The Iowa Golf Hall of Fame will add four members in 2023, bringing the total number in the Hall of Fame to 96. Those four include Joe Palmer, Jim Curell, Doug Dunakey and Kevin Beard. Read more about each inductee below.
A fierce competitor and unmatched drive to win are two ways of describing Joe Palmer, of Norwalk.
“Joe has been and continues to be one of the best competitors within the game of golf I have ever seen in the state of Iowa,” Jon Olson, owner of 13 IGA Point Event victories, said of Palmer. “His attitude, desire and perseverance in any round he competes is truly inspiring. He has made myself – and anyone who is attentive to his game – a better player; Joe simply never gives up.”
Palmer’s record speaks for itself. He is a winner of four ‘Open Division’ IGA point events, which includes the 2004 IGA Four-Ball, 2004 Iowa Mid-Amateur and a pair of IGA Match Play titles, his second coming in a remarkable run in 2021 to win the event as a Senior.
Palmer’s dominance on the course really took off when he turned 50 – collecting 27 victories within the Senior Division, which includes five IGA Senior Match Play victories and four Iowa Senior Amateur wins. Palmer also has three Senior Division wins each in the Iowa Mid-Amateur, IGA Four-Ball, Herman Sani Tournament, Fort Dodge Amateur, Iowa Open, and Iowa Masters.
“Joe has been a stalwart on the Iowa Amateur golf scene for decades and has the game that just keeps getting better over time, a rare feat for most accomplished players,” Iowa Golf Hall of Fame member Ken Schall said. “Joe is still competitive among the younger competitors around the state, as evidenced by winning the IGA Match Play and the Iowa Senior Match Play title (his 5th) in the same year. His ball striking ability would compare to nearly any senior player, even at the highest level, professional or amateur.”
Palmer has also competed in six USGA Championships and looks to add to that number in the future.
Jim Curell, affectionately known as ‘The Legend’, was a household name on the Iowa golf scene for over 50 years.
Curell, of Boone, who passed away in April of 2020, was described by Iowa Golf Hall of Fame member Rick Brown as being a gentleman golfer in the truest sense of the word.
He had a homemade swing that produced outstanding results. He was a three-time winner of the Lake Creek Amateur (1979, 1981, 1999), twice a champion at the Northwest Amateur (1982, 1988) and low amateur at the Iowa Open (1992). Curell also was victorious at the 1980 Tournament of Champions and 1987 Iowa Mid-Amateur. Curell earned IGA Player of the Year honors in 1979.
Once Curell graduated to the Senior Division, he was still a force to be reckoned with – winning the 2005 IGA Four-Ball Senior Division with partner Bruce Gervais, 2011 Senior Match Play and was the 2014 Iowa Masters Senior Division champion. Curell was the IGA Senior Player of the Year in 2010 & 2011 and twice qualified for the U.S. Senior Amateur (2010, 2011). Curell made an astonishing 18 career hole in ones, including one to end a match against Iowa Golf Hall of Fame member Jon Brown in the 2008 IGA Match Play Championship at Lake Panorama.
“For over four decades he set the standard on how to play the game both as a competitor and a gentleman,” Iowa Golf Hall of Fame member Dave Sergeant said.
In addition to his wonderful playing record, Curell gave back to the game that had given him so much. Upon his retirement from Redeker’s Furniture in Boone, he began helping maintain the grounds at his home course, Honey Creek. He also served in a volunteer capacity on the committee that administers the Iowa Masters at Veenker each year.
“He will be missed, but never forgotten,” Sergeant said.
Doug Dunakey, originally from Waterloo, began turning heads on the golf course at an early age. One of the first came at his hometown’s biggest event.
Dunakey, then 13 years-old, opened with a first round 69 at the Waterloo Open which earned him a final round pairing with former Masters champion Bob Goalby. Following wins at the Iowa Junior Amateur (1981), IGA Match Play (1985) and Iowa Amateur (1987) Dunakey turned professional and eventually made his way onto the PGA Tour.
Dunakey made 96 starts on the PGA Tour, including a third place finish at the 1999 Honda Classic and three top 10’s. He also made 72 starts on the (then) Nike Tour, which included a win at the 1998 Nike Cleveland Open. That win came one week after shooting 59 in the Nike Miami Valley Open.
Dunakey, who was a three-time All-American and team National Champion at California State University-Stanislaus, is remembered by many who grew up with him or played against him over the years as a great competitor.
“At a young age, he was a competitor that just hit his next shot without any dramatics – just getting the ball in the hole in as few strokes as possible for that day,” IGA Board Member Tom Christensen said. “He cared about the game and those that he played with.”
Ankeny’s Kevin Beard not only was a familiar face at Otter Creek Golf Course (1990-2017) and Ankeny Country Club (1991-1993) for over 25 years, Beard also helped shape countless junior golfers into some of the state’s best.
Beard’s ‘Operation State Champ’ program for junior golfers began in 1997 and was designed to improve the performance of golfers in the area to the point that they would be able to qualify and compete for a state championship. The program involved both summer and winter golf activities, with indoor practice throughout the winter as the biggest change in their practice routine.
The ‘Winter Program’ started with 12 players, all from Ankeny, housed in the old clubhouse at Otter Creek GC. Within three years word had spread and the program had over 60 juniors from numerous high schools and junior highs across central Iowa.
The program had to move to a bigger building as the demand grew. Beard then transformed an old fire station that would become home to the program for the next 10 years. Within a few more years, the number of students grew to over 200 in the winter, with the summer junior program introducing golf to nearly 300 kids each year. At one point a total of 28 schools were represented from as far away as Carroll and Pella.
Beard’s involvement in the program ceased in 2009, due to his focus shifting to the ‘new’ golf course and clubhouse at Otter Creek GC, which he also served as General Manager of at that time. There was no official count, but Beard and his program are credited with helping over 400 players appear at the state tournament – including those who have gone on to become PGA Professionals with their own junior golf programs.
“Kevin instilled character and integrity when teaching our youth what golf teaches us about life,” Iowa Golf Hall of Fame member Jeff Smith said. “He grew the game through ways that are now being adopted 25 years later.”
Iowa Golf Hall of Fame member J.D. Turner also commented on Beard’s energy with junior golfers.
“His creativity and teaching prowess with juniors is remarkable,” Turner said. “All of his students learned about the game, which teaches honor, friendship and life-long positive experiences. He touched the lives of so many in Iowa through golf.”
The Iowa Golf Association is thrilled to welcome these four new members to the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame. Details including location of the 2023 Iowa Golf Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be announced soon and will be posted online for the public to attend and register for.