Dottie Pepper & Willie Turnesa Headline 2018 NYSGA Hall of Fame Class

August 28, 2018

SYRACUSE, N.Y. – The New York State Golf Association (NYSGA) Hall of Fame Committee has elected four individuals to the New York State Golf Association’s Hall of Fame, Class of 2018.

The elected individuals are:

Walter Hagen – Professional (1892 – 1969), Dottie Pepper – Amateur, Professional, Television Golf Broadcaster, Gene Sarazen– Professional (1902 – 1999), and Willie Turnesa – Amateur (1914 – 2001). 

This year's honorees were selected by a statewide panel of electors which included representatives of designated state regions as well as at-large electors representing the state as a whole. 

New York State Golf Hall of Fame Chairman, Joe Enright from Western New York, commented that, “the Committee selected this year's class of honorees from a large pool of highly qualified living and deceased nominees. This pool includes individuals who have outstanding resumes in areas of competition, both amateur and professional, volunteerism, and lifetime accomplishments that have enhanced the game of golf in New York State. This year the Committee has selected two deceased World Golf Hall of Fame professionals, one of the finest amateur golfers in U.S. golf history, and a woman who has manifested the best of amateur youth and collegiate golf, excelled in LPGA competition, and who has established herself as a terrific golf commentator and supporter of youth golf.”

This is the fourth Class to be elected to the NYSGA Hall of Fame. The inaugural class was inducted in November of 2012 at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y. and includes Donald Allen, Ray Billows, Frederick Box, Betty Deeley, Grantland Rice and William Tryon. The second Class was inducted in October of 2015 at the Country Club of Rochester and includes John Konsek, Thomas Reidy, Donald Ross, Lancy Smith and Sam Urzetta. The third Class was inducted in October of 2017 at Bellevue Country Club in Syracuse, N.Y. and includes Virginia Guilfoil Allen and Alan Foster.

The formal induction will take place on Friday, November 2, 2018 at Brookhaven Golf Club in Porter Corners, N.Y. Information will be released later this month regarding the induction dinner and ceremony, as well as where tickets may be purchased to attend the special occasion.

NYSGA Hall of Fame – Class of 2018 Inductees

Walter Hagen
Deceased (1892 – 1969)

Walter Hagen was born and raised in Rochester, N.Y. and came from a traditional working-class family. His introduction to the game of golf stemmed from his first job as a caddie for the Country Club of Rochester (CCR), and quickly grew into a lifetime passion and pursuit.

During his early life working at CCR, Hagen played as much golf as he could and was mentored by head professional Alfred Ricketts. By his mid-teens, he was an expert player and was soon hired by the club to give lessons and work in the club’s pro shop.

He turned professional in 1912 at age 19, and made his debut at the Canadian Open, placing 11th among the field. He appeared in his first major at the 1913 U.S. Open at Brookline, where he finished in fourth place. A year later he won the championship at Midlothian Country Club in Illinois over amateur Chick Evans. Hagen opened the championship with a U.S. Open record 68, a stroke ahead of defending champion Francis Ouimet.

From there, the rest was history, and the 21-year-old professional from Rochester, N.Y. became known all over the world of golf as a force to be reckoned with. He had a total of forty-five PGA Tour victories, including eleven majors (third all-time), all while changing the perception and guiding the development of the status for a professional golfer. He played hundreds of exhibitions around the world, heavily contributing to the growing popularity of golf at the time. He was widely known for his style and tournament wardrobes, his dashing and assertive character, and his significant wealth gained through both tournament winnings and lucrative endorsement deals.

Within New York, he captured the Metropolitan Open in 1916, 1920 (at the time regarded as one of the country’s major tournaments), the New York State Open in 1922, and the Metropolitan PGA in 1924.

Hagen died in 1969 in Traverse City, Michigan at the age of 76, after battling throat cancer for almost half a decade. He was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in the charter class (1974).

