Bogie Busters

By Brendan Zdunek

The Bogie Busters of Dayton, Ohio was an annual celebrity golf tournament that ran from 1967 to 1991.[1] Started by Dayton-area businessman Cy Laughter, the event brought together many celebrities and business and political leaders. The tournament was played at Dayton Country Club from 1967 to 1974 and then subsequently was played at the larger NCR Country Club.[2] Beyond the fame it brought, the tournament also played a key role in the construction of the University of Dayton Arena. Through Bogie Busters, UD Athletic Director Tom Frericks and Governor James Rhodes of Ohio met one another.[3]  Governor Rhodes was key in securing a loan for the University that tremendously helped aid in the construction of the arena.[4]

“Bogie Busters, 1986”, Si Burick Papers. 1986. Series 7, Box 2, Folder 3. University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections. University of Dayton.

Background on Cy Laughter

The story of the Bogie Busters begins with the birth of Cy Laughter, creator of the golfing event. Born on July 26, 1925 in Dayton, Ohio as Robert Cyrus Laughter, Cy grew up in the Dayton area.[5] Cy Laughter was born into a rich family as his father, Robert, was president of Laughter Corporation, a tool and die company. Dayton used to be the second-largest source in the country for tools and die and the Laughter Corporation was one of seven major tool shops in the city.[6] Consequently, the Laughter family’s company made them wealthy and successful. For his education, Cy Laughter graduated from Oakwood High School in 1944 where he played basketball, baseball, and football.[7] Later that same year, Laughter was drafted into the U.S. Army. In January 1945, he was wounded in France at the Battle of the Bulge in his left arm. Laughter’s wound stayed with him, preventing him from lifting his left arm up for the rest of his life.[8] Laughter was later medically discharged in September of 1945 and came back to the U.S. When he returned, he attended the University of Dayton for a year and even played for the UD basketball team as a center.[9]  Laughter then completed his studies at Sinclair Community College in 1948.[10]  Following school, Cy Laughter worked for his father at Laughter Corporation.[11]  Eventually, Laughter  would become the vice president of the company in 1956 and later president in 1960.[12]

As his influence in the Dayton area grew, he became heavily involved in the community. He took on a number of positions including trustee at Wright State University, member of the American Battle Monuments Commission, member of the Ohio Governor’s Energy Commission, co-chairman of Bob Hope’s Xenia Tornado Fund, and many others as well.[13] Laughter was also a member of the Dayton Agonis Club, a group of former athletes who got together occasionally for luncheons.

For one meeting of the Dayton Agonis Club, Laughter was asked to provide a speaker and he recruited Otto Graham, quarterback of the Cleveland Browns. Inviting Graham led Laughter to begin to make more close associations with other celebrities as well and, as a businessman, he met many well-known people in athletics, entertainment, and politics. In the words of Cy Laughter himself, “the way I think it happens, is I meet Paul Brown and he introduces me to Ara Parseghian and he introduces me to someone else…” This is exactly how Laughter met then-Vice President Richard Nixon at a luncheon.[14]

On the Right:  “Tom Frericks – To another Winner, and a great friend. Cy”, Frericks Family Private Collection.

Beginning of Bogie Busters

A loyal Republican, in 1960, Laughter worked with Richard Nixon’s presidential campaign in which Nixon lost to John F. Kennedy. Although the campaign was unsuccessful for Richard Nixon, it was successful for Cy Laughter as he made many new connections with celebrities and political figures. These new relationships with political figures helped Laughter meet entertainers like Perry Como, Bing Crosby, and Bob Hope.[15]

One place Laughter met important people was playing at golf tournaments, such as the Buick Pro-Am Invitational at Warwick Hills Country Club in Grand Blanc, Michigan. A tournament that combined both professional and amateur golfers, the invitational preceded the Buick Open PGA Tour event that was held in July each year. Not only did Laughter play in this event, but Tom Frericks did as well. Laughter was able to make more connections with famous figures, including Ray Bolger who performed at many Bogie Busters Galas in later years.[16] The Buick Pro-Am was a great networking opportunity for many business and political figures. Laughter himself may have even looked at this invitational for the Bogie Busters, another golf outing that can be a great networking opportunity.

