REYNOLDS INDUCTED INTO NATIONAL PGA HALL OF FAME
By Bruce Berlet
GLASTONBURY, Conn. – On Sept. 1, Gary and Mim Reynolds were having a friendly chat on ZOOM with PGA of America president Jim Richerson as they sat in the Connecticut Section PGA office.
But the banter soon became a memorable declaration of the highest order. After rattling off countless things that Gary had done for the Connecticut Section PGA and many of its member professionals and officials, Richerson revealed Reynolds would be one of six inductees into the PGA of America Hall of Fame in November.
“Oh, that’s so cool,” a beaming Mim said.
“I’ve given a few speeches in my life,” Reynolds said, “but I can’t really respond to this, Mr. President. I’m truly, truly, truly honored.”
Gary might have been speechless but not others whom he has been associated with in nearly a half-century in the game. Within minutes of the news being posted on the Section social media, dozens of associates and friends congratulated someone whose merits have enabled him to join Walter Lowell (Class of 2005) as the only Section members to receive the highest honor for club professionals.
“Gary is a master at fostering relationships and spreading goodwill,” said Tom Hantke, the Section executive director for 28 years and one of eight Section members to attend the induction ceremony in Milwaukee, Wisc. “His kindness resonates with everyone he meets. We could all strive to be more like Gary.”
Richerson totally concurred.
“There has never been a better mentor for the Connecticut Section or the Association than Gary,” Richerson said. “All your work and involvement from a governing standpoint, so many different committees and chairs, being a past president and your involvement in the (Section) Foundation and all that you have done for Special Olympics and giving back to The First Tee, all of your Section awards and national Strausbaugh winner, all of the PGA Professionals and apprentices that you have mentored over the years and on and on and on. We really need that more than ever, so it’s really gratifying to see someone who has done so much for the organization get recognized, and I’m really proud to be able to tell you that you’re going into the Hall of Fame.”
Reynolds, 73, was inducted Nov. 2 during the PGA of America’s annual meeting. Others in the Class of 2021 to be recognized were Kyle Heyen of Colorado, Ed Ibarguen of North Carolina, former PGA of America president Paul Levy of California and deceased Marty Lyons of Pennsylvania and Al Watrous of Michigan, one of the earliest members of the PGA of America.
“It’s such a privilege to welcome this incredible group of PGA Members,” Richerson said to open the induction ceremony. “Collectively, we’re able to celebrate legends of the game, visionaries of the industry and highly accomplished PGA Professionals who have made an impact on our profession, our PGA Members and all those that love the game. Becoming a member of the Hall of Fame is the pinnacle of someone’s career. It’s a crowning achievement, and for many, it’s a lifelong dream.”
“It’s a wonderful culmination to my career,” Reynolds said in his remarks. “PGA Professionals work long and hard, and it’s very important they get recognition. Having an evening like this is so rewarding. You get a chance to thank all the mentors you had to put you in this seat, and I do that right now.”
Reynolds was born in Alexandria Bay, N.Y., and has been a golf professional for 47 years. His career began in Massachusetts as an assistant professional at Longmeadow Country Club, then he was the head pro at the Country Club of Pittsfield before serving 27 years at Hartford Golf Club, where he retired in 2008. He has received numerous Section awards, most notably its highest honor as Golf Professional of the Year in 1989. He received the Bill Strausbaugh Award three times locally and in 2001 nationally, the Merchandiser of the Year Award in 1995 and the President’s Award for fundraising in 2002 and 2005. He’s one of only eight people to be inducted into the Connecticut Section PGA Hall of Fame (2008, the inaugural class) and Connecticut Golf Hall of Fames (2011).
Reynolds, who graduated from St. Lawrence University in 1970 with a bachelor of arts degree in history, was nominated for the Hall of Fame in the golf professional category as someone who through his career as a PGA Member, service to the Association and/or their record as a player in PGA golf professional events had significant and enduring impacts upon the PGA of America, their fellow PGA members and the game of golf.
