SOUTHERN PINES, N.C. – Humility, dedication and a couple of big hearts can best describe the two men heading to the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame in 2018.
Bobby Long, a Greensboro businessman who is credited with helping save the PGA Tour stop in Greensboro a decade ago, and David Strawn, a champion of junior, college, amateur and senior golf for more than five decades, will be honored this spring at a banquet in Southern Pines.
They join a Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame that includes such names as Arnold Palmer, Peggy Kirk Bell, Donald Ross, Billy Joe Patton and Harvie Ward.
Long, chairman of the Piedmont Triad Charitable Foundation, convinced Wyndham to sponsor the PGA Tour event in Greensboro with a $25 million letter of credit. The Wyndham Championship has since been transformed in a move back to Sedgefield Country Club in large part to the vision of Long.
“When I heard the news that I was being inducted into the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame I felt completely unworthy because basically my deal has been to be a cheerleader, and all these other people do the work, and do it in such a wonderful way,” Long said. “I am in awe of them, certainly not of me.”
Long, 62, stepped in to help one of the nation’s oldest PGA Tour events when no sponsor arose in 2007, helping form a regional coalition of business leaders that included support from not only the Greensboro area, but High Point and Winston-Salem.
“While the tournament name included the word ‘Greensboro’ since it was created in 1938, Bobby saw a bigger picture – an opportunity to use the Wyndham Championship to promote Piedmont Triad regionalism and market the metropolitan statistical area as a great place to live, work, expand or start a business,” said Wyndham Championship tournament director Mark Brazil. “As the regionalism effort began to gain footing, companies that would never have done so if it remained a Greensboro event began joining as tournament partners.”
The CBS Sports broadcast of the Wyndham Championship now reaches nearly a billion people in 225 countries in 32 different languages.
“Mark (Brazil) and his team are incredible, and have been relentless in everything,” said Long, who grew up playing golf at Alamance Country Club. “They really do all the work, but then look at the community leaders, because the old GGO was predominately Greensboro and now the vast majority of the money comes from outside of Greensboro. I can’t sing their praises enough.”
“The world gets a look into the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina, and that kind of exposure of golf in the Carolinas is truly priceless,” added Brazil. “When Bobby saved our PGA Tour event, he also saved many charitable organizations that benefit from it each year. Had the tournament gone away, their donations would have followed.”
One such organization is The First Tee. Long is one of the top donors for The First Tee of the Triad and is perhaps THE major donor of the First Tee of Wilmington.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate, so think about these kids who don’t necessarily have the same access and opportunity like I did,” Long said. “It’s a wonderful thing to try to enable them to have the same chance I did. I was sort of born on third base by comparison. Why not try to give them a shot?”
Meanwhile, Strawn reached the final of the U.S. Amateur in 1973, losing to future Masters champion Craig Stadler. The rest of Strawn’s resume also can’t be matched by many across the Carolinas, including playing in 8 U.S. Mid Amateurs and 14 Carolinas-Virginias Team Matches, along with winning the club championship at Quail Hollow Country Club in Charlotte a record 11 times and the club’s senior title five times.
Strawn, 68, lived next to his father’s driving range growing up and started hitting balls when he was 6 years old, playing in his first tournament when he was 11.
“It was about the time that Arnold Palmer was getting popular and golf was getting very popular, and my dad Robert used to say ‘Hey boys, you have this great opportunity to practice whenever you want so you ought to take advantage of it.’ So we did,” Strawn said.
Strawn went on to play college golf at Furman, where he was a two-time Southern Conference champion.
Over a two-year span (1973-74) Strawn tied for second at the Eastern Amateur and Carolinas Open, was runner-up at the U.S. Amateur, won the Sunnehanna Amateur, and played in The Masters and U.S. Open. He later turned pro in 1974 and went on to play golf across the world, including in the Dutch, German, Portuguese, French and Spanish Opens before regaining his amateur status in 1986.
“I always liked amateur golf,” Strawn said. “When I played pro golf I was young and traveling and it was kind of fun, but amateur golf really is more fun over the long haul. You are trying to play the best you can, you are not mixing it up with trying to make a living.”
The real estate lawyer took a few years off to start his practice when he return to amateur status, then began playing at a high level again later in life, becoming a semifinalist in the 1993 U.S. Mid Amateur. Strawn also went on to win the N.C. Senior Four-Ball championship four times – each time with a different partner.
“It’s a great honor for me, but at the same time I am humbled by it because of all the people who are in there like Billy Joe Patton and Harvie Ward and Bill Harvey and Paul Simson – just extraordinary people and golfers.”
Founded in 1981, the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who have contributed to the game of golf and have a connection to the Carolinas. The plaques commemorating all of the inductees are housed in the convention hall of the Carolina Hotel of Pinehurst Resorts. The Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame is under the care of the Carolinas Golf Association.
Any group or person, excluding current members of the Hall of Fame Committee, may nominate a candidate for the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame by September 1 of each selection year. Candidates will be elected by the Hall of Fame Committee. Nominees may include, but are not limited to Amateur Players, Golf Professionals, Superintendents, Administrators, Volunteers, Coaches, or Media. Specifically, all candidates will be screened based on (1) Golf playing ability and record; (2) Coaching/teaching ability or accomplishments; (3) Involvement and service to organized golf (local, state, national); (4) Impact on or contributions to the game.
Any person may be considered for induction into the Hall of Fame who have distinguished themselves in one or more of the judging categories above, and whose accomplishments were in some way tied to the Carolinas or who by birth or residency is or has been recognized as a Carolinian. The primary emphasis will be on golf-related accomplishments and service to the game relative to the states of North and South Carolina.