As a youngster, Bill Foley walked from his home on Oakton Avenue in Dorchester to the old Wollaston Golf Club in Quincy, where, like his brothers, he was a caddie.
Those were the first steps in Mr. Foley’s ascension to caddie master, member, and club president at Wollaston, along the way winning three club championships and the 1964 Massachusetts Amateur championship.
“Bill was a great American success story,’’ said Bob Donovan, executive director of the Francis Ouimet Scholarship Fund, for which Mr. Foley served as president from 2000 to 2002. “He was an inspiration to many, including kids from blue-collar neighborhoods like himself. He credited golf for all the good things that happened in his life, and he never stopped giving back to the game.’’
Mr. Foley, a past president of the Massachusetts and New England golf associations, died April 29 of Alzheimer’s disease in his Milton home, adjacent to the current Wollaston Golf Club’s ninth fairway. He was 80 and a winter resident of Boynton Beach, Fla., where he was a former club champion at Quail Ridge Country Club.
“Bill saw the good in everybody, and I admired him for that,’’ said longtime friend Harry McCracken, a former Massachusetts Golf Association president and currently executive secretary of the New England Golf Association. “I regarded him as a great and decent man.’’
Mr. Foley had been a trustee of the Ouimet Fund, and from 1992 to 2004 he served as president of the Ouimet Society, an associate organization of the fund. He received the fund’s Richard F. Connolly Distinguished Service Award in 2003, the MGA’s Frank Sellman Award for Distinguished Service in 2006, and the Distinguished Service Award from Wollaston Golf Club in 2017.
“Bill loved and respected the game of golf and was as fine a representative of the game as anyone I have ever known,’’ said Connolly, a former Ouimet Fund president. Connolly was co-medalist with Mr. Foley at the CYO championship at Ponkapoag Golf Course in the 1950s and they became lifelong friends.
Started in 1949 by the legendary amateur Francis Ouimet, the fund has awarded nearly $34 million in need-based college scholarships to students who have spent at least two years as caddies, pro shop workers, or in course superintendent operations at a Massachusetts golf course.
An Ouimet scholar, Mr. Foley briefly attended Boston College before operating a canteen truck business from 1958 to 1966, including weekend stops at the 10th tee at Wollaston. The club moved to Milton in the mid-1970s, and the former site is now Presidents Golf Course.
“Bill was my first caddie master and my boss when I drove the canteen truck,’’ recalled former Globe managing editor Tom Mulvoy. “I paid half my tuition at Boston College — it was $960 a year then — from what he paid me.’’
Mr. Foley also operated a Dairy Queen on Gallivan Boulevard in Dorchester, and he owned Foley Chrysler-Plymouth in North Quincy from 1979 until retiring in 2007. His dealership provided vehicles at the US Junior at Wollaston and the 1988 US Open at The Country Club.
“Bill was smart enough to learn from the golfers he was caddying for — and not just about golf, but about how they became successful in life,’’ said his friend Mike Prendergast, an accomplished amateur who won 10 club championships at Wollaston. “Honesty was No. 1 with Bill, who was never handed anything.’’
The MGA’s Player of the Year in 1964, Mr. Foley participated that September in an exhibition match at Wollaston with fellow amateur Eddie Barry of Charles River Country Club and the great professionals Arnold Palmer and Tony Lema.
“I was real nervous when I first heard about it,’’ Mr. Foley told the Globe a couple of days before stepping onto the course with Palmer and Lema. “I began to wonder if I was really good enough to play with them.’’
He was, shooting a two-over-par 74 that included three birdies. At the par-3 16th, his tee shot rolled to within an inch of the pin.
“Walking up the fairway, Mr. Palmer, who was his partner that day, put his arm around dad and, anticipating Lema would make his birdie putt, told dad, ‘I wish you had hit that one a little harder, Bill,’ ’’ said Mr. Foley’s son, Bill Jr. of Dorchester, a fine golfer in his own right.
Less than two months before that day with Palmer, Mr. Foley — a superb putter who used the old Bulls Eye model for decades — had defeated Matty Ciociolo of Wachusett in their 36-hole final for the Mass. Amateur title at Worcester Country Club.
The first and only Wollaston member to win the state amateur, he played the entire tournament without a three-putt hole.
William Christopher Foley was a son of Patrick Foley, a church custodian, and the former Anne McGinley.
Mr. Foley graduated from Boston High School of Commerce in 1955. While working as caddie master, he met Adele Darcy of North Quincy, who worked in the office at Wollaston. They married in 1961.
After she died in 1992, Mr. Foley established an Ouimet scholarship in her name. Mr. Foley married Natalie White in 1997. They had known each another as teenagers in Dorchester and became reacquainted.
In 1992, Mr. Foley was associate chairman of the USGA Junior championship held at Wollaston, which was won by a then 16-year-old Tiger Woods.
“Dad told me it was the values and virtues learned from the game that were more important than your score or winning championships,’’ his son said.
“He said to always be a gentleman and to work hard at everything you do and never quit, and I try to carry myself the same way.’’
That advice about perseverance came from personal experience.
At the 1995 US Senior Amateur qualifier at Brae Burn Country Club, Mr. Foley battled back from a quadruple-bogey 8 to win medalist honors with a score of 76.
In addition to his wife and son, Mr. Foley leaves three brothers, the Rev. Thomas Foley of Boston, Bernard of Ocean View, Del., and Richard of Canton; a stepson, John Faherty of East Bridgewater; two stepdaughters, Elizabeth Mittl of Potomac, Md., and Natalie Bondar of Dedham; and nine grandchildren.
A service has been held and burial was in Milton Cemetery.
“He had a tremendous amount of faith,’’ said his son, “and like his mother, whom he worshipped, he was a daily communicant.’’
At the 2002 Ouimet Fund annual awards dinner, when former president George H.W. Bush was honored, Mr. Foley told the gathering what the event meant to him.
“To quote Francis Ouimet, ‘For what golf has given us, let us give something back to the game of golf,’ ’’ Mr. Foley said. “Francis would be so proud to see all the fund has accomplished.’’