Besides numerous awards and Section duties, Reynolds and his Hartford Golf Club staff were renowned for an operation that delivered outstanding instruction, innovative programming and extraordinary customer service. His operation was named Best in Connecticut for customer service at a private club by Connecticut Magazine, and during his tenure at Hartford, he mentored 14 assistants who went on to achieve head professional positions.
In addition to his assistant professionals, Reynolds’ wife Mim played an integral role for all of his 27 years at Hartford.
“Mim worked shoulder-to-shoulder with me and is totally instrumental in everything I have accomplished,” Reynolds said. “She managed the golf shop and was a great partner, adviser and mentor to much of my staff. She was universally loved and respected by the members and all of her customers.”
While at Hartford, Reynolds launched and conducted innovative programs such as Festival of Golf, Lunch with the Pro and Walk with the Pro. In 2005, the club named a prestigious member-member tournament the “Reynolds Classic,” the only time in its 125-year history that an event has been named after its professional.
Reynolds’ service to the Section included being President (1993-94), Vice President (1989-92), Section Golf Foundation president (1995-96), committee member on employment (2005, 2009-10), scholarship (2013-14) and special awards (2002), and a member of the board of directors (1985-88, 2001-04) and Foundation board (1995-current). He also was the PGA of America District I Director from 2001-04, when he contributed to the roll-out and implementation of the PGA of America’s strategic vision, “PGA 2011.”
Reynolds was a founding member of The First Tee of Hartford that morphed into The First Tee of Connecticut. He has been a member of The First Tee’s board of directors since 2002 and a part of the task force responsible for the creation of a home site at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell and a learning center and four-hole “short” course.
Reynolds, a PGA Life Member, has also been a director of the Connecticut Section PGA Golf Foundation since 1995 and was a co-founding director of this charitable foundation that helps fund golf programs that serve youth, veterans and disabled and developmentally challenged individuals in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts. He became a prolific fundraiser by conducting an annual golf marathon alongside his assistant professional, raising more than $230,000. He also created the PGA Foundation Charity Classic at Hartford in 2010 that has raised more than $325,000. The Foundation has now awarded more than $1,165,000 to their beneficiaries.
Starting in 2014, Reynolds played a significant role as a Section consultant in helping the recovery and restoration of two severely neglected courses in Hartford; Keney Park and Goodwin Park. He was part of a unique and historic relationship between a city and a PGA Section, and Keney Park hosted the PGA of America Boys and Girls Championships in 2019.
One of Reynolds’ major duties in semi-retirement was the head of a 25-person committee that worked on a year-long odyssey in 2014 on the nomination of longtime Connecticut resident Suzy Whaley as the first female officer in the PGA of America. He obviously did a stellar job on his speech in Indianapolis, Ind., as Whaley beat two male opponents with more than 50 percent of the vote on the first ballot, a rarity on both fronts.
Reynolds also gave the nominating speech for Whaley before she became president in 2018 and helped Derek Sprague and Jim Remy of Vermont become PGA of America presidents.
“Gary’s induction is the pinnacle of a PGA member’s career,” said Whaley, who is in the midst of a two-year term as PGA honorary president and was at the induction. “His leadership, service, mentorship, acumen and passion demonstrate his commitment to the advancement of the game and to all that cross his path.
“On a personal note, as the leader of my campaign to become an officer of the PGA of America, Gary’s tireless work, support and total belief in my abilities led me to holding office. He is an incredible man who sees ability and passion over gender. As a cherished friend, we consider him a member of our family. We are so proud to call him a Hall of Famer.”
Reynolds credited his success to several professional mentors, including Hantke, Frank Selva of Race Brook Country Club in Orange and Dick Stranahan at Longmeadow.
Section President Howie Friday, the head pro at Stanley Golf Course in New Britain, said Reynolds’ induction was a no-brainer.
“Gary Reynolds is the consummate golf professional,” said Friday, who also attended the ceremony. “He has been a mentor/friend to me and countless other PGA professionals. His work with our Foundation will leave a lasting legacy and help countless people have better lives for years to come. I can think of no more deserving person to enter the PGA Hall of Fame.”