Paul Dillon Portrait of an Artist He's made a second career as a painter of famous golfers

June 30, 2002

The spacious dining room of Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck,
N.Y., is a light, breezy room furnished with crystal chandeliers
and velvet-upholstered chairs, a stately setting for countless
summer weddings and cocktail parties. Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and
Jack Nicklaus, among many others, have dined there, but what
gives the room its air of rich history are the large oil
paintings that adorn the walls.

The paintings are the work of Winged Foot member Paul Dillon. On
a recent afternoon Dillon ambled through the dining hall, past
his life-sized portraits of Jones, A.W. Tillinghast and Claude
Harmon, the former teaching pro at the club who won the 1948
Masters. Stopping in front of a smaller painting he did of Arnold
Palmer when the club made Palmer an honorary member last summer,
Dillon pointed his cane at the King's likeness and said, "Arnie
told me he likes it better than the one Norman Rockwell did of
him."

Though he's by no means limited to golf themes, Dillon's work for
Winged Foot, which will host its fifth U.S. Open when the
championship returns to New York City in 2006, has made him a
popular choice of other New York-area clubs in need of an artist.
He has been engaged by Somerset Hills, Sleepy Hollow and
Baltusrol, which hired him to paint the portraits of five golfers
who won the U.S. Open there--Willie Anderson (1903), Jerome
Travers ('15), Tony Manero ('36), Jack Nicklaus ('67 and '80) and
Lee Janzen ('93). "His portraits look more like a real person,
rather than simply a reproduced photograph," says Mark DeNoble,
Baltusrol's general manager. "He really captures the reflections
and the lighting of the skin, which makes the person come to
life."

Dillon, 66, comes from a long line of artists. His uncle Jim
Raymond drew the comic strip Blondie for 44 years. Another of
his uncles, Alex Raymond, created comic heroes Flash Gordon,
Secret Agent X-9, Rip Kirby and Jungle Jim. Alex Raymond modeled
Flash Gordon after Paul's father, a 6'3" blond Adonis who was
also named Paul and whose wife, Beatrice, was the inspiration
for Flash's sexpot girlfriend, Dale Arden.

Good looks run in the family. Two of Dillon's five sons are
actors. Matt, 38, has appeared in more than 30 feature films and
is making his directorial debut with City of Ghosts, a movie
about a con artist in Cambodia that will be released this fall.
Kevin, 36, starred in CBS's That's Life! and has appeared on NYPD
Blue. Three of the Dillon boys are members at Winged Foot, and
Matt is Paul's only non-golfing son. "He doesn't want to play
because he's afraid of getting hooked on the game," Paul says.
"It's a shame, because he doesn't know how much fun we're
having."

It hasn't always been a lot of fun in the Dillon household,
however. For years, Paul admits, he was an absentee father.
Though he's been on the wagon for 21 years, he was a longtime
problem drinker. At his worst he would stash a pint of vodka in
his briefcase before leaving for his job as a sales manager at a
forest products company in Wayne, N.J. He'd promise the kids that
he would do something--like take them to a Mets game, for
instance--then beg off because he was too hung over. "Alcoholics
are so selfish," he says. "They think only about themselves. When
I stopped drinking, I had to find an outlet. I had to think
beyond myself."

Reliving those bad old days, Dillon's hand shakes as he picks up
a glass of iced tea. He waves off the awkward silence. "I'm very
comfortable with who I am," he says. Since retiring from Union
Camp Corporation in 1986, Dillon has been president of the
Halfway House of Westchester County, which operates two recovery
houses for alcoholics. "I love helping alcoholics get better," he
says.

Dillon has also channeled his passion for public service to the
New York golf community. He serves on the board and is a past
president of the Westchester Golf Association Caddie Scholarship
Fund, and he is vice president of the Metropolitan Golf
Association. Dillon is also in his eighth season as coach of the
Fordham golf team. Last year he took the team to Ireland for
spring break and each season paints a portrait of the graduating
seniors, which he gives to the players. "I always give them a
good swing too," he says.

With the college season over, Dillon has more time to spend at
his studio in Larchmont, N.Y. He paints most days to make up for
lost time, concentrating on portraits rather than still lifes or
landscapes because he likes to capture the inner spirit of a
person. "If I can do that, I feel I can accomplish a great deal,"
he says. "When I stopped drinking, great things happened to
me." --Yi-Wyn Yen

COLOR PHOTO: MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FIT FOR A KING Many of Dillon's works, including this oneof Palmer, hang at Winged Foot, where Dillon is a member.

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