Faith, family and honor.
Those fundamentals of life were oft-repeated Wednesday night as seven celebrated members of the golf industry gave due credit for sustaining them throughout respective careers that culminated with their names etched in granite as the newest inductees into the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame. With the latest additions, the Hall of Fame roster advanced to 148 since its origin in 1940.
The esteemed group was led by Samuel Henry “Errie” Ball of Stuart, Fla., who played in the inaugural Masters and will turn 101 on Nov. 14; and was anchored by PGA Honorary President Jim Remy of Ludlow, Vt., whose signature moment of his professional career, he said, was welcoming into PGA of America membership the families of black pioneers who were long ago the victims of injustice.
An overflow crowd of 400 at the PGA Museum of Golf and adjoining PGA Education Center honored a class that also included former PGA Chief Executive Officer Jim Awtrey, of Windermere, Fla., a trio of past PGA Teachers of the Year -- Jim Flick of Carlsbad, Calif.; Jim Antkiewicz, of Aliquippa, Pa.; and Jack Barber of Indianapolis -- as well as “Mr. New Mexico Golf,” Guy Wimberly of Elephant Butte, N.M. Awtrey, 67, was the only inductee unable to attend the ceremony after undergoing heart bypass surgery on Oct. 31, in Orlando. PGA Past President Pat Rielly of La Canada, Calif., accepted the Hall of Fame plaque for Awtrey.
“It’s the greatest honor I’ve ever received,” said Ball, a native of Wales and the last surviving member of the inaugural Masters field of 1934. Steadied by his cane, which he called “my new 5-iron,” Ball was joined by his bride, Maxie, who with him celebrated their 75th wedding anniversary on Sept. 26, an event they said had less fanfare. “I am so very honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, and I certainly owe an awful lot to my many friends in this country.
“The pros that are here (Wednesday) are my great friends,” he added. “And those who I have played, well, they have beaten the hell out of me. But I want to thank my family, my friends, and my good, fellow professionals who have helped to get me where I am today.”
Maxie Ball, 96, a native of Richmond, Va., who met her husband on a ship returning from England to America, said, “This is the best thing that has happened to him since I’ve known him. Not too many things excite him anymore, but this certainly did. We both love the game and it is one of the nicest things a couple can do together.”
Remy, 57, a former professional skier, said “to come from a tiny town in Vermont and to be considered in the same sentence as these great PGA Professionals is an honor that exceeds my dreams.”
“It is amazing what this sport does for you,” said Remy. “To be in a Hall of Fame is so special. When I became a PGA member, all I wanted to do was just be involved in something special.”
Remy stated that the most significant moment of his career occurred in 2010 at the PGA Annual Meeting in New Orleans, when The PGA posthumously welcomed into membership African-American golf pioneers John Shippen, Ted Rhodes and Bill Spiller; and granted honorary membership to boxing legend turned diversity advocate, Joe Louis Barrow Sr.
“I apologized to those families,” said Remy. “It was an unscripted moment and one that I felt long overdue.” Remy added, “We are changing and we are changing for the better.”
In addition to having coached more than 200 Tour professionals, including the legendary Jack Nicklaus and major champion Tom Lehman concurrently, the 81-year-old Flick also set what may be insurmountable longevity marks in teaching. The current ambassador for TaylorMade Golf in Carlsbad, Calif., is one of the most prolific active PGA teaching professionals whose 51 years as a PGA member includes teaching the game abroad in 23 nations and leading more than 1,000 multi-day golf academies.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute,” he said. “The game has meant so much to me, and if I can be forgiven, I have been struggling for 72 years due to the ‘drug of golf.’ That drug, however, has done so much for all of us. If it wasn’t for golf, we never would have heard of Arnold, never would have heard of Jack or Tiger.” Among the many Flick thanked was his mentor, another teaching legend, Bob Toski.
In accepting the Hall of Fame plaque for Awtrey, Rielly portrayed on the first CEO of The PGA as someone who “always kept his priorities in strict order -- religion, family and the Association.” Rielly also recalled that Awtrey put himself at the forefront of change in the game, particularly the ending of controversial discriminatory membership practices of clubs that would host The PGA’s championships, stemming from the controversy surrounding the 1990 PGA Championship at Shoal Creek Country Club.
“Jim Awtrey’s ability to think and prioritize under pressure, difficult circumstances, resulted in so many benefits for the future of The PGA of America and golf in general,” said Rielly. During Awtrey’s PGA term, membership rose from 15,000 to 27,000 and the Ryder Cup evolved into one of the greatest events in sport. Awtrey would oversee the formation of PGA Properties, including the debut of PGA Golf Club at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and the purchase in 2000 of Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky.
Antkiewicz, 54, the 2008 PGA Golf Professional of the Year and the PGA director of golf at The Club at Nevillewood in Presto, Pa., thanked PGA Professional Roy Vucinich of Moon Valley Township, Pa., for giving him his start in golf. “Roy not only was a mentor to me, he also daily proved the significant role that teaching and playing have in our profession,” said Antkiewicz.
Barber, 61, the 2009 PGA Golf Professional of the Year, is the PGA head professional at Meridian Hills Country Club in Indianapolis. He is the fourth member of the Indiana PGA Section to be inducted into the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame. “Jack Barber is a Hall of Famer every day, and that is what he brings to the job every day,” said outgoing Meridian Hills President Mark Ford during a video presentation.
The eldest of four brothers, Barber stated, “family is what it is all about,” and spoke about the sacrifice that his family endured throughout his career. “There are 37 hats that can be identified as what a PGA Professional wears,” said Barber. “The one hat that we all need to do a better job with is time management and establishing a balance in our life.”
Wimberly, 72, is remembered for many things in serving selflessly for over four decades in advancing golf in New Mexico. He was a co-founder of the Sun Country PGA Section, and perhaps his greatest legacy is educating the next generation of players. While serving from 1971 to 2004 at Arroyo del Oso Golf Course in Albuquerque, Wimberly elevated municipal golf on many levels, including employing more than 100, and mentoring a dozen PGA Professionals and assistant professionals.
“I once was asked by a young man, ‘Why do I have to be a PGA member?’” said Wimberly. “I replied that you should become a member in order that you may learn what you need to do to be a part of this game, to promote this game in this country. This is a game that gave me the opportunity to make something out of myself.”
About the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame
Originated in 1940 at the suggestion of famed sportswriter Grantland Rice, the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame was relocated in 2005 to the PGA Museum of Golf at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The Hall of Fame recognizes all PGA members who have made significant and lasting contributions to the building of The PGA of America and the game of golf. The inductees include PGA Presidents, PGA Golf Professional of the Year award winners as well as those PGA Professionals who also distinguish themselves as competitors and/or while in service to The PGA of America.