Puggy Blackmon has a shelf full of coach of the year awards, guided teams to tournament titles, helped develop professional stars and has been inducted into the Golf Coaches Association of America’s Hall of Fame.
His latest honor – receiving the Labron Harris Sr. Award from the golf coaches association – might mean more. It’s recognition for a lifetime of achievement. The Harris award’s presented to the coach and PGA professional who has helped the game grow through teaching and coaches in addition to community involvement.
Most golf aficionados can recite Blackmon’s coaching achievements at Georgia Tech and South Carolina, but his fingerprints on junior golf cover two generations and his assistance in developing the American Junior Golf Association are mostly forgotten.
“I have never had the response like I have since this was announced,” said Blackmon, USC’s director of golf development and associate coach of the Gamecocks’ women’s team. “You can get put in a cubby hole of ‘college coach,’ but there are so many other things.”
For Blackmon, “other things” started after he earned his bachelor’s degree from Carson-Newman and his masters from Clemson. He worked in college resort operations and development in Florida for six years and formed the first Jacksonville Junior Golf League. That led to his having Tom Watson and Gary Player speak at the awards’ dinner, which in turn led to his involvement with the AJGA.
“Mike Bentley had the plan (for the AJGA) and wanted Watson for his honorary chairman,” Blackmon recalled. “I set up a dinner with him and Watson, and Watson agreed. But the AJGA was a long way from where it is today.”
Blackmon told wife Gail that Bentley “has a great idea, but he’s going to starve to death, and we helped him with the two tournaments he had the first year.” The experience led Blackmon to teaching. He landed in Atlanta, increased participation in the Atlanta Junior League from 75 to 1,500 in just more than a year and soon became coach at Georgia Tech.
His Tech program (1983-95) became a national power, reaching the NCAA Tournament for 11 straight years and producing such players as major champions David Duval and Stewart Cink. He moved to USC in 1995 and guided all 12 of his men’s teams into the NCAAs. He turned the men’s program over to Bill McDonald in 2007 to focus on development. But the itch to teach needed scratching and, in addition to working with pros, he became an assistant to women’s coach Kalen Anderson.
“It’s been a lot of fun coaching the women,” Blackmon said. “Coaching them today is like coaching the men 25 years ago. They’re hitting the ball as far as the men did back then before technology took over the game.”
All the while, his development skills remain outstanding. He raised the funds for USC’s state-of-the-art teaching facility at Cobblestone Park and off-campus short-game area at Par Tee Golf Center, and helped fashion the agreement with the Member Club at Woodcreek and WildeWood for make those, along with Cobblestone Park, the home courses for the Gamecocks.
Slowing down with his 65th birthday coming up this week? Not a chance. On the drawing board are plans for a 45-acre tract near Williams-Brice Stadium for the Carolina golf teams. And he spent a week in November with Mi Hyang Lee, his student who is a LPGA player ranked 34th in the world. And there’s the women’s team’s spring season. … Like always, he just keeps going and going.
The second annual LinRick Golf Classic, rescheduled from November, will be staged Monday at LinRick Golf Club. The charity event will benefit Hannah House, an organization that provides shelter for women who don’t have a stable residence. Registration begins at 8 a.m. with a 9 a.m. shotgun start. … Myrtle Beach’s Mystical Golf will hold its 12th annual Christmas Child tournament on Dec. 19. Proceeds benefit 250 youngsters in the Carolinas and Georgia. For information or to register, contact Randy Broughton at 843-236-8000 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org.