All of these close connections allowed Laughter to start what he is most known for: the annual Bogie Busters golf tournament. Influenced by the example of the Buick Invitational, Laughter invited famous Oklahoma football coach Bud Wilkinson to come to speak in Dayton in 1967 and to play some golf as well at Dayton Country Club. Laughter also invited a dozen others like Ara Parseghian, Paul Brown, Don Shula, Tom Frericks, and Don Donoher to come join Wilkinson and him.[17] After golfing, the group had a small reception at the country club. They followed this up by going to the Laughter’s home where Audrey, Cy Laughter’s wife, cooked them fried chicken.[18]

Bogie Busters Grows

Bogie Busters grew over the ensuing years into a larger event lasting two days. At its largest, the event’s pool of players grew to 360, according to Cy Laughter.[19] Laughter developed a name and logo for the outing from a list provided by E.F. MacDonald Company. With a name and a logo, Laughter sold merchandise including shirts and golf bags. Laughter received calls from people like Bob Hope and others who wanted merchandise before the tournament.[20]

With Bogie Busters growing immensely, the event also became sponsored by Laughter Corporation and raised money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society.[21] Multiple sclerosis, better known as MS, is a disease that weakens one’s central nervous system and is common in the U.S. The Multiple Sclerosis Society helps fund research for MS and sponsors services for MS patients. It is unknown why Laughter decided to pick this particular charity for the tournament. Regardless, much money was raised for the cause. Laughter himself asserted that all the proceeds of Bogie Busters went to Multiple Sclerosis and other charities and never went towards the Laughter Corporation or the Laughter family.[22] Celebrities and other famous figures more often than not support helping out a good cause and the Bogie Busters sponsoring a charitable drive most likely brought more participants to the outing.

In 1974, the outing was moved to NCR Country Club.[23] This was done to accommodate the growing number of participants as NCR Country Club had two different 18-hole courses.[24] The list of players for Bogie Busters not only grew in number, but also in the prestige of the people who participated. Multiple current and future U.S. presidents attended the event including Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan.[25] As it grew and attracted powerful individuals, increasingly important activities took place during the event. For example, some of the illegal activities surrounding the Watergate scandal took place there.[26]

Famous attendees were also outside the entertainment and political realm. The first man on the moon, astronaut Neil Armstrong, and the last man on the moon, Gene Cernan, had attended Bogie Busters as well.[27] Despite all the different personalities that attended the event, many of the participants praised the fellowship and friendly atmosphere of the tournament. Many believed the tournament to be a day filled with fun and golf and there never seemed to be any kind of enmity towards anyone.[28]

On the Left: “Bogie Busters 1987, L to R: Cy Laughter, Gene Cernan, Neil Armstrong, George H.W. Bush”, https://www.daytondailynews.com/news/photos-george-bush-appearances-southwest-ohio/wF6eM6KJiS0vclOiqdZEgL/#26

Red Jacket Dinner & Other Events

One of the signature events of Bogie Busters was the Red Jacket Dinner, later known as the Bogie Busters Gala. The tradition started at the first Bogie Busters in 1967. That year, one of the participants was Andy Granatelli, the CEO of STP, and he did not golf well. To make the tournament more enjoyable for Granatelli and others who did not enjoy golfing much, Laughter planned a dinner. Additionally, Cy Laughter’s father gave Granatelli a red jacket for a picture with the whole group. Laughter decided to make the red jacket a symbol of the distinction of honorary Bogie Buster.[29] Over the years, many celebrities and local leaders were named honorary Bogie Busters. In 1970, with the brand-new University of Dayton Arena finished, Tom Frericks received a red jacket of his own. In 1978, Coach Don Donoher was named an honorary Bogie Buster for his success in UD basketball.[30] In 1985, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush was given a red jacket.[31] As more celebrities and leaders began to attend, the dinner grew into the more elegant Bogie Buster Gala where entertainers of all forms performed. In fact, because of their growing size, a number of these galas were actually held at the 13,000-seat University of Dayton Arena.[32]

Cy Laughter Playing Lead Role

Bogie Busters was Cy Laughter’s “show.” He entertained all his guests and made the golf pairings himself. Laughter decided the pairings based on his belief of what benefit his geusts. Bucky Albers, contributing writer for the Dayton Daily News and personal friend of Cy Laughter, recalled a story in which Laughter requested a photographer to greet Bob Hope at the airport. Hope was arriving to play in Bogie Busters and, in Laughter’s words, “Bob is used to seeing some cameras when he makes an appearance.”[33]  As this story suggests, Cy was careful to satisfy the expectations of the celebrities. However, this required a tremendous investment by Laughter. Laughter himself called it a “13-month effort.” A month before the event, Laughter had already begun planning ahead for next year’s event.[34] Although the outing took a great deal of effort, Laughter still enjoyed bringing these celebrities to his hometown to raise money for charity and to network celebrities with one another.

