Bill was born in 1884. The first time he watched people playing golf was sometime before 1900 while standing on the hill in Crown Hill Cemetery where James Whitcomb Riley is buried that overlooks what was then Indianapolis Country Club (now the Woodstock Club). He became a very good player winning the City Amateur as a Senior in high school.
As a freshman at Wabash College, in Crawfordsville, Indiana, in 1905 he won the first of his five State Amateur titles. Wabash didn't have a golf team, so Bill lettered in baseball, basketball, football and track during his college years. Pictured at left are members of the First Wonder Five of Wabash College. This was the team of 1907-08. These Little Giants had a record of 24-0 and were proclaimed World Champions. Ralph Jones was the coach and the First Wonder Five included Brandy Freeman, Bill (Abe) Diddel, Big Bill Sprow, Ralph Wicks, and Rome (Ike) Williams.
Bill got his start designing golf courses in 1921 by finishing a new course for Highland Country Club, of which he was a member, that was routed by Willie Park Jr. He then began full-time practice as a Golf Course Architect, and any assignments followed. It is believed the first course he designed was Ulen Country Club in Lebanon, Indiana. Bill worked on over 300 courses, mostly in the Midwest. Many of his courses are in small towns but he always felt an obligation to promote the game to all walks of life, especially in his home state of Indiana.
In the late thirties, Bill was intrigued by the idea of smaller golf courses to bring more people into the game, and he developed and patented a golf ball which flew about half the distance of regular balls of that era. The idea never took root at that time; over 40 years later others developed the "Cayman" ball which had similar characteristics to Bill's short ball.
Bill was a master at routing a golf course, using the natural terrain to provide definition and strategy. His green designs were creative, difficult yet fair; they were integral in the strategy of each hole as well as the entire sequence of holes.
In 1928 Bill purchased 168 acres in Hamilton County, Indiana. He managed to hang onto it through the depression. In 1951 he designed and built Woodland Golf Course. Originally the course was to have no bunkers, only contours to provide strategic components of the golf course. The course was opened as a public facility, but in 1954 he leased it to the newly formed Woodland Country Club, and it became private. Woodland was Bill's pride and joy and he and his wife lived in a log cabin near the 12th tee. On hot summer days, Helen, his wife, could usually be found outside the cabin with fresh lemonade and cookies for the golfers passing through.
Bill still enjoyed golf in his later years; even when in his middle eighties he occasionally scored in the seventies. He always savored competition; a favorite wager was to play 18 holes for a cigar.
Bill received the Centennial Award from the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2015, created to recognize those who contributed to Indiana high school basketball more than 100 years ago. A forward at Indianapolis Manual High School seven years before an organized state tournament, Diddel helped their 1903-04 team to success leading the school yearbook to note “eminently qualified to be high school champion of Indiana and Ohio, having beaten Piqua, Ohio (the Ohio state champion).” That squad also defeated Butler multiple times and ended their season with a 26-1 victory over Louisville (KY) Male High School. A two-time all-state player at Wabash College, Diddel was named all-Western Team in 1908 and named the best basketball player in the United States in a poll of sportswriters. Wabash teams were 56-3 during his career. Spending brief stints as athletic director and basketball coach at Wabash, he gained prominence as a nationally renowned golf course architect, designing nearly 300 courses across the country, including Northwood Club in Dallas, Texas, which hosted the 1952 U.S. Open. A five-time Indiana State Golf Amateur Champion, he died in 1985 just shy of his 101st birthday.
Bill - opening day at Brookshire GC