Finally honoring golf greatsBy RICK CLEVELAND,
Mississippi golf now has a hall of fame. Seeing as how Mississippians have played the sport for at least a century and 11 years, the Mississippi Golf Hall of Fame can be considered overdue.
The Mississippi Golf Association, the state’s governing body of golf, inducted the new hall of fame’s first five members this past weekend at Country Club of Jackson.
All are deserving, including (in alphabetical order):
• James Ray Carpenter: Amazingly, the late Carpenter did not take up golf until he was 33 years old in 1959, but then rose through the ranks to become president of the PGA of America in 1987 and 1988 and chairman of the 1985 Ryder Cup. A multi-sport athlete at Hattiesburg High, he played basketball and baseball at first Mississippi State and then Southern Miss. He became one of the world’s leading authorities on the rules of golf, using not only his intellect but also his folksy, south Mississippi charm to rise through the ranks of the PGA. He died last September at age 92.
• Cissye Gallagher: The former Cissye Meeks, daughter of former Mississippi amateur champion Ed Meeks, she practically grew up at Greenwood Country Club where she won boys tournaments at Pillow Academy before playing at LSU and briefly on the LPGA Tour. Married to former PGA pro and Ryder Cup hero Jim Gallagher Jr., Cissye Gallagher has won a record 12 State Amateur championships over a span of 29 years. Still competitive, she won the State Senior Women’s Amateur in 2017 and continues to compete on state, regional and national levels.
• Ken Lindsay: Like his good friend Carpenter, Lindsay became an internationally renowned rules expert who rose to become president of PGA of America, serving from 1994-96 when he was director of golf at Colonial Country Club in Jackson. Unlike Carpenter, Lindsay was a highly successful competitive golfer before getting into golf management. He competed as a championship junior golfer in Alabama and then played collegiately at Memphis, where he lost only four of 44 matches and won a school record 18 straight. Lindsay joined the U.S. Air Force and won the USAF worldwide championship in 1968.
• Mike Taylor: His friends call him “Ten-time,” referring to his record of winning 10 Mississippi State Am championships, including four in a row from 1972-75. Taylor was one of those few golf prodigies who chose to remain an amateur rather than become a touring professional, which he almost certainly could have done successfully. After all, he was an All American college golfer at BYU, where he was teammates with Johnny Miller and often played ahead of him. He has also won the Mississippi State Open twice, the Mississippi Mid-Amateur twice and the Mississippi Senior Amateur once.
• A Gulfport native and long-time Canton resident, the late Webb was legendary in Mississippi golf circles, first as a bull-strong, long-hitting player and then as a club professional and teacher of some of Mississippi golf’s most outstanding junior golfers. His influence was such he often was referred to as “the godfather of Mississippi golf.” The son of a golf pro at Mississippi’s first golf course (Great Southern in Gulfport, established in 1908), Webb won the state’s junior championship at age 14 and later played college golf at Southern Miss. He won the State Open in 1968, but he is most remembered as a champion of junior golf. Twenty-six of the junior golfers he taught went on to earn college scholarships. Webb died in 2012 at the age of 72.
Interestingly, the golf hall of fame’s first class did not include either Johnny Pott or Mary Mills, the two Mississippi golfers who have accomplished the most on an international level. Pott has lived most of his life in California, Mills, the former LPGA champion, in south Florida. Surely, both will be inducted in the years to come. Important to note, the MGA hall of fame bylaws state that the institution “honors Mississippi men and women who have made outstanding contributions to the game of golf...”
The first five certainly have. We’ll close with a hall of fame story that concerns Webb and Mills, who often played together as juniors at Great Southern. Later, Webb played in the No. 1 spot for the Southern Miss golf team while Mills played No. 1 for the Millsaps men’s team. Once, in a head-to-head match at Millsaps, Mills was three-under-par and one-up on Webb at the nine-hole turn. Southern Miss coach B.O. Van Hook, a Hall of Fame character himself, chided Webb: “Robbie, you gonna let a little, ol’ girl beat you?”
Robbie Webb never hesitated. He took his golf bag off his shoulders, shoved it toward his coach and said, “Here, Hook, you try her.”
Van Hook declined.
Rick Cleveland (email@example.com) is a Jackson-based syndicated columnist.