The only superintendent to have hosted a U.S. Open Championship in Georgia will be among three men inducted into the Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Hall of Fame in December. Bobby McGee prepared Atlanta Athletic Club for the 1976 U.S. Open. Aside from its standalone status, the ’76 Open holds a special place in Georgia golfing history because it was won by another Peach State son, Jerry Pate.
McGee, who died in 2005, will be inducted along with William Shirley, certified golf course superintendent at Peachtree Golf Club also in Atlanta, and Ron Sinnock, who retired after a nearly 40-year career in 2005. The inductions will be a highpoint of the Georgia Golf Course Superintendents Association’s annual awards banquet at The King and Prince Resort on St. Simons Island on Dec. 8.
Bobby McGee had to contend with rain in the lead up to and during the ’76 Open, complicating his preparation of the course’s bentgrass greens. The USGA later described the greens as “terrific” with McGee managing to produce the “desired lightning speed” at a cut of 5/32nds of an inch.
He was born in Rockmart, GA the son of a golf course superintendent. Starting as an assistant superintendent at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, he later became superintendent at Atlanta Athletic Club. During his time there, McGee served on the Georgia GCSA board of directors and was president in 1975-76. He also served on the USGA Green Section committee for more than 20 years.
McGee was a 37-year member of GCSAA and after leaving Atlanta Athletic Club, he moved to Arkansas, where he was superintendent at The Country Club of Little Rock and North Hills Country Club. He also designed Glenwood Country Club and Coopers Hawk in Melbourne, Arkansas as the owner of McGee Golf and Design.
He helped establish the Arkansas Turfgrass Association and was considered by many to be the “dean” of golf course superintendents in the state. Active in the GCSA of Arkansas, he served as president and received that organization’s first Distinguished Service Award in 2003. He was inducted into the Arkansas Golf Hall of Fame in 2009.
William Shirley began his golf course superintendent career at Newnan Country Club in Newnan in 1980 with no idea where it would lead. He’d been working in the pro shop when the job came open and club leaders encouraged him to step in. That was Shirley’s first step on a path that is now 45 years long and counting.
From Newnan, he moved to Canterbury Golf Club in 1983, Rivermont Golf and Country Club in 1986, Idle Hour Club in late 1988, Capital City Club in 1994 before arriving at his current home Peachtree Golf Club in 1996. Shirley served on the Georgia GCSA board of directors and as president in 1993-94. In 2011, he was named Superintendent of the Year.
He enjoyed his own close-up relationship with a USGA championship this year caddying for his daughter Margaret Shirley when she won the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur title at Harbour Trees Golf Club in Noblesville, Ind. Shirley introduced his daughter to the game at Peachtree when she was a toddler and later caddied through her college career at Auburn and in numerous USGA and other championships since.
Another Hall of Fame member, Bill Womac, CGCS once said of Shirley: “Shoot, he’s as good as anybody in it. He’s been successful everywhere he’s gone. He’s never afraid to ask a question. Even now he’s not above that. And he’s very good at getting the right people to help him.”
Ron Sinnock served as a Georgia GCSA director during nearly 40 years as a golf course superintendent in the state between Chattahoochee Golf Course in Gainesville and Coosa Country Club in Rome. At Coosa, Sinnock was superintendent host for a number of GSGA events including two State Amateur championships and the first State Mid-Amateur in 1982.
He was a pioneer of bentgrass in the state converting both Chattahoochee and Coosa from the coarser bermudagrasses of the day. His standing as a major figure in the golf course maintenance profession in the state was underlined in 1999 when he was named the Georgia GCSA’s Superintendent of the Year.
Sinnock hailed from Illinois and joined the Army straight out of high school. After his service, he found himself on the golf course with some friends who were good golfers. Soon he wasn’t just playing he was working on the golf course at Belle Meade Country Club. After two years there, he was invited to apply for the superintendent’s position at Chattahoochee. He took that job in 1968 and so began a career in the state that spanned nearly 40 years.
He would serve two separate stints on the Georgia GCSA board of directors. He also served as the Georgia state director of the Southern Turfgrass Association, which was a southeastern chapter of GCSAA but no longer exists.