To say the Virginia State Golf Association has grown since Wallace McDowell’s days as the organization’s executive director would be a massive understatement.
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.