The Iowa Golf Hall of Fame will add four new members in 2019, bringing the total number in the Hall of Fame to 83. Three living inductees – Jill Blackwood, Sean McCarty and Rick Tegtmeier – have been elected along with one historical (posthumous) honoree – Pat Willcox.
In typical Jill Blackwood fashion, she volunteered her time as a starter at the 2018 Iowa Women’s Amateur Championship
Jill Blackwood, 71, has been a champion for golf – specifically, women’s golf – at the local, state and national level for decades.
As a player, Blackwood dominated golf in and around her hometown of Burlington, IA for years. She won the Burlington Golf Club Women’s Club Championship 18 times. She also won events at the state level and participated in four USGA Women’s championships.
While she is a terrific player, it is her work giving back to the game that carries the most weight.
For over 30 years, Blackwood volunteered her time to the Iowa Women’s Golf Association and the Iowa Golf Association. She began as district chair in 1985 and started serving on the IWGA Board of Directors in 1991. She served as the association’s President from 2002-2005. She was the volunteer director of the annual Wife-Husband Tournament for 13 years, the Iowa Women’s Amateur for eight years and the Iowa Senior Women’s Amateur for four years. She has served on the Ann Griffel Scholarship Selection Committee since 2008. In 2014, the IGA honored her with the George Turner Distinguished Service Award, which is given to individuals who have contributed back to the game through volunteer efforts during their lifetimes.
Blackwood has spent countless hours introducing golf to youth in and around Burlington. She was involved for over 30 years with the junior golf program at Burlington Golf Club, spending several years as the chairperson. She also coached the high school girls golf team from 1977 to 1982, winning the state championship in 1980.
Joe Butler, who is the PGA Professional at Burlington Golf Club and nominated Jill for induction, said in his letter of support that, “Jill has been active in every facet of golf. Her organizational skills, passion for golf and determination to teach others while handling herself with class and without thought of herself makes her deserving of this award. Her contributions to golf in Iowa are impactful and she is a tremendous role model to all she comes in contact with.”
Jock Olson, PGA Master Professional and Iowa Golf Hall of Fame member, added, “I can honestly say that I have never seen a person more driven to advance and promote the game of golf than Jill.”
Sean McCarty has been a force on the Iowa golf scene since his freshman year of high school. McCarty, 46, who grew up in West Branch, IA, was a runner-up at the state high school championship that freshman year, then went on to win the individual crown each of his final three years. He also led West Branch to the team title each of those last three years.
He took his talents to the University of Iowa where he was a four-year letter winner, capturing Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in the process. He was a vital part of Iowa’s only Big Ten championship team (1992), would win four individual collegiate titles and help Iowa to eight team titles during his career. In 2016 he became the first golfer inducted into the University of Iowa Athletics Hall of Fame.
In 1995 McCarty earned the Iowa Golf Association Player of the Year award. He was named as an All-American by the NCAA that year and he won the IGA Match Play Championship and the Northwest Amateur.
Following college, McCarty turned pro and continued to pile up the wins. He has been dominant in Iowa Section PGA events, earning Iowa Section Player of the Year honors nine times and Assistant Player of the Year six times. He has won four Iowa Opens (1997, 2005, ‘08, ‘13), four Herman Sani Tournaments (2007, ‘08, ‘10, ‘16), the 2012 Iowa Section Championship and the 1998 Waterloo Open.
McCarty has qualified for two major championships in his career, the 2003 U.S. Open at Olympia Fields CC in Chicago and the 2018 PGA Championship at Bellerive CC in St. Louis. Known around Iowa for his prodigious length off the tee, McCarty, at the age of 45, registered the fastest club-head speed on the PGA Tour while competing at Bellerive. He earned his spot at the PGA by finishing runner-up at the National PGA Professional Championship earlier that summer. Overall McCarty has qualified for the National PNC six times. He has also played in over a dozen Web.com and PGA Tour events over the past two decades.
One of the things that sticks out about McCarty to his peers is how humble he is about his golf talents. In a letter of support, fellow Brown Deer PGA pro Brian Wernimont said, “Sean’s talent on the course is only surpassed by his level of humbleness off it. In eight years of working side by side he has never once boasted about his playing abilities and, in fact, downplays how good he truly is. He is a true champion that lets his play on the course speak for him”.
Prominent amateur golfer Jon Olson said in his letter of support that, “Since I have been competing, Sean is the best player I have played with in Iowa. What impresses me the most is how he carries himself on and off the course. He is always calm and collected. He makes everything look easy, but there is no ego, no boasting or cocky attitude. Instead, he is true to what matters most to him – simply working hard and loving the game”.
McCarty currently works as the Director of Golf at Brown Deer Golf Course in Coralville, Iowa. He has been at Brown Deer since 2001. Prior to Brown Deer GC, McCarty spent a year teaching under Mark Egly at the Des Moines Driving Range.
Rick Tegtmeier, 59, has been grooming fairways in Iowa for over 45 years. He is one of only 74 people worldwide to currently have the designation of Master Greenkeeper, which he obtained in 2015.
