Roger “Dr. O or just Doc” Ostrander Remembered as Rules Official With the Big Smile

GRAND RAPIDS – Roger Gilbert Ostrander, better known as “Dr. O” or just “Doc” in golf circles, will be missed by the people who run golf tournaments as well as those who play in them and watch them.
“He had the ability to see the perspective of the players as well as that of an official, and of course, he was always good for a few stories and laughs for everybody,” said Ken Hartmann, director of rules and competitions for the Golf Association of Michigan.
Dr. O passed away early Sunday after a long and courageous battle with cancer. He was 74, and a gifted enough golfer to shoot his age in recent years.
Dr. O was born in Greenville, Mich., in 1941, the son of Douglas and Velma Ostrander. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1972 with a Master’s degree in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery and practiced in East Grand Rapids until 1996 when he retired.
Then he enjoyed his second career as a golf rules official, first with the Golf Association of Michigan and the United States Golf Association, but also with the professionals of the Michigan Section of the PGA of America for over 15 years. Most recently, he served as a starter at the Michigan Senior Open last month.
He officiated all of the major Michigan tournaments for the GAM and the Michigan PGA, including Michigan Amateur and Michigan Open championships, and served as a GAM Governor, chairman of the championships committee and was presented the Distinguished Service Award by the GAM in 2011.
His expertise was recognized at the national and international levels, too. He worked six U.S. Open Championships, nine U.S. Senior Opens and 14 U.S. Amateur Championships in some rules capacity at both qualifying events and the national championships.
“He was a great rules guy, and he was always within an earshot or phone call on the most complicated and even most simple rulings,” Hartmann said.
Ron Gaines, a former GAM President and rules official for both the GAM and the PGA, said Dr. O believed the rules should be used to help the golfer if possible, not punish them.
“He did it the right way,” Gaines said. “And he did it with a great smile.”
Greg Johnson, a former golf writer for The Grand Rapids Press now working as a contract writer and photographer for the GAM and Michigan PGA, wrote about his accomplishments in golf, saw him often at major championships around the country and played golf with him a few times each year for the last several years.
“He had charisma, a special energy, that twinkle in his eye, mischief on his mind,” he said. “I saw him make friends with and get a laugh out of a grumpy walking scorer on a 100-degree day in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and charm this serious guy working in his garden into sharing a few beers during a post-tournament fun round at The Pines in Gaylord. He just smiled and others smiled with him.”
Kevin Helm, executive director of the Michigan PGA, said losing him is tough on a lot of people in Michigan golf.
“The players knew him and liked him, the volunteers liked him and waited to see his smile, hear his stories and jokes,” Helm said. “Rules officials and tournament staff spend a lot of long days, sometimes several days in a row on the course, at dinners, at breakfast. He made friends easily and had a lot of close friends in the Michigan Section and in golf in the state. Obviously, we’re very sad at his passing. We will all miss him.”
Johnson said he lived an inspiring life, and not just at the golf course.
“He knew somebody everywhere you would go,” he said. “He had friends. I picked on him for briefly being in the way of the television cameras when Payne Stewart won the U.S. Open at Pinehurst and hugged Phil Mickelson on the 18th green. He said he had just stopped to visit with people in the gallery he had met earlier in the week. In magazine pictures later from a certain angle, there was Payne hugging Phil and Dr. O talking with somebody in the gallery in the background.”
Dr. O had friends from his days as an oral surgeon, and golf buddies too numerous to mention. He was an easy mark for charity golf events, loved a good hockey game, bragged about his children and one of the great passions of his life was dogs, specifically greyhound rescue.
Dr. O is survived by his wife of 50 years, Bonnie Lee Ostrander; daughter Laura Caprara, sons Scott
Ostrander (Morgen) and Mark Ostrander. He was a cherished grandfather to Anthony and Thomas
Caprara, Liam Ostrander and Molly and Matthew Ostrander. He is survived by his sister, Jackie Bradley, brothers, Blair and Dave Ostrander.
Funeral services are at 11 a.m. Friday in the Metcalf & Jonkhoff Chapel at 4291 Cascade Rd. SE, Grand Rapids (49546).
The family will greet friends on Thursday from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at the funeral home.
In lieu of flowers the family asks that expressions of sympathy be donated to Allies for Greyhounds, P.O. Box 63, Grandville, MI (49468-0063).

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