by Michelle Hiskey
When you play certain tracks in southern Idaho like Twin Falls Golf Course and Highland Golf Course in Pocatello, you connect to the Hiskey family. Starting in the Great Depression of the 1930s, Pete Hiskey helped build and run many public courses.
And when you see PING golf equipment, that’s part of the story too. Babe Hiskey, the youngest of Pete’s three sons, was the first PGA TOUR player to win with PING irons.
If you watched Scottie Scheffler win the 2022 Masters and solidify his ranking as the World’s No. 1 player, you got another peek at the Hiskey legacy. Scheffler met caddie Ted Scott through the PGA TOUR Bible Study, which was co-founded in 1965 by Babe and brother Jim Hiskey with Seattle native Kermit Zarley, all being players on the tour at the time, and which still flourishes on the tour today.
That’s the living story behind the Hiskey Family Cup, the new perpetual trophy given by the Idaho Golf Association to the winner of the Idaho Men’s Mid-Amateur Championship.
Born in the family’s house on Burley (Idaho) Golf Course, a course which is now called River’s Edge, Babe played professionally for 25 years and won three PGA TOUR events.
Now in their 80s, Babe and Jim brought three generations of Hiskeys from around the country to Boise’s Crane Creek Country Club in September to bestow the 2021 Hiskey Family Cup to Alan Barnhardt, winner of that year’s Idaho Men’s Mid-Amateur.
“Golf has been a great game for our family,” said Jim’s son Pete Hiskey, who is now a high school golf coach in Annapolis, Md. “Golf has brought us together with a lot of friends.”
After stocks crashed in 1929, the elder Pete Hiskey found employment building golf courses with the Works Progress Administration. He had little knowledge of golf, but did have an intense drive to take care of his growing family. He managed work crews and courses while his family lived on site.
Pete worked on or advised superintendents at many southern Idaho courses, including Blue Lakes Country Club and Riverside Golf Course. He retired as Pocatello’s superintendent of parks, and when he passed away, several Hiskey generations celebrated his life by playing Highland Golf Course.
Pete and wife Valna raised daughter Beverly and sons Peter Marion (Sonny), Jim and Bryant (Babe). From their house on the grounds of Twin Falls “Muni,” the boys played three holes on their way to the school bus.
In the 1950s, the brothers would win eight of nine Idaho State Amateur championships.
“Dad was ornery,” Babe said at a reception for the Mid-Amateur contestants last fall. “If we didn’t win, we didn’t want to come home. And Dad didn’t play a lick.”
Sonny became the first Hiskey to attend college. He led North Texas State to the NAIA golf championship, and Jim would help power the University of Houston to three NCAA national golf titles.
By the time Babe joined Jim at Houston, though, the family’s charmed life in golf had shattered.
In March 1956, Sonny was fulfilling his military service as he prepared to play the PGA TOUR. In a night-time Air Force training flight near Waco, Tex., his plane went down. He was 25.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to play golf anymore,” Jim recalled.
But by the mid-1960s, Babe was playing the PGA TOUR full-time and Jim part-time, a schedule that limited church attendance, which is why they formed the PGA TOUR Bible Study group.
On the tour, Babe struggled with his putting. In desperation, he listened to an engineer sell him on the handmade putters out of his car trunk. Karsten Solheim, who grew up in Seattle and attended the University of Washington, had created PING golf clubs in his garage, and Babe got hooked. “He was almost like a dad to me,” Babe said.
He became one of the first tour players sponsored by PING, and helped talk other players to try the equipment. Babe’s victory in the 1970 Sahara Invitational was the first for the PING K-1 irons.
He had earlier won the 1965 Cajun Classic, and in 1972 he won the PGA TOUR’s National Team Championship with Zarley as his partner. Zarley, by then an established tour player, had won the PNGA Men’s Amateur in 1962.
Babe played 15 years on the PGA TOUR and a decade on the PGA Senior Tour. He and wife Eunice now live in Galveston, Tex., and have three children and six grandchildren.
Jim is a mentor to golfers around the world and co-author of “Choices of Champions: 8 Critical Decisions Winners Make to Power through Adversity.” He and wife Lorraine, who met as children in Twin Falls, now live in Annapolis, Md., and have three children, eight grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
They are now busy making plans for their next family golf reunion in Idaho.
Michelle Hiskey is an Atlanta-based writer who attended Duke University on a golf scholarship. Her golf writing has appeared on USGA.org and ESPN.com, and in The New York Times.