In 1973 – at only 14 years of age – Tegtmeier began on the grounds crew at Rockford Country Club in Rockford, Iowa. At 17, he was named superintendent. At age 20, he took the head position at Urbandale Golf & Country Club where he remained for two years. After spending a year at Hinsdale Golf Club in Illinois, he joined the staff at Des Moines Golf & Country Club in 1983, where he was the superintendent of the North course, working under Iowa Golf Hall of Fame member Bill Byers. In 1989 he left Des Moines Golf & CC to take the head superintendent position at Elmcrest Country Club in Cedar Rapids, where he remained for 17 years. In 2006, following Byers’ retirement, Tegtmeier moved back to Des Moines Golf & Country Club as the Director of Grounds, where he remains today.
In 2017 Des Moines Golf & Country Club played host to the LPGA’s Solheim Cup matches. What many didn’t see were the years of work that went into hosting that international championship. Tegtmeier oversaw four years of renovations to the 36 holes at DMGCC, as the club did extensive work on nine holes each year. Under Tegtmeier’s guidance, the work was completed on schedule and the club provided a pristine playing surface for the best female golfers from the U.S. and Europe.
U.S. captain Julie Inkster commented about Rick, “My team could not stop raving about how the the course is. You should be one proud papa on how this course played”.
Partly due to his terrific work in preparing DMGCC to host the Solheim Cup, Tegtmeier was honored by TurfNet as the national Superintendent of the Year in 2017. In the announcement of Tegtmeier as the winner, John Reitman wrote, in part:
Tegtmeier was recognized not just for staging a virtually flawless venue for the 2017 Solheim Cup. He also won acclaim for his four years of hard work and preparation leading up to the event and, most importantly, how he used the event to help others, including fellow superintendents throughout Iowa. Tegtmeier wanted to prove to the world that Iowa superintendents were more than capable of producing a venue that rivaled anything in professional championship golf, so he opened the door to any Iowa greenkeeper who wanted to help prove his point. In all, 87 volunteers showed up to work. The flawless conditions, large crowds and patriotism turned the Solheim Cup into an experience that was almost surreal.
When he wasn’t busy making his own golf courses better, Tegtmeier has volunteered time to many turfgrass related causes. Since 2016 he has served on the Board of Trustees of the Iowa Turfgrass Institute. He was a member of the USGA’s Green Section committee from 2010-2015 and served on the Iowa Golf Course Superintendents Association board from 1992-1996, including as President in 1995. From 1996 to 2004 he served on eight different Golf Course Superintendents Association of America committees or task forces.
In his letter of support for Tegtmeier’s nomination, Past President of the GCSAA Sean Hoolehan, CGCS wrote, “While I was President of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America I often asked Rick to participate on important committees and task groups. He was a pioneer in the use of technology and a leader in using that knowledge to increase quality and productivity of superintendents. Rick was one of the most respected superintendents in the country well before the Solheim Cup”.
Pat Willcox was one of the dominant figures in golf in Iowa in the late 1930’s, 40’s and early 50’s.
The professional, who spent time in both Des Moines and Waterloo, won the Iowa Open three times and the Iowa Masters four times between 1940 and 1951. His Iowa Open victories came consecutively in 1940, ‘41, and ‘42 while his wins at the Iowa Masters occurred in 1940, ‘45, ‘47 and ‘51. He also captured the Waterloo Open in 1938 and won the Cedar Rapids Open in 1944.
There are five major Iowa championships that have been contested since at least the 1950’s – the Iowa Amateur, Iowa Open, Iowa Masters, Northwest Amateur and the Herman Sani Tournament – and, using those as a foundation, 13 men have won those titles at least seven times. Eleven of them were already in the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame. With the addition of McCarty and Willcox, now all 13 are in.
Willcox qualified for five major championships during his career, including four U.S. Opens. He finished 23rd at the 1940 U.S. Open at Canterbury Golf Club in Ohio and 50th the next year at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. He also qualified for the national championship in 1937 (Oakland Hills CC in Michigan) and 1947 (St. Louis CC) but missed the cut. Willcox made it through a qualifier to play in the 1939 PGA Championship, but records indicate that he did not ultimately tee it up at the Pomonok Country Club in Flushing, New York.
Perhaps Willcox would have collected even more victories but for World War II putting a halt to many golf tournaments during his run. He did, however, play a part in the war efforts. In 1943 he was spending most of his time helping make bombs for the war effort at the Chamberlain corporation in Waterloo. It is documented that he would spend ten hours a day, seven days a week making bombs. Only when he knew they had met their quota for the week and month did he enter the 1943 Iowa Masters.
Willcox was 79 years old when he passed away in 1987.
The Iowa Golf Hall of Fame is administered by the Iowa Golf Association on behalf of all golf organizations in and around the state, such as the Iowa Section PGA and the Iowa Golf Course Superintendents Association.
The nomination and induction process consists of two committees, the Nominating Committee and the Voting Committee. The Nominating Committee determines the eligibility of nominees submitted by the general public as well as identifies individuals to nominate. They finalize the ballot. The Voting Committee has the task of researching and studying those on the ballot and casting votes for induction. The Voting Committee consists entirely of individuals who are current members of the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame.
These four individuals will be honored during an induction ceremony at a time and place to be determined. Once ceremony details are finalized, they will be announced at iowagolf.org.