Harton "Bud" Semple, Class of 2023
By Mike Dudurich • November 2, 2023
As the story goes, Harton “Bud” Semple led a crusade that allowed the area in and around Sewickley to become the eventual home to Sewickley Heights Country Club and prevent the construction of a potentially busy and noisy airport in that area.
“That’s what I’ve always heard,” said his daughter, Carol Semple Thompson. “He put together some investors, I believe in 1959 or so, and they put the plan into action to create the golf club.”
Semple spearheaded the golf club venture and was joined by friends of his: William George and David, John and Henry Oliver.
The group hired golf course architect Jim Harrison in 1960 and a year later, Sewickley Heights Golf Club was open for play.
Semple was a successful attorney in Estates and Trusts, his daughter’s memory is that he was a scratch golfer and was a powerful leader both in the community and locally and nationally in golf.
He left an impressive legacy, one that is honored tonight with his induction into the West Penn Golf Association Hall of Fame. Among the other inductees tonight is his wife, Phyllis Semple, a terrific golfer in her own right.
The couple was often referred to as a “power couple” in both golf and the community.
And they believed very strongly about how much the game could help others and build a strong family unit.
“I had four siblings and my father made all of us play golf until we broke 90,” Semple Thompson said. “Then whether we continued became a personal choice. I started playing at about age 5 but really didn’t like the game until about 12. Since then, it’s been an incredible experience. Who gets to travel the country and world, play golf in hundreds of tournaments and sometimes even win?”
Mr. Semple’s keen interest in local golf worked to build his reputation regionally and nationally. He was a longtime USGA volunteer, was the USGA’s legal counsel in the mid-60s and became so well-known on the national level that he was named president of the USGA and served that role in 1974-75.
“Dad was very proud of that,” his daughter said. “To be able to play at a high level and do the other things he was doing was very cool. I take great pride in my parents. They were great people, they tried to do the right things. We led a great existence. They provided me with great opportunities.”
When Semple Thompson won the U.S. Amateur at Montclair, N.J. in 1973, a year before her father began his term as president, the president at the time stepped aside to allow Semple to present the trophy to her.
It was the only major her father ever saw her win. He died at age 69 in 1990.
About the WPGA
Founded in 1899, the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association is the steward of amateur golf in the region. Started by five Member Clubs, the association now has nearly 200 Member Clubs and nearly 37,000 members. The WPGA conducts 14 individual competitions and 10 team events, and administers the WPGA Scholarship Fund and Western Pennsylvania Golf Hall of Fame.