By Chris Lang
MIDLOTHIAN — For the second straight year, the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame is growing by five members.
Hermitage Country Club in Manakin-Sabot will host the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony for the second time in three years, with five new members set to be inducted on May 5, 2020. The Class of 2020 will grow the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame’s membership to 24.
CBS Sports broadcaster Dottie Pepper is scheduled to emcee the ceremony. Pepper is a two-time major champion, a 17-time winner on the LPGA Tour and a six-time member of the United States’ Solheim Cup team.
The members of the Class of 2020 are Kandi Kessler Comer, Wayne Jackson, David Partridge, Richard Smith and Wynsol Spencer.
Previous Virginia Golf Hall of Fame classes, with site of induction ceremony, were:
- Class of 2019 (Farmington CC): Bobby Cruickshank, Harry Easterly, Mary-Patton Janssen, Tom McKnight and Bill Millsaps.
- Class of 2018 (Hermitage CC): Dr. Lew Blakey, Robbye Unger, Bobby Wadkins and Lew Worsham.
- Class of 2017 (CC of Virginia): Donna Andrews, Keith Decker, Wallace McDowell and J.C. Snead.
- Inaugural Class of 2016 (The Omni Homestead Resort): Vinny Giles, Chandler Harper, Clyde Luther, Sam Snead, Curtis Strange and Lanny Wadkins.
Kandi Kessler Comer
Comer transitioned from a spectacular playing career to become one of Virginia’s great golf teachers. Comer operates Kandi Comer Golf in Crozet, where she teaches players of all ages and skill levels. She’s been nationally recognized for her work, having earned distinction as a top teacher from Golf Digest, Golf For Women, US Kids Golf and the PGA of America, among others. In 2016, she joined Golf Channel Academy as a Lead Instructor. Dottie Pepper was just one of Comer’s many pupils.
Comer was the winner of the VSGA’s Grow the Game Award in 2019.
Comer’s playing career was equally as impressive as her teaching credentials. The winner of five VSGA championships—including two VSGA Women’s Amateurs—Comer played college golf at the University of North Carolina and won several collegiate events. She represented the United States in the 1986 Curtis Cup matches, advanced to the quarterfinals at the 1985 U.S. Women’s Amateur and competed in five U.S. Women’s Open Championships, finishing as high at 14th.
Jackson won his first VSGA Amateur Championship in 1956, jumpstarting a career that included six trips to the U.S. Amateur and an appearance in the 1963 U.S. Open Championship. Jackson won a second VSGA Amateur in 1965.
In 1977, Jackson became the first winner of what has become the nation’s longest running championship for the 25-and-older set, the VSGA Mid-Amateur. Jackson also counts the 1967 VSGA Four-Ball Championship among his victories.
A native of Hampton, Jackson graduated from Randolph-Macon College, where he is enshrined in the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame. He is a longtime member of James River Country Club, where he won 17 club championships. Four times between 1959 and 1966, he was the low amateur at either the VSGA or VPGA Open championships. He also won a record 10 consecutive Peninsula Amateur Championships and was a member of the All Army Golf Team that won the Interservice Championship.
Jackson counts longtime teacher Red Speigle and another member of the 2020 class—his close friend Wynsol Spencer—as career inspirations.
Only four players have won more VSGA championships than Partridge, and three—Keith Decker, Vinny Giles and Chandler Harper—are also members of the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame.
After playing collegiately at the University of Virginia, Partridge remained an amateur and racked up an impressive 13 VSGA titles. He won the VSGA Amateur in 1993 and 1995; the VSGA Mid-Amateur in 1988, 1993 and 2006; and the VSGA Four-Ball Championship in 1999, 2001 and 2002. His winning ways continued into his senior years, and he’s one of only two players to win both a VSGA Senior Amateur and Senior Open of Virginia. (Decker is the other). Partridge is also the only player to win a Virginia state title in four different age divisions—Amateur, Mid-Amateur, Senior Amateur, and Mid-Senior Amateur.
Partridge is the third member of the victorious first Virginia entry in the USGA State Team Championship in 1995 to enter the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame. Decker and Tom McKnight are the others. Partridge also has been a longtime contributor to Virginia Golfer as the author of the magazine’s Great Holes series.
Smith, who passed away in 2016 at the age of 76, was a longtime director of championships for the VSGA who became a champion for junior golf after his retirement.
Smith “retired” in 2008 but remained as an independent contractor, where he helped develop the VSGA’s Junior Golf Club, which eventually evolved into the thriving VSGA Junior Golf Circuit. At its start, the club operated primarily out of Richmond, Williamsburg and Hampton Roads, but has since expanded to Northern Virginia, Charlottesville and Southwest Virginia. In the first three years of the Junior Golf Club, Smith was on site for nearly every event, and he remained as a regional coordinator until 2015.
Affectionately known as “Grumpy,” Smith was born in North Carolina in 1939. He was an accomplished player, having teamed with Stan Fischer to win the 1999 VSGA Senior Four-Ball Championship. In 1976, he won the prestigious Valentine Invitational, and he won the Richmond Golf Association’s Senior Amateur in 1995 and 1996. In 2007, Hermitage Country Club made him a lifetime honorary member for his years of service to golf, and in 2008, the Middle Atlantic PGA presented him with the David Wortman Citizen of the Year Award for his outstanding leadership and generous and tireless support of golf.
Spencer, who was born in Kentucky but moved to Newport News at age 5, died in 2013 at age 94. He was a dominant player both on the Peninsula and statewide. As a youth, he helped lead Newport News High School to two state championships. He won the first of five VSGA Amateurs in 1939 before departing to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Upon his return, he won four more Amateur championships in 1948, 1953, 1955 and 1959. He was a finalist on three other occasions.
In 1959, Spencer turned professional and was the head professional at Fort Eustis Golf Club. He played in the 1965 PGA Championship, missing the cut by a stroke.
Spencer was inducted into the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1991 and is one of 10 individuals to have been elected into both the Virginia Sports and Virginia Golf halls of fame.
Chris Lang is the Editor of Virginia Golfer Magazine and Manager, Digital Media for the VSGA.