It is evident the tournament became an opportunity for people in politics, business, and entertainment to network. Through this networking, Laughter believed that his tournament helped forge relationships that benefitted the Dayton community. He felt that, through Bogie Busters, the idea for construction of the Miami Valley Research Park was created. Built in Beavercreek and Kettering, the park allows students from UD, Wright State, and Sinclair Community College to conduct technological research. He also thought that his outing helped set up a 10-game basketball series between the University of Michigan and UD. Michigan basketball coach Johnny Orr and Don Donoher both attended the event.[35] Also, according to Marc Katz, a reporter for Dayton Daily News, the tournament also helped in keeping the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base operating at its maximum level.[36] This likely refers to the increasing level of defense research at the Air Force base and how the University’s research institute also had multiple defense contracts to aid in this research. However, the possibly most important relationship that was forged at Bogie Busters was the one between Tom Frericks and Ohio Governor James Rhodes.

Bogie Busters’ Role in UD Arena Construction

The year Bogie Busters was first played was the same year that the University of Dayton basketball team had its great Final Four run in which they played UCLA in the title game. With the growing national attention of the team, UD Athletic Director Tom Frericks thought he was going to be able to raise enough money to build a new UD basketball arena. However, that did not pan out quite the way Frericks wanted it to. With a poor start for the 1967-68 team and the racial scandal on the team, it became increasingly difficult to find the sufficient amount of money to fund the arena construction. With little options left available, Frericks used ties forged at the Bogie Busters to rescue his plan. Frericks and Don Donoher were regular attendees of the outing since the inaugural event.[37]

“Governor Winds Up For a Shot At The Basket”, Frericks Scrapbook, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton.

Among the many political attendees, mostly associated with the Republican Party, was James Rhodes, Governor of Ohio. Rhodes was a well-known politician in Ohio, was known for sending in the National Guard in response to the Kent State protests in 1970, and was an honorary Bogie Buster in 1977. While little direct evidence exists, it appears that Governor Rhodes conceived State Bill 453 and its creation of the Ohio Education Facilities Commission (OEFC) in order to aid Frericks and UD. Soon after the OEFC was established, it was announced on October 18, 1968, that the OEFC did indeed approve a $4 million bond to aid UD in the construction of the arena. Frericks later admitted that “Governor Rhodes pushed that through for us.”[38] Without the Bogie Busters, the OEFC may not have been created and the arena may not have ever been built.

The Demise of Bogie Busters

Despite the tournament’s successes since 1967, by the mid-1980s, Laughter had started to become weary of organizing the event. After 20 years of running the outing, Laughter decided to step down as the head organizer of Bogie Busters in 1986. At the gala that year, Laughter’s family presented him with his own white Bogie Busters jacket. Inside the jacket was the signatures of all the honorary Bogie Busters over the years. In the eyes of Laughter’s son, David who presented him with the jacket, the white jacket made him the “commander-in-chief of the Bogie Busters army.”[39]

Laughter still wanted the event to continue after stepping down as the head of the outing. However, financial problems within his own company began to affect the tournament. The Laughter Corporation began to decline in the 1970s. The city of Dayton encountered many economic troubles in the 1960s, causing major factories to leave. As factories left, the need for a large-scale tools and die business disappeared.[40] By 1986, they were the only major tool and die company in the city. In 1991, the corporation was forced to file for bankruptcy.[41] Laughter had retired as president of the company the year before.[42]

To cut the costs of playing a high-end club like NCR, the tournament was moved to the municipal Kittyhawk Golf Course, which had no clubhouse. Celebrities and political figures had moved on from the success of the tournament and stopped attending regularly. Eventually, Laughter decided to have Bogie Busters end in 1991.[43]

Cy Laughter passed away on September 7, 2011 at the age of 86.[44] The Bogie Busters event had left its mark on the city of Dayton in many ways, especially in the University of Dayton Arena. Robert Cyrus Laughter was a man who loved his city and wanted to support it any way possible.[45] Many of the celebrities he brought to town can be seen in photos in Marian’s Pizza in downtown Dayton. The pizzeria is filled with photographs of famous celebrities who were presumably in town for the Bogie Busters. However, near the end of the Bogie Busters’ run, Laughter thought the event was becoming less appreciated in Dayton. In his own words, “There are people in the city of Dayton who resent it. They think it’s for me. We’ve done what we think is a benefit to the community.”[46]  Despite the growing dislike of the Bogie Busters amongst Daytonians, Laughter died believing the event contributed much to the city and, in some ways, it certainly did.

