NORMAN, Okla. -- Jim Awtrey, retired CEO of the PGA of America and former college golf coach, will become the sixth Lifetime Achievement honoree by the GCAA. Awtrey will be officially recognized at the GCAA Hall of Fame Reception and Awards Banquet Monday, Dec. 7 in Las Vegas. Other GCAA Lifetime Achievement Award Recipients include Karsten Solheim, Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Friends of Golf (FOG).
In his 53 years in the golf industry Awtrey has served as a college player and coach, golf course and facility manager, Rules official, tournament director and one of the Game’s most widely respected voices.
“One of the very special times of my career was serving as Golf Coach at the University of Oklahoma,” said Awtrey. “I have remained in close touch with many of the players from over forty years ago and they never stop calling me “coach,” it is truly a special experience. Today the GCAA coaches are training and influencing the future stars and leaders of the game and I am proud to be a part of their organization, recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award and honored to be a member of the GCAA Hall of Fame.”
Awtrey grew up in Shawnee, Okla., and played collegiately at the University of Oklahoma. After graduating with an accounting degree in 1966, his golf career would begin as an assistant professional for Joe Walser at Lake Hefner Golf Course in Oklahoma City. Awtrey was elected to PGA membership in 1969 and embarked on his professional playing career. He returned to his alma mater as head coach from 1972-77 where he guided the program to three NCAA tournament appearances and tutored three All-America selections.
After leaving the Sooner golf program, Awtrey would serve a variety of roles in the PGA of America and South Central PGA Section. This included treasurer and president of the section and member of the PGA Rules Committee and The PGA of America Board of Directors.
In 1986 while serving on the board of directors, the PGA offered Awtrey the position of Tournament Manager. A year later he was named Executive Director, the first PGA professional to hold the title. In 1993, Awtrey was named the organization’s first CEO, a position he held until his retirement in November 2005.
In his 18 years at the helm of the PGA of America the organization saw resounding success. The Ryder Cup became the preeminent international competition in golf and the PGA Championship gained in stature. Television exposure expanded from 6.5 hours in 1986 to 64.5 hours in 2005 while TV rights fees grew 600-percent during that same period. Total revenue also saw great gains moving from $12.5 million to $200 million with 381-percent increase in total sponsorship dollars and 286-percent increase in total licensing dollars. Additionally, Awtrey oversaw the formation of PGA Properties, which included five PGA owned properties. Through the sale of the PGA Merchandise Show the organization was able to create a $120 million PGA Endowment Fund. Membership rose from 15,000 to 27,000 during his tenure.
Awtrey has been active in the game outside of his duties with the PGA of America, including the National Golf Foundation, World Golf Foundation, Golf 20/20 and the National First Tee Oversight Committee. From 2006 to 2009 he served as vice president of Landmark Land Company.
Outside of golf he has served on the national advisory council for the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital, trustee/fellow on the Georgetown College board in Lexington, Ky., the Baldwin Wallace College business council, the Digital Media Arts College board of directors and the Palm Beach Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Since 2011 Awtrey has served as Representative at-Large to the GCAA National Advisory Board and the Arnold Palmer Cup tournament chairman. In his capacity on the GCAA board he has advised the Association on multiple topics and guided the group in developing its long-range planning goals. As chairman of the Arnold Palmer Cup he developed the event’s Patron Sponsor program, secured Rich Harvest Farms and Atlanta Athletic Club as host sites and was instrumental in the event’s expansion to include both men’s and women’s college golfers from around the world beginning in 2018.
Previously, Awtrey has been honored with the Donald Ross Award by the American Society of Golf Course Architects and the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association’s Distinguished Service Award, both in 2006. In 2007 Oak Hill Country Club inducted him into its Hill of Fame. The PGA of America inducted Awtrey into its Hall of Fame in 2011.
Awtrey and wife Jeanne have been married for 47 years. They have three children and eight grandchildren.