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Bill Dober, Dr. Bob Ruby’s longtime friend and golfing partner, remembers the 2009 conversation still.
“I said, ‘You were going to take that rules test. Did you take it?’
He said, ‘I did.’
I said, ‘Well, how did you do?’
And he said, ‘I did pretty well.’
‘Don’t give me pretty well,’ I said. ‘It’s like a round of golf. I want a number. What was your number?’
And he says, ‘I aced it.’
‘What do you mean you aced it?,’ I said. ‘What was the number?’”
Finally, Dober got his answer. “‘I got a 100,’ he told me.”
It’s the first thing you hear about Dr. Bob Ruby if you haven’t been playing against him or met him officiating at an event. He aced the rules test. But you soon learn that this rare feat is only one of the West Haven dentist’s many achievements in 50 years of devotion to the game—as a player, a volunteer, and an official.
And chances are you will have to pry it out of him.
He is, for example, one of the only golfers ever to win the Connecticut Father Son championship with both his father, Robert J., Sr., and his son, Brendan. And he did it 35 years apart—in 1976 and 2012.
He’s an accomplished player. From the time he finished runner-up in the Connecticut Junior Amateur in 1965 at 17 to the time, forty years later when he and partner Dober finished second in the Senior Division of the Anderson Four-Ball at Winged Foot, losing in a playoff. “That one still stings,” he says.
“He is a gentlemen and may strike you as pretty mild-mannered,” says Dober. “But Bob is incredibly competitive. I can’t think of anybody who wants to win more than him.” And win he has.
He owns 12 club championships spread between four clubs including Madison, where he’s also been Senior Club Champion 10 times. He was a semi-finalist in the 2001 Connecticut Amateur—at the age of 53.
Ruby also captained the amateur side of the Julius Boros Challenge Cup in 2013 and 2014 as well as the state’s Tri-State team in those years.
But it is in thousands of hours of giving back to the game, especially as a rules volunteer at the state and national level, that Bob Ruby has made an indelible mark. An official for 18 years with the CSGA, he has also been called to officiate at five U.S. Open championships, three U. S. Amateur championships, 11 U.S. Senior Open championships and the Walker Cup. He sits on the USGA Senior Amateur Championship Committee. “Bob has given very unselfishly of himself to help make a game he loves better,” says Jeff Hall, USGA Managing Director of Rules and Open Competitions “and across a variety of championships, to provide players an exemplary experience. And he has done this while being a wonderful husband, father, brother and professional. I’m both fortunate and proud to call Doctor Bob ‘friend.’”
With his wife Maureen, he has raised four children—Brendan, Rob, Kelly and Jyl—with the help of a successful dental practice. He was, he says, speechless when he heard of his induction into the Connecticut Hall of Fame. “It’s in my nature to give back and I have the support of my family to do that,” says Dr. Bob. “I love this game, partly because it’s so difficult, so fleeting. I’m deeply honored.”
Major competition on the Connecticut golf scene begins each year with the Julius Boros Challenge Cup at New Haven Country Club, pitting top players from the Connecticut Section PGA against a CSGA team.
No one in its 47-year history has enjoyed the Challenge Cup more than John Paesani. The former head pro (for 26 years) at Norwich Golf Club qualified for 20 Boros Cup Matches and even showed up once when he didn’t just to enjoy the festivities with close buddies and longtime foes.
“The Challenge Cup was always my favorite golf day every year, not just for the competition, but for the entire experience,” Paesani said. “Great times with Fran Marrello and Dennis Coscina.”
This from a guy who played in the 1991 U.S. Open, 1988 and 1997 PGA Championship, 2010 and 2011 U.S. Senior Open, nine PGA Tour non-majors, including the Greater Hartford Open seven times, 12 PGA of America National Championships and four Senior PGA of America National Championships. Paesani was the CT Section PGA Player of the Year in 1991, ‘92, ‘97 and 2001. He won the Section Championship in 1991, ’92, ‘93 and ‘97, the Section Club Pro Championship in 1997 and 2001, the 2001 PGA Tournament of Champions and the 2001 Connecticut Open.
He also captured the Section Vardon Trophy for low stroke average in 1990, ‘91, ‘93, ‘94, ‘96, ‘97, ‘99 and 2001, the 2014 PGA of America Quarter Century Winter Championship, 2015 Cape Cod PGA, 2016 Pro-Pro Stroke Play, and 2017 Pro Assistant Championship. In 2017 he was inducted into the Connecticut Section PGA Hall of Fame.
Paesani, 59, a PGA member for 32 years, won the Quarter Century event six months after undergoing treatment and multiple surgeries for colon cancer. “My general approach has been to keep doing what I do during any of the treatment.” Paesani said. “I worked and played right up to my surgery date, trying to stay as busy and fit as possible to reduce any down time.”
Paesani was born in San Jose, California and moved to Connecticut in third grade when his dad took a job as a professor at UConn. Paesani started playing golf every day in the summer. He graduated from E.O. Smith High School in Storrs where the golf team went 25-1 and won the Eastern Connecticut Conference title in his senior year. The team also included Mike Toner, son of UConn athletic director John Toner, and Mark Vasington, who won the CSGA Senior Amateur Championship in 2014.
Paesani served on the Section Board of Directors and on the PGA of America Competitions Committee. He received the Section’s Presidents Award for Fundraising in 2010. According to Tom Hantke, Executive Director of the Connecticut Section, “John always seemed to elevate his game the bigger the competition and stage. Whether in meetings in a board room or playing in the PGA Championship at Winged Foot, he brought the same competitive fire every time.”
Paesani’s resumé includes five course records, among them the Golf Club of Avon, where his 64 in the final round of the 2001 Connecticut Open produced a one-stroke victory.
Among his biggest thrills have been his son, Matt, caddying for him in the 2010 and 2011 U.S. Senior Opens, and the 1988 PGA Championship. “At the PGA I had a locker next to Arnold Palmer,” Paesani recalled. “As I was tying my shoes for the opening round, he entered the locker room, sat down next to me and we had a brief conversation before teeing off. Quite a thrill.”