Walter Hagen’s Career Highlights

-       Westchester Open: Won 1916, 1921, 1926, 1927, 1932
-       Metropolitan Open: Won 1916, 1919, 1920
-       Bellevue Country Club Open: Won 1920
-       New York Open: Won 1922
-       Metropolitan PGA: Won 1924
-       U.S. Open Championships: Won 1914, 1919
-       British Open Championships: Won 1922, 1924, 1928, 1929
-       PGA Championships: Won 1921, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927
-       Ryder Cup (Captain): 1927, 1929, 1931, 1935
-       Masters Tournament: T11 - 1936
-       World Golf Hall of Fame – Class of 1974


Dottie Pepper
Residence: Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Born in Gansevoort, New York just outside Saratoga Springs, Dottie Pepper was born into a family engulfed in athletics. Her father, Don, was a former major league baseball player (at one time playing first base for the Detroit Tigers) and her grandmother, a talented player on the local golf circuit.

Her beginnings in the game can be credited to her grandmother, who taught her how to play the game at the age of 8 and bought her the clubs as well as a junior membership for her to pursue her new passion. She competed in her first tournament at age 11, winning the junior division, but lost the overall title in sudden-death (coincidentally to the family member who first opened her eyes to the game).

Dottie began playing golf at Brookhaven Golf Club, and was also a member of McGregor Links Country Club, where she continued to learn and hone her game under veteran PGA professional George Pulver. He was her main coach through the early years and was in his late 70s by then, eventually passing about a decade later.

In 1980, Pepper competed in the NYS Girls’ Junior and finished runner-up to Jamie DeWeese of Rochester. The following year at the age of 15, she won both N.Y.S. Girls’ Junior and N.Y.S. Women’s Amateur Championships, becoming the only woman in NYSGA history to accomplish that feat. When she won the Women’s Amateur title at Rome Country Club, she became the youngest champion in the history of the tournament.

She would not capture another Women’s Amateur before turning professional, but won her second Junior title two years later at McConnellsville Golf Club in 1983 (runner-up in 1980 and 1984).

Pepper committed to playing college golf at Furman University, where she was named All-American three times and earned five individual collegiate victories. In her sophomore and senior season for the Paladins, she was selected as the University’s Female Athlete of the Year. In 1987, she led the team to a runner-up finish at the NCAA Championships and was named the Furman University Athlete-of-the-year.

Outside of her college play, she qualified for the 1984 U.S. Women’s Open at Salem Country Club in Peabody, Mass. and finished as the low amateur in the tournament.

Upon graduating with a degree in Physical Education from Furman, she joined the LPGA tour in 1987, where she went on to win 17 tour events. She captured two major championships, including the 1992 and 1999 ANA Inspiration (formerly the Nabisco Dinah Shore). In winning the 1999 major championship, she won with a record-setting 19-under par, the lowest score in relation to par at any LPGA Tour event. She was the tour leader in wins during the 1992 and 1996 seasons and was a member of six Solheim Cup teams.

Once her playing days were over due to injuries, Pepper transferred her focus to sports broadcasting and has been in the forefront of the golf media since the early 2000s. She began working as a golf commentator for NBC and the Golf Channel and in 2013, after a short break, she returned to commentating for ESPN, working major tournaments on the PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour. In 2015, she made history once again, becoming the first woman to call the venerable Master’s Tournament when she stepped in for David Feherty that year.  Currently, she works as an on-course reporter for CBS Sports and covers many of the major televised events.

Beyond broadcasting, Pepper is a past member of the PGA of America’s Board of Directors and has been working on various junior golf initiatives to help grow the game.

Pepper currently resides in Saratoga Springs with her husband, golf writer and historian David Normoyle. The two married in May 2010 and play golf together at Saratoga Golf and Polo Club.

Dottie Pepper’s Career Highlights

-       N.Y.S. Girls’ Junior Amateur Championship: Won 1981, 1983
-       N.Y.S. Women’s Amateur Championship: Won 1981
-       Junior World Cup Team Member: 1981
-       PGA National Junior Championship: 6th in 1981; 1982 Runner-up
-       1984 U.S. Women’s Open: Low Amateur
-       1985 Albany-Colonie Chamber Open: won as an amateur
-       NCAA Division 1 All-American: 3x (####)
-       ANA Inspiration Champion: Won 1992, 1999
-       LPGA Tour Player of the Year:1992
-       LPGA Tour Money Winner: 1992
-       LPGA Vare Trophy: Won 1992
-       GWAA Female Player of the Year: 1992
-       Best Female Golfer ESPY Award: 1993
-       Women’s PGA Championship: T5 (1992)
-       World Championship of Women’s Golf: Won 1993
-       U.S. Women’s Open: 3rd/T3 (1988, 1990, 2001)
-       du Maurier Classic: 4th (1993)
-       Rochester International (Wegmen’s LPGA): Won 1996
-       Women’s British Open: T24 (2003)
-       Solheim Cup Team Member: 1990, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000
-       Solheim Cup Assistant Capitan (Team USA): 2013
-       Commentator for Golf Channel, NBC (2005-2012)
-       Commentator for ESPN (2013 – Present)
-       On-Course Reporter for CBS (2015 – Present)


