Virginia Golf Hall of Fame announces four-member 2017 class

MIDLOTHIAN — An LPGA major champion, the Virginia State Golf Association’s winningest all-time amateur, an eight-time PGA Tour winner and a respected administrator will comprise the second class of the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame, which will be inducted May 18, 2017 at The Country Club of Virginia in Richmond.

The Virginia Golf Hall of Fame selection committee convened earlier this month to make the selections. The members of the 2017 class are Donna Andrews, Keith Decker, Wallace McDowell and J.C. Snead.

Those four will join the six members of the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame’s inaugural class, which were inducted in May 2016: Vinny Giles, Chandler Harper, Clyde Luther, Sam Snead, Curtis Strange and Lanny Wadkins.

Andrews, 49, was born in Lynchburg and excelled as an amateur in VSGA events. She won two VSGA Junior Girls Championships (1983-84), took home five straight titles in the VSGA Women’s Amateur Championship (1985-89) and won three VSGA Women’s Stroke Play Championships (1984-85, 1987). Andrews played collegiately at the University of North Carolina and won the 1988 North and South Women’s Amateur at Pinehurst.

Andrews made her LPGA Tour debut in 1990 and won six championships between 1993 and 1998. Included in that run was a major championship, the 1994 Nabisco Dinah Shore (which is now known as the ANA Inspiration).

Andrews’ first LPGA Tour victory came in 1993 at the Ping-Cellular One LPGA Golf Championship, when she defeated Tina Barrett and Missie McGeorge by one shot. She recorded her largest margin of victory the next spring when she won the PING/Welch’s Championship by three shots over Brandie Burton and Judy Dickinson in March 1994. Two weeks later, she finished a stroke clear of Laura Davies to claim the Dinah Shore.

Andrews won the ShopRite LPGA Classic in 1994, the Welch’s/Circle K Championship in 1997 and the Longs Drugs Challenge in 1998. Andrews finished third on the LPGA money list in 1998. She represented the United States in the Solheim Cup in 1994 and 1998 and was U.S. Junior Solheim Cup captain in 2007.

After retiring, Andrews — who was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 — spent some time as an on-course reporter for ESPN’s LPGA coverage. She is currently the lead teaching instructor at Pine Needles Resort and Lodge in Southern Pines, N.C.

Decker, 56, has won more VSGA championships than anyone in history, having claimed his 27th title in a VSGA event at the 69th VSGA Senior Amateur Championship in August. Decker has also represented the VSGA in all 12 playings of the USGA Men’s State Team Championship.

Among his titles, Decker won the State Open of Virginia in 1996, 2001 and 2002. He claimed two VSGA Amateur championships, winning in 1988 and 1991. He won a record seven VSGA Mid-Amateur championships (for ages 25 and older). He’s been a part of six winning sides at the VSGA Four-Ball Stroke Play Championship and was part of the winning side at the inaugural VSGA Four-Ball Match Play Championship in 2015.

His 27 championships in VSGA events are nearly double that of the No. 2 player on the list, Giles, who has won 15 VSGA titles.

A member at Chatmoss Country Club in Martinsville, Decker has topped the season-ending VSGA Player Rankings nine times since 2001 and has finished at No. 1 in the VSGA Senior Player Rankings twice.

McDowell, who died in 2010 at age 89, was a retired banker who pioneered the VSGA’s growth from a loose association of volunteers to a full-service professional organization. McDowell literally ran the organization out of the trunk of his car, and he served as the essential link between the once all-volunteer VSGA to the organization that now has 12 full-time employees and offers services to men, women and juniors across the Commonwealth.

McDowell was working with the Jaycees’ Junior Golf program in 1968 when Corbette King asked McDowell to volunteer at some VSGA championships. In 1972, the VSGA’s executive secretary, Bunny Blankinship, died and was replaced by Jose Davila. Davila then died unexpectedly while presiding over the 1973 annual meeting, leaving McDowell to take over as executive secretary.

McDowell was the most constant presence at VSGA championships. He started competitors, handled Rules decisions and maintained the scoreboard. In 1984, under McDowell’s watch, the VSGA launched the VSGA VIP Card program, the Virginia Golf Foundation scholarship program (now called the VSGA-VIP Scholarship Foundation) and the VSGA One-Day program. At the same time, the VSGA entered into a new partnership with the Middle Atlantic Section of the PGA to provide handicap services throughout the Commonwealth.

The growth of the organization prompted the VSGA Board of Directors to ask McDowell to become a full-time employee and change his title to executive director. McDowell formally retired from the VSGA in 2000. He was inducted into the Middle Atlantic Golf Association’s Hall of Fame in 2010, shortly before his death.

Jesse Carlyle “J.C.” Snead, who turned 76 earlier this month, joins his uncle, the legendary Sam Snead, in the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame. Snead was born in Hot Springs and attended East Tennessee State University. Before turning to professional golf in 1964, he played professional baseball in the Washington Senators’ system. Snead hit 11 home runs in his final minor-league season for Geneva of the New York-Penn League in 1963. He joined the PGA Tour in 1968.

Snead’s professional career included eight wins on the PGA Tour and four victories on the Champions Tour. Snead’s best year in the majors came in 1973, when he was the runner-up at the Masters and tied for third at the PGA Championship. He tied for second at the U.S. Open in 1978 and tied for 10th at the 1975 Masters.

Snead won his first PGA Tour event in February 1971, taking the Tucson Open by one stroke over Dale Douglass. Less than a month later, he recorded a one-stroke win over Gardner Dickinson to win the Doral-Eastern Open Invitational. In 1972, Snead outlasted Chi-Chi Rodriguez by one stroke to win the IVB-Philadelphia Golf Classic.

Snead won the Andy Williams-San Diego Open Invitational in 1975 and 1976, took the Kaiser International Open Invitational in 1975 and won the 1981 Southern Open. Six years later, Snead claimed the last of his eight PGA Tour wins, beating Seve Ballesteros in a playoff to win the Manufacturers Hanover Westchester Classic.

The highlight of Snead’s senior career was a win in the 1995 Ford Senior Players Championship, where he bested Jack Nicklaus with a birdie on the first playoff hole. Snead beat Raymond Floyd in a playoff to win the 1995 Royal Caribbean Classic and picked up Champions Tour wins at the 1993 Vantage at The Dominion and the 2002 Greater Baltimore Classic.

Snead was a member of the 1971, 1973 and 1975 Ryder Cup teams. In 2003, he was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame.

Chris Lang is the Editor of Virginia Golfer Magazine and Manager, Digital Media for the VSGA.