a champion many times over.

In 1915, Stein won the Seattle City Caddie Championship. He was 16 at the time and still working as a caddie in Robert Johnstone’s pro shop at Seattle Golf Club, so the USGA removed his amateur status because at the time the rule was that anyone 16 or older who worked as a caddie was considered a professional. This rule also applied to anyone working in the golf industry, such as selling golf equipment, or working as architects and greenkeepers. It was a gray area, one which was difficult to navigate.

For two years Stein then worked as a salesman for Spalding. At the time, one of the best amateur players in the world was George Von Elm of Utah. In 1920, because he also worked for Spalding selling golf balls, the USGA declared him a professional. Von Elm challenged the USGA and won his amateur status back.

And with that, so did Stein, retroactively.

Stein was part of the “Big Four,” a quartet of Jefferson golfers that was filled out by Lee Steil, Clare Griswold and Clark Spiers, who took turns winning just about everything in the region, with Stein playing just a little better than everyone else.

In 1919, the Big Four won the Davis Cup, a team competition held in conjunction within the PNGA Men’s Amateur. Usually won by private club teams, when these four public players won it, Seattle Golf Club made Stein and Steil honorary members of the club, which would give them opportunities to compete in larger regional and national events.

Stein captured the inaugural Washington State Amateur in 1922, and would win four of the first five championships held. He won the Seattle City Amateur five times. He became the Seattle Golf Club champion six times.

Bon Stein at the 1921 Seattle City Amateur

In 1922, he was the No. 1-ranked player in Seattle, and in 1923 was the No. 2-ranked player on the West Coast. He consistently drove the ball over 300 yards, an unheard-of distance in the early 1900s.

His record as a medalist is almost unmatched. In the BC Amateur and Washington State Amateur combined, he earned medalist honors an astonishing 11 times, with the most dominant being at the 1926 Washington State Amateur, held that year at Inglewood Country Club, in which his scores of 69-72 on the par-73 layout were 15 strokes better than the nearest qualifier.

In 1926, Stein was one of the eight players selected by Albert S. Kerry to represent the Northwest in traveling to the Midwest to play team matches against the finest players in the country, leading up to that year’s Western Amateur. They became known as “Kerry’s Raiders,” and they beat all comers. Northwest players would go on to win five of the next six Western Amateurs, proving the region was a breeding ground for some of the best golfers in the country.

In his biggest moment in golf, Stein stepped up and won the 1927 Western Amateur, held that year at Seattle Golf Club, beating Eddie Held of St. Louis 2 and 1 in the final, closing out the match with a Stymie on the 35th hole. This was akin to winning a major back then, with the Western surpassed only by the U.S. Amateur. In 1926, Stein had made it to the final match in the championship, finishing runner-up.

With powerful arms and a sturdy build, Stein’s golf accolades made the newspapers, and even when playing recreationally he drew a gallery.

Life was good for Stein, who went from selling sporting goods to working with stocks and bonds. He owned a Ford automobile. Yet he barely had time to enjoy his newfound success.

The stock market crash of 1929 counted him as a victim. His golf took a back seat to his need to find gainful employment. He didn’t win again after economic stress set in.

A few years into the Great Depression, he seemed resigned to the fact he’d had his moment in the sun and that golf no longer was his guiding force.

“I put all I had into my golf for a period of more than 15 years,” Stein said in 1932. “I gave all I had and, after a decade and a half, I find I am merely holding an empty sack.”

In 1935, Stein took a job with the Ford Motor Company and moved to Michigan to work on the assembly line and then shipping and receiving. He rarely played golf, but in 1936 he did enter the Michigan Public Links Championship. Stein stepped onto the first tee in the opening round, carrying his collection of hickory-shafted clubs he had first used while in the caddie ranks at Seattle Golf Club.

The spectators wondered who this 30-ish fellow was who carried his own bag, but after he fired a 67 to vault into contention, a local newspaper scribe searched for Stein’s record and discovered his Northwest playing accomplishments.

Stein did not show up for the second round, withdrawing from the tournament without explanation.

He spent the rest of his life in Ann Arbor, got married but didn’t have any children, played golf rarely, and went into retirement in 1955 because of poor health.

Stein was 67 when he died from a heart attack on August 29, 1966. He was brought back and buried in a North Seattle cemetery, not far from the courses he used to master.


  • Seattle City Caddie Champion – 1915
  • Seattle Amateur Champion – 1919, 1921, 1923, 1925, 1926
  • BC Amateur Champion – 1925
  • BC Amateur Finalist – 1928
  • BC Amateur Medalist – 1923, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1928, 1929
  • Washington State Amateur Champion – 1922, 1923, 1925, 1926
  • Washington State Amateur Finalist – 1924, 1931
  • Washington State Amateur Medalist – 1922, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1928
  • PNGA Men’s Amateur Finalist – 1922
  • PNGA Men’s Amateur Medalist – 1919, 1923, 1929
  • Western Amateur Champion – 1927
  • Western Amateur Finalist – 1926
  • Northwest Open, Second Place – 1923
  • Selected as Member of Kerry’s Raiders – 1926
  • Seattle Golf Club, Club Champion – 1921, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1931
  • Inducted into Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Fame – 2024