Watson, Thirsk headline Hall of Fame inaugural class
Local golf legend, Tom Watson and long-time Kansas City Country Club Head Professional, Stan Thirsk headline the inaugural class of the Kansas City Golf Hall of Fame. Created in 2012 to cap the celebration of the centennial of the Kansas City Golf Association (KCGA), the Hall of Fame was established to recognize the contributions and accomplishments of area amateur and professional golfers, teaching professionals, golf course superintendents, and pioneers of the game.
In announcing the honorees for this year, KCGA President Dick Sauer said, “As stewards of the game, we believe it is our responsibility to preserve our history and to recognize those who built the foundation of excellence on which we stand.
“The creation of the Kansas City Golf Hall of Fame is a key to our goal of preserving our past and honoring the accomplishments and contributions of individuals who have made golf and golfers in this area great.”
The Hall of Fame Committee nominated eleven candidates for consideration by the KCGA Board of Directors. The Board voted to honor seven of the nominees with inclusion in this historic first class. The full list of this year’s honorees includes:
Opal Hill, winner of nine state and local titles, three Women’s Western Amateurs, two Women’s Western Opens and Four Trans-Mississippi Championships. She played on the first three Curtis Cup teams competing against teams from Great Britain and Ireland. Mrs. Hill was the third American woman to turn professional and was a founding member of the LPGA. When her playing days ended she returned to Kansas City and taught the game she loved for more than forty years at Hillcrest and Kansas City Country Clubs.
Tom Watson has amassed an exceptional record as a professional including eight major championships, 70 professional titles, six Ryder Cup teams (twice as Captain) and six Champions Tour majors. Watson also had an outstanding amateur career that included KC Match Play titles in 1964 and ’67, four Missouri Amateur Championships and two state High School titles. But his efforts on behalf of Children’s Mercy Hospital, The First Tee, The Wounded Warriors Project and ALS Research speak more about Mr. Watson than all of his titles and Championships.
Stan Thirsk was not just the professional that taught the finer points of the game to a young Tom Watson, he was an accomplished player in his own right. He is a member of the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame, was PGA Professional of the Year in 1980 and is held in high regard throughout the golf community in Kansas City. Thirsk played in nine US Opens, six US Senior Opens, ten PGA Championships, sixteen Senior PGAs and was Senior PGA Professional National Champion in 1989.
Leland “Duke” Gibson served as Head Professional at Blue Hills for 25 years and before that was an Assistant at the old Meadow Lake CC, was Head Professional at Swope Park #1 (Swope Memorial) and served in the Army Air Corps in WWII. He made the cut in eight US Open Championships, played in The Masters eight times and was President of the Midwest Section PGA for six terms.
Bob Reid was nationally known as an expert on the Rules of Golf, having worked twenty major tournaments including the US Open, Amateur and Senior Open as well as the Walker Cup. He was referee in the final match of the Missouri Amateur Championship thirteen times. After serving his country during WWII and retiring from TWA after a career of 35 years, Mr. Reid took on the challenge of administering amateur golf in this region. He was President of the KGA from 1978-80, Executive Director of the KCGA from 1982-1997, MGA Director from 1983-1986.
Miriam Burns (Horn) Tyson started playing at an early age under the watchful eye of Milburn Head Professional Harry Robb, Sr. By the time she was 16 she had won the first of seven KC Women’s Match Play Championships. Ms. Horn won the 1927 US Women’s Amateur defeating renowned amateur Maureen Orcutt 5&4 in the final match. She won the Trans-Mississippi Championship and was Women’s Western Amateur Champion twice. One of only three local players to have won a USGA National Championship, the by-then remarried Mrs. Tyson retired from the game the same year as Bobby Jones: 1930, at the age of 26.
Chester “Chet” Mendenhall was known as “the Dean” of golf course superintendents. After helping to build Sim Park Golf Course in Wichita, he attended school to learn the subjects he thought he would need to master to design and build more courses. He went on to build eleven, mostly in Kansas and Missouri. He served as superintendent of Mission Hills Country Club for thirty-one years, was a charter member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and served in various capacities in that organization’s leadership. The Mendenhall Award, a scholarship for turfgrass research, is given by the GCSAA in his memory.
The honorees will be inducted in conjunction with the annual meeting of the KCGA on November 23, 2013.
Plans are to induct another class of honorees in 2014 and, thereafter, classes will be added in even numbered years. The committee has developed a long list of individuals who meet the criteria established for consideration. They include players who made their mark in the earliest stages of the development of the game, professionals who taught as well as those who played the game at the highest levels, amateurs who won numerous state and local championships as well as others who contributed to the growth of the game of golf in this area.
“Our hope,” Sauer said, “is to build a Hall of Fame that will become a coveted honor, one that will recognize a wide-range of individuals who have distinguished themselves through their competitive records or their contributions to the great history and growth of golf in the Kansas City area.”
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For more information contact:
Matt Williams, Executive Director KCGA
913.649.5242 ext. 1
Jack Garvin, Committee Chair
Dick Sauer, KCGA President
For additional biographical information on the honorees contact: