SoCal Golf Hall of Fame Welcomes Inaugural Class
March 15, 2023
The Southern California Golf Association (SCGA) and the Southern California PGA (SCPGA) inducted its inaugural class into the newly launched Southern California Golf Hall of Fame on Mar. 15 at Industry Hills GC.
This unified regional program celebrates golf luminaries who have helped transform and shape the Southern California golf landscape. This year’s inductees include golf course architects, professional golfers, industry leaders, PGA golf professionals and trailblazers who have made a significant impact on the game and golf community.
Born in Korea, Pearl Sinn-Bonanni was introduced to golf by her father. Upon moving to the United States at the age of eight, her love of the game helped her assimilate to her new home, and she quickly became a dominant force in the Southern California amateur golf scene. A three-time All-American at Arizona State University, her season in 1988 was one for the history books. She became the first female golfer to win multiple USGA titles in the same calendar year – the U.S. Women’s Amateur Public Links (which she would defend her title in 1989) and the U.S. Women’s Amateur just a few months later. She was also a member of the U.S. Curtis Cup team and won the Women’s World Amateur Team Championship.
“When I received the call [to be inducted], I was shocked,” Sinn-Bonanni said fighting back tears. “I have to admit, I was very excited but I didn’t immediately feel like I deserved it. It took me a little time to realize that I’m a part of this really special group.”
Sinn-Bonanni earned Ladies European Tour Rookie of the Year honors in 1990 and enjoyed a 15-year professional career on the LPGA Tour, which culminated in winning the 1998 State Farm Rail Classic. She would later act as an on-course commentator for ESPN’s LPGA Tour coverage and served as a consultant for the LPGA. After her retirement from professional golf in 2006, she became the California State University, Fullerton head women’s golf coach from 2009 to 2017.
“I dedicate this honor to my mom and dad. They shed blood, sweat and tears for my sister and me to have a better life. I owe everything to them.”
An avid golfer and longtime member of Lakeside GC in Burbank, Jim Vernon’s career in golf administration is nothing short of exemplary. After graduating from Stanford Law School in 1975, Vernon ran his family’s diamond business – Frank Vernon Diamond Brokers and Wholesale Jewelers. His professional experience and relationships would nonetheless contribute to his wide-ranging service to the game of golf. He served as president of Lakeside GC in 1990 and would later serve as president of the board of directors of the SCGA and California Golf Association in 1997 and 1998, respectively.
“For several years, I was hosting this event,” Vernon remarked. “I can’t help but think somewhere there has been a software glitch because now I’m here accepting the honor instead of giving it out. I am here channeling all the people that I’ve worked with in golf. I could not have accomplished anything without them.”
As an advocate for junior golf and growing the game, Vernon also served as president of the SCGA Junior Golf Foundation. In 1998, Vernon began volunteering with the USGA and served on multiple committees, including the Sectional Affairs Committee and Equipment Standards Committee. He served as a member of the Executive Committee for seven years – including vice president in 2006 and 2007 – before ultimately being named the 60th president of the USGA in 2008 and 2009. As president of the USGA, Vernon tirelessly led the Association's staff and 1,400 volunteers and focused on championships, equipment, creating a strong online presence and preserving the game's history. Dedicated to serving the game, Vernon continues to be active in Southern California golf.
“Being here today is somewhat of a reunion. Everyone here is a golfer and values the game of golf. You’ve all given back to it. Thank you all.”
Also recognized at the event were six posthumous inductees.
Born in Carlsbad, Gary Adams was more than a notable salesman. Known as the “Father of the Metal Wood,” and founder of TaylorMade Golf, Founders Club Golf Company and McHenry Metals, Adams was an inventor who was never afraid to take that next uncharted step in golf manufacturing. Adams built TaylorMade Golf on innovation and technology. His vision of producing a driver made of metal revolutionized a game that previously had used only wood golf clubs. Every golfer around the world has Adams to thank for the metal woods they use in their bags today.
Gene Andrews undeniably changed the game we all love, and his practices are still used by amateurs and professionals to this day. Nicknamed the “Father of Playing by Yardage,” Andrews is best known for creating the yardage book. Andrews would walk a course during practice rounds and chart yardages in a book or on a scorecard. He began selling these yardage books to courses, and the practice became wildly popular among caddies and players in the early 1970s. Although he did not commit to playing professionally, Andrews was also a top amateur golfer. He won the 1954 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship and later the 1970 U.S. Senior Amateur Championship. He also competed in three Masters Tournaments and two U.S. Opens.
Max Behr is regarded as one of the legendary course designers of his time. Behr became the first editor of Golf Illustrated magazine in 1914 before moving to California and diving into golf course design. Known for an unorthodox design philosophy, Behr did not believe in rough on his courses. Instead, he preferred to incorporate natural features of the landscape and bunkers to defend each hole. That philosophy first appeared in his 1922 SoCal designs: Hacienda Golf Club, Montebello Golf Club, Rancho Park Golf Club and Montecito Golf Club. He perfected this philosophy in his two most recognizable layouts in 1924: Lakeside Golf Club and Oakmont Country Club. His final project was Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club in 1927. Behr’s design philosophy became so popular that he was asked to remodel Victoria Club in 1923, Brentwood Country Club in 1925 and assisted at The Olympic Club’s Lake Course in 1926. Behr unquestionably left his mark on the Southern California landscape.
James R. DeVoe
James R. “Jimmie” DeVoe was an unheralded pioneer in the growth of the game of golf, and among the generations of African Americans who were denied equal opportunity in all aspects of social life, not to mention civil rights. DeVoe traveled between New York and Los Angeles, and by the early 1940s became a fixture in Southern California golf as a player and teacher. In 1944, DeVoe became the first African American to compete in the Los Angeles Open. He developed a reputation as a golf instructor to the stars, with a glittering list of students that included Jackie Robinson, Mrs. Nat King Cole and the Mills Brothers. He also drew praise for instructing underprivileged youth, along with students of all races, ages, gender and class. DeVoe was the first African American to gain PGA of America membership after the rescinding of the “Caucasian clause” in 1962. He was 74, which according to PGA membership records, made him the oldest to be elected to the Association.
Ralph Guldahl joined the professional golf circuit in 1931. His 16 PGA Tour victories – including three major championships – saw him ascend to the top of the game quicker than anyone else. In 1938, Guldahl finished runner-up at the Masters for a second time, but won his second straight U.S. Open and third straight Western Open – becoming the only golfer to win both events in consecutive years. He finally won his green jacket in 1939, besting Sam Snead by one stroke with a score of 279. After his professional golf ended, Guldahl became the head professional at Braemar Country Club in 1961 and gave lessons until his death in 1987.
One of the 13 original founders of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) in 1950, Shirley Spork took her pioneering talents beyond the perimeter of a course to establish standards of excellence for aspiring young women golfers. For nearly 70 years in the golf industry, Spork was active in sustaining and promoting the future of the sport. In 1959, she was the driving force behind the creation of the LPGA Teaching Committee, which was reorganized into today’s LPGA Professionals division. Those same members teach university coaches, instructors, along with 80,000 young women in the LPGA/USGA Girls Golf program. Spork’s ability to educate audiences from all levels of the game took root from 1966 through 1973, as Western Director of Education for the National Golf Foundation. From 1977 to 2002, Spork was director of The School of Golf for women at Singing Hills Country Club in El Cajon, California. While she passed away in April 2022, her legacy and contributions to advancing the game will continue to impact the lives of young golfers and aspiring professionals.