Stuart Bloch (right) served as president of the USGA in 1992 and 1993, and made an impact in the game for several decades. Photo by USGA/John Mummert
Stuart F. Bloch, who called for stronger environmental stewardship in the game as the USGA’s president in the early 1990s, died on Oct. 29 at the age of 84 in Wheeling, W.Va.
Bloch was active on several USGA committees before serving two consecutive one-year terms as president in 1992 and 1993. He chaired the Championship Committee and the Implements and Ball Committee, and he was also a member of the International Team Selection Committee, which chooses the players for the Walker Cup and Curtis Cup Matches as well as the World Amateur Team Championships.
As chairman of the Implements and Ball Committee, he was involved with the “square grooves” debate in the late 1980s. The USGA opted not to ban U-shaped grooves at the time, but did implement a groove rule for its championships in 2010.
When he retired from the Executive Committee, Bloch also said golf needs to focus harder on protecting the environment.
“Golf’s popularity has placed us on the world stage,” said Bloch at the 1994 USGA Annual Meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz. “From that view, we can now see the challenges facing us such as blending golf course needs with the demands of wildlife, water and modified pesticide use. … We have learned that we must alter some cultural practices, for the health of people, preservation of our courses and the environment.”
Bloch remained active as a consultant to the Equipment Standards Committee and as a member of the Past Presidents Advisory Committee. In the latter role, Bloch was instrumental in Judy Bell becoming the USGA’s first female president in 1996.
Before being asked to join the Executive Committee, Bloch was heavily involved with the West Virginia Golf Association and served as its president from 1980-83. At his home club, Wheeling Country Club, Bloch was director and chairman of the Green Committee for 25 years.
Bloch discussed his role as his club’s green chairman in an article for the May 1992 issue of the USGA’s Green Section Record.
“When you add my love for the game of golf to my interest in the outdoors, it was a natural,” Bloch wrote. “I had the luxury of serving as chairman of the committee and also as its only member. I decided that it was clearly going to be more than I could handle to have a committee of four or five members. So I convinced the board that I would serve only under the condition that I would be the committee and I would resign every fall; if they didn’t like the way it was going, then they could start another program. I finally got fired after 18 years, but it was a lot of fun while I was doing it.”
As a player, Bloch competed at both Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and at Princeton University before serving in the U.S. Air Force from 1957-60. He joined the family business, the Bloch Brothers Tobacco Company, in 1960 and worked there 15 years, serving as president from 1970-75. From 1975-80, he was vice president of General Cigar & Tobacco Company. In 1980, he became executive vice president of the investment firm Hazlett, Burt & Watson Inc.
Outside of golf, Bloch served as coach and commissioner for the Wheeling Area Hockey Association. In 2013, Bloch and his wife, Stephanie, who were longtime friends of the College of Arts at West Virginia University, made a donation to the university’s Art Museum for its new Print Study/Collection Room.
Bloch is a former president of the Smokeless Tobacco Research Council and former president of the Associated Tobacco Manufacturers, West Virginia Manufacturers Association and chairman of the West Virginia University Foundation.
Bloch has been inducted into both the West Virginia Golf Association and city of Wheeling Halls of Fame.
Bloch’s wife, Stephanie, died earlier in 2017. He leaves four children, Karen, Caroline, Steve and Thomas II; and several grandchildren.
David Shefter is a senior staff writer for the USGA