Endnotes:

[1] “Golf Significant Figures: Important Names in Dayton’s Golf History,” Dayton Area Sports History, accessed November 7, 2018. http://www.daytonareasportshistory.org/golf/GolfHistoryDaytonAreaSportsHistory.htm.

[2] “Golf Clubs in Dayton, Ohio,” Dayton Area Sports History, accessed November 7, 2018. http://www.daytonareasportshistory.org/golf/GolfHistoryDaytonAreaSportsHistory.htm.

[3] Diemer, Tom; Leonard, Lee; Zimmerman, Richard. James A. Rhodes, Ohio Colossus (Kent State University Press, 2014).

[4] Ritter Collett, The Flyers: A History of University of Dayton Basketball, (Dayton: Landfall Press, 1989), 151.

[5] “Robert Cyrus Laughter,” Dayton Daily News, last modified September 11, 2011, https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/dayton/obituary.aspx?pid=153525709.

[6] Bogie Busters (1986; Dayton, WHIO-TV), VHS, Frericks Family Collection.

[7] Bucky Albers, “Bogie Busters golf tourney drew presidents, celebrities to Dayton,” Dayton Daily News (Dayton, OH), Sept. 10, 2011. https://www.daytondailynews.com/sports/golf/bogie-busters-golf-tourney-drew-presidents-celebrities-dayton/4GHIvxVgsaWk0EmHsowevM/.

[8] Marc Katz Article on Cy Laughter, Box 2, Folder 3, Si Burick Papers 1974-1985, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton Archives.

[9] Albers, “Bogie Busters,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 10, 2011.

[10] “Robert Cyrus Laughter,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 11, 2011.

[11] Albers, “Bogie Busters,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 10, 2011.

[12] “Robert Cyrus Laughter,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 11, 2011.

[13] Ibid

[14] Katz Article on Cy Laughter, Si Burick Papers, University of Dayton Archives.

[15] Albers, “Bogie Busters,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 10, 2011.

[16] 1968 Buick Open Brochure, Frericks Family Collection.

[17] Albers, “Bogie Busters,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 10, 2011.

[18] Bogie Busters (1986; Dayton, WHIO-TV), VHS, Frericks Family Collection.

[19] Ibid

[20] Katz Article on Cy Laughter, Si Burick Papers, University of Dayton Archives.

[21] Albers, “Bogie Busters,” Dayton Daily News.

[22] Bogie Busters (1986; Dayton, WHIO-TV), VHS, Frericks Family Collection.

[23] “Golf Clubs in Dayton, Ohio,” Dayton Area Sports History, accessed November 7, 2018.

[24] Albers, “Bogie Busters,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 10, 2011.

[25] Interview with Don Donoher, April 23, 2018, and Albers, “Bogie Busters,” Dayton Daily News.

[26] The Hugh-Robozo Investigation, Presidential Campaign Activities of 1972, 1145, Dayton Daily News, June 4, 1972, and Congressional Record Vol. 151-Part 11: Proceedings and Debates.

[27] “Golf Significant Figures,” Dayton Area Sports History.

[28] Bogie Busters (1986; Dayton, WHIO-TV), VHS, Frericks Family Collection.

[29] Ibid

[30] Si Burick Press Release, May 1978, Box 2, Folder 3, Si Burick Papers 1974-1985, University of Dayton Archives and Special Collections, University of Dayton Libraries.

[31] Bogie Busters (1986; Dayton, WHIO-TV), VHS.

[32] Ibid

[33] Albers, “Bogie Busters,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 10, 2011.

[34] Bogie Busters (1986; Dayton, WHIO-TV), VHS, Frericks Family Collection.

[35] Albers, “Bogie Busters,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 10, 2011.

[36] Katz Article on Cy Laughter, Si Burick Papers, University of Dayton Archives.

[37] Albers, “Bogie Busters,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 10, 2011.

[38] Collett, The Flyers, 151.

[39] Bogie Busters (1986; Dayton, WHIO-TV), VHS.

[40] Ibid

[41] Albers, “Bogie Busters,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 10, 2011.

[42] “Robert Cyrus Laughter,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 11, 2011.

[43] Albers, “Bogie Busters,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 10, 2011.

[44] “Robert Cyrus Laughter,” Dayton Daily News, Sept. 11, 2011.

[45] Bogie Busters (1986; Dayton, WHIO-TV), VHS, Frericks Family Collection.

[46] Katz Article on Cy Laughter, Si Burick Papers, University of Dayton Archives.