Gene Sarazen
Deceased (1902 – 1999)

Gene Sarazen was born as Eugenio Saraceni in 1902 in Harrison, New York. His parents were poor immigrants from Sicily and his father worked as a carpenter. He started caddying when he was 8 years old at Larchmont Country Club and other local golf clubs, teaching himself the game along the way. He eventually moved over to Apawamis Club, where he could earn more money as an experienced caddy.

During his mid-to-late teen years, he quit school and took a couple of assistant club professional jobs in the New York area including Brooklawn Country Club. He was introduced to the head pro, George Sparling, by his mentor and coach, Al Ciuci of Bridgeport’s Beadsley Park.

He won the first of his two U.S. Opens in 1922 at the age of 20, making him the second-youngest winner of the event.

That same year, he won the PGA Championship at Oakmont Country Club and successfully defended his title the following year at Pelham Country Club, winning in 38 holes over fellow New York professional, Walter Hagen (who would win the next four).

Throughout the 1920s, he tagged on a few more prominent non-major wins including the 1925 Metropolitan Open, as well as the Metropolitan PGA in 1927 and 1928 (then again ten years later in 1939).

His self-proclaimed biggest contribution to golf was when he helped design the modern sand wedge, and used the club at The Open Championship in 1932, which he ended up winning. It was his first major victory after a decade-long “slump” and marked the beginning of his resurgence on the grand stage. 

He was known as one of the most innovative minds in golf. His inspiration for the sand wedge came after noticing how airplane tails adjust downward during takeoff. He also developed the weighted practice club in 1929 after a tip from professional baseball player Ty Cobb. 

In 1935, he became the first player to win the modern Grand Slam by capturing the Masters. During that championship, he hit the most famous shot in major championship history by holing a 4-wood from 235 yards away on hole #15, for a double-eagle to tie Craig Wood. The next day, he won the tournament in a playoff. This shot is known widely as the “shot heard round the world” and helped put the Masters Tournament in the national spotlight.

A longtime member of the Northeastern New York PGA section, Sarazen made his first appearance at their championship in 1966 and won the 36-hole tournament at age 64. En route to victory at Columbia Country Club, he carded a score of one over par 141.

In the early 60’s, he became the host of Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf and became known across the sporting world as a television personality.

Throughout his later years, he was always a presence and familiar face at The Masters tournament as an honorary starter, hitting the ceremonial first tee shot alongside other golf legends such as Byron Nelson and Sam Snead.

In 1992, he was voted the Bob Jones Award, the highest honor given by the United States Golf Association, in recognition of distinguished sportsmanship in golf.

Sarazen died in May of 1999, at the age of 97 at a nursing home in Naples, Florida.

Gene Sarazen’s Career Highlights

-       U.S. Open Championship: Won 1922, 1932
-       PGA Championship: Won 1922, 1923, 1933
-       Metropolitan Open: Won 1925
-       Metropolitan PGA: Won 1927, 1928, 1939
-       The Open Championship: Won 1932
-       Ryder Cup: 1927, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1935, 1937
-       Masters Tournament: Won 1935
-       Lake Placid Open: Won 1938
-       A.P. Male Athlete of the Year: 1932
-       NENY PGA Championship: Won 1966
-       World Golf Hall of Fame: Inducted 1974
-       USGA Bob Jones Award Recipient - 1992
-       PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award recipient - 1996


Willie Turnesa
Deceased (1914 – 2001)

William P. Turnesa was born in 1914 and was a lifelong resident of Elmsford in Westchester County. He was the youngest of seven brothers, all of whom were talented golfers, and was the only one to remain an amateur throughout his iconic golf career.

