Six Elected to New Virginia Golf Hall of Fame

MIDLOTHIAN, Va. –– Five legendary Virginia golfers and a long-time volunteer rules official will be inducted into the first class of the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame announced by Gib Palmer of Midlothian, president of the Virginia State Golf Association and chair of the Hall of Fame selection committee.

Chosen by a panel representing a cross-section of Virginia golf, the honorees are:

  • Sam Snead
  • Vinny Giles
  • Curtis Strange
  • Lanny Wadkins
  • Chandler Harper
  • Clyde Luther

This first class of the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame will be inducted in May 2016, in ceremonies at The Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, which has hosted over two hundred state golf championships over the years and will be celebrating its 250th anniversary in 2016.

“Virginia has such a rich heritage of golf,” said Palmer, “that we felt we needed to create a place to celebrate it.  We want to showcase the outstanding Virginia golfers and contributors who have given so much to the game. The first inductees in the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame reflect the tradition of excellence long established in our state and represent elite achievements in golf.  Each has had a profound impact and we are pleased to be able to honor them.”

Snead, Strange and Wadkins are members of the World Golf Hall of Fame.  They’re also members of the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, as are Giles and Harper.  Luther, a retired commercial airline pilot, is a nationally-known expert on the Rules of Golf.

Earlier this year, Palmer named a nine-person selection committee that eventually developed a list of 16 golfers and four contributors who were considered for Hall membership.  Seven votes were required for election.  Each person chosen for the first class was a unanimous selection.  For the class of 2017 and for subsequent years, the public will be invited to submit names for consideration by the selection committee.

The Virginia Golf Hall of Fame will be on the Internet allowing for easy access to all visitors worldwide.  The website for the Hall will be under construction shortly and, according to Palmer, will be launched in conjunction with the first induction ceremonies next year.

Snead, who died four days short of his 90th birthday in 2002, grew up in Hot Springs and started in golf as a caddie and as a laborer helping build The Omni Homestead’s Cascades course.  He was a remarkable athlete who is considered by many to have had the best swing in the history of the sport.  Snead won a record 82 PGA Tour events, including seven major championships, and was the oldest ever to win a Tour tournament at the age of 52.  He made the 36-hole cut in the U.S. Open at the age of 61.  At the now-abandoned Lower Cascades course, he shot a 12-under par 60 at the age of 70.

Giles, 73, was born in Lynchburg and has lived in Richmond for most of the past 50 years.  He won seven VSGA Amateur championships and three Virginia Opens.  He also won the 1972 U.S. Amateur, the 1975 British Amateur and the 2009 U.S. Senior Amateur.  He is the only player ever to have captured all three of those titles.  Giles also played on four Walker Cup teams and captained the U.S. side in 1993.

The 60-year-old Strange, son of golf professional Tom Strange, grew up in Virginia Beach and now lives in Morehead City, NC.  He won two VSGA Amateurs and two North & South Amateurs and also captured the 1974 NCAA individual championship while leading Wake Forest to the team title.  Strange, the first PGA Tour professional to win more than $1 million in a season (1988), is best known for winning consecutive U.S. Open championships (1988, 1989).

Wadkins, a 65-year-old Richmond native who lives in a suburb of Dallas, TX, had an outstanding amateur record that included two Southern Amateurs, the Eastern Amateur, the U.S. Amateur and the VSGA Amateur.  In 27 years as a professional, he won 21 tournaments, including the 1977 PGA title, the Players Championship and the World Series of Golf.  He also made eight U.S. Ryder Cup teams.

Harper was born, raised and lived his entire life in Portsmouth, where he died in 2004 at the age of 90.  A three-time winner of the VSGA Amateur, he also won seven PGA Tour events, including the 1950 PGA championship.  Harper also won a record 11 Virginia State Opens and captured the 1968 PGA Seniors title.  Harper was teacher and mentor to Curtis Strange after Tom Strange passed away.

Luther, 85, lives in Burke, VA.  He has been a volunteer rules official for more than 120 United States Golf Association championships, three Presidents Cups, the Masters and the PGA.  He is a former president of the VSGA and the Middle Atlantic Golf Association.  Luther was the 2002 recipient of the USGA’s Joe Dey Award in recognition of his meritorious service to the game over many years.  From 2000 to 2011, he was the chief rules official of the NCAA Division I golf championship.

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For additional information contact:

Gib Palmer                          (804) 387-1534                   swilcan78@aol.com

Jamie Conkling                     (804) 378-2300                   jconkling@vsga.org

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Selection Panel, Virginia Golf Hall of Fame, Class of 2016

  • Gib Palmer of Midlothian, president of the Virginia State Golf Association and chairman of the selection committee
  • Meg Gilmer of Charlottesville, past president, VSGA Women’s Division
  • David A. King of Potomac Falls, 2002 champion of the VSGA Senior Amateur
  • David Kovach of Bluefield, former member of the VSGA Board
  • Boodie McGurn of Richmond, winner of the 2003 VSGA Women’s Amateur, two-time winner of the VSGA Senior Women’s Amateur and member of the VSGA Board
  • Paul Michaelian of Virginia Beach, former president of the Middle Atlantic PGA and PGA professional at Princess Anne Country Club
  • Bill Millsaps of Richmond, retired executive editor, Richmond Times-Dispatch, and member of the VSGA Board
  • David Partridge of Richmond, two-time winner of the VSGA Amateur, three-time winner of the VSGA Mid-Amateur and 2011 winner of the VSGA Senior Amateur and the VSGA Senior Open
  • Don Ryder of Hot Springs, PGA professional and Director of Golf at The Omni Homestead Resort, winner of the 1997 MAPGA Senior Championship

Non-voting advisory members

  • Jamie Conkling, Executive Director, Virginia State Golf Association
  • Dick Johns, retired Executive Director, Middle Atlantic PGA
  • Matt Smiley, Director, Rules & Competitions, Virginia State Golf Association