He’s considered by many to have been the greatest amateur golfer after Bobby Jones. His family of brothers, sons and grandchildren are widely recognized to be the greatest family dynasty in the history of the sport.

The family’s legacy began with their father, Vitale. He was an Italian immigrant who emigrated from a farming town near Naples, Italy to New York City in 1904. He first worked as a day laborer at Fairview Country Club in Elmsford during the course’s original construction. Upon completion, he was offered the job of head green keeper at the club and would remain in the position for the extent of his working life.

Vitale’s career came with a nice perk, a home next to the course. He and his wife, Anna, had nine children including seven boys and two girls. All the boys took to golf and even built their own course in the backyard (as they were restricted from playing Fairview) that they dubbed “Turnesa Country Club”

Like his older brothers, Willie grew up caddying at clubs around the area and eventually began competing in both local caddy and various other competitions around Metropolitan New York’s golf epicenter.

All six of his older brothers were local club professionals, and three of them became top touring pros including Joe, Mike and Jimmy. Doug, Frank and Phil, were teaching pros around the Met Area and were great resources for anything related to the game of golf. 

Willie would have likely followed suit with the family tradition, had his older brothers not insisted he go to college instead, and all chipped in the money to pay for it. He attended Holy Cross and graduated in 1938, becoming the first member of his family to earn a college degree.

During his college years, Turnesa emerged as one of the best amateurs in the country. He captured the New England Intercollegiate Championship three times and was a NCAA medalist twice.

He gained national prominence after winning the 1938 US Amateur at Oakmont Country Club at the age of 24, not too long after graduation from Holy Cross. His performance during the championship’s final match against Patrick Abbott led to his lifelong nickname, “Willie the Wedge.” That same year, he claimed his lone NYS Men’s Amateur title at Quaker Ridge Golf Club over Tommy Goodwin, 8 & 7.

When World War II broke out, he served as a gunnery instructor on the Navy and achieved the rank of Lieutenant. 

His most successful years of competitive amateur golf came once he returned from war, when he won the British Amateur in 1947, defeated fellow New Yorker Ray Billows in the U.S. Amateur final in 1948 and was British Am runner-up in 1949. In those years, he was selected to be a member of his first two Walker Cup teams, 1947 at the Old Course at St. Andrews and 1949 at Winged Foot Golf Club. In his final Walker Cup appearance in 1951 at Royal Birkdale Golf Club, he was playing captain.

Throughout all these playing accomplishments, he worked as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Binghamton Container Corporation, a position he remained active until retiring in 1978.

Things began to slow down on the course for Turnesa in the 1950s, and he began to give back and contribute to the game in other ways. He was the president of both the Metropolitan Golf Association and New York State Golf Association in 1955.

His biggest legacy in amateur golf was when he co-founded the Westchester Caddie Scholarship Fund in 1956 alongside Udo Reinach to provide financial assistance to deserving caddies and others who work in service to golf, to enable them to pursue higher education. Since the fund’s creation, it has benefitted over 2,000 men and women and provided millions of dollars to aid young individuals in the Westchester region.

In 1976, he was the recipient of the Metropolitan Golf Association’s prestigious Distinguished Service Award for his lifetime playing achievements and association leadership in the Met Area.

He was elected into the New York Sports Hall of Fame in 1990.

After a long battle with Alzheimer’s Disease, Willie Turnesa passed away in the summer of 2001 in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

Willie Turnesa’s Career Highlights

-       Westchester Amateur: Won 1933, 1936, 1937, 1938
-       Metropolitan Amateur: Won 1937
-       New York State Men’s Amateur: Won 1938
-       U.S. Amateur: Won 1938, 1948
-       British Amateur: Won 1947, Runner-up 1949
-       Walker Cup Appearances: 1947, 1949, 1951 (playing captain)
-       Masters Tournament: T26 in 1939
-       U.S. Open: T-40 in 1941
-       Florida Open: Won 1943
-       President of Metropolitan Golf Association: 1955
-       President of New York State Golf Association: 1955
-       MGA IKE Championship: Won 1957, 1958
-       Co-founder of Westchester Caddie Scholarship Fund in 1956
-       MGA Distinguished Service Award Recipient: 1976
-       New York Sports Hall of Fame Inductee: 1990