Teaching Pro Tommy Pendley Wins Fazio Award


Tommy Pendley Wins Fazio Award

When he got home from work in early November, Tommy Pendley had an ordinary letter sitting on his table addressed to him from the South Carolina Golf Association.  He almost didn’t open the letter because he thought it was just another tournament coming up.  Instead, the four-paragraph letter revealed that he was named the 2021 Tom Fazio Service to Golf Award.

“I was really shocked and surprised because I’m nearing the end of my career,” Pendley said. “Come June, it’ll be 45 years in this industry. I never was thinking or anticipating anything like (the award). I thought it would be for some younger guys or some bigger, fancier things than what I have done.

It was the first time since 1996 Pendley received an award from the SCGA, as he won both the Junior Golf Leader and the other was Golf Professional of the Year that year.  “I just figured I was just coasting to the end of my career in a year or two. That totally got me out of left field,” Pendley said. “I was never anticipating anything like this.”

The Tom Fazio Award is given to someone who “recognizes efforts that especially help to enhance and promote the game of golf with an emphasis on the South Carolina Junior Golf Association.”

Pendley has been coaching since he was at Erskine, where he graduated with a degree in physical education. The first five years of his coaching career were spent between football, basketball and golf. He went to golf full-time after the fifth year and hasn’t looked back, coaching the sport for 45 years.  “It’s just natural,” Pendley said. “I like being outdoors. It’s always been in my blood since the ninth or 10th grade.”

In 2013, Pendley moved out of the Star Fort golf shop, where he had worked 36 years in a variety of roles. He started teaching golf full-time at that point. After spending a couple of years at a driving range, Pendley had a chance to start the next chapter at Greenwood Country Club, Stoney Point or Grand Harbor.

He chose Stoney Point and opened the Tommy Pendley Golf Academy just less than six years ago.  Through his academy, Pendley has coached several golfers who have become college athletes.

“That’s the greatest reward for me — to see them get to do something they have dreamed about and to see that dream become reality,” Pendley said. “I’ve had several go on to go play in college. My oldest son played professionally for six years and is now coaching at a D-1 school at Winthrop. Three of the guys on the staff were former students of mine.”

Along with coaching, Pendley was a pivotal part of the Hootie & the Blowfish Junior Golf Series, which is now a statewide junior golf summer program that has more than 1,200 annual participants.

Pendley, his wife and two of his three sons were in attendance on Jan. 8 when he was given the award at the Columbia Country Club. He was one of four people recognized, as Gary Schaal was inducted into the South Carolina Golf Hall of Fame, John Durst received the Charles Drawdy Service Award and Paul Manikowski won the Rick-Miller Volunteer of the Year award.

“It’s rewarding to see that,” Pendley said. “We have three sons, but I have thousands of sons and daughters.”


Honoring Our Course Superintendent

Keith Bishop, Golf Course Superintendent, The Links at Stoney Point

Green dream: Golf course superintendent's work was born of passion for game

Keith Bishop said it’s hard for him to play golf at The Links at Stoney Point.  As the golf course superintendent, he loves the course, but he finds himself distracted while playing there.  “When I’m playing golf, I see things that most golfers don’t see,” said Bishop, who has been superintendent for four years. “’Why didn’t we trim that tree or why didn’t we rake those leaves? Or, ‘That bunker doesn’t look like it’s been properly raked.”

He spends his days coordinating efforts to make the championship course look its best.  “You lean on a lot of people,” Bishop said. “You know there are certain things you can and cannot do. There are always expectations, and we try to meet or exceed those expectations.”

Two of the people Bishop leans on are club pros Patrick Wilson and Tommy Pendley.  “They say, ‘Hey, the greens are a little slow, and can you make it any faster — or can you make it any slower?’” Bishop said. “We’re always asking the golfers to help us. Repair your ball marks. Put your divot back and step on it, and nine times out of 10 it will grow back. Rake the bunkers. Keep your carts away from the greens.”

These are the things Bishop notices when he finds time to play at other courses.  “I appreciate the hard work that goes into getting the golf course that way,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s low-budget or high-budget, someone is working hard with what they have to provide a place to play golf.”

Bishop earned a golf scholarship and played a Spartanburg Methodist College in the 1980s.  “My dream was to play professional golf,” Bishop said. “That was the plan. When I went to college at Spartanburg Methodist, it was to try to play at the next level.”  He transferred to Clemson and hoped to play there.

“I could shoot 72, but they told me they didn’t need anybody who could shoot 72,” Bishop said. “They needed somebody who could shoot 62. If I couldn’t be a professional — making lots of money and winning tournaments — I decided that maybe I could take care of it (a golf course) for the ones who do.”

Even though he said it was a “heartbreak” not to be able to pursue his professional golfing dreams, he had a backup plan. He majored in horticulture at Clemson, with an emphasis on turf management.  After graduating from college, he landed a job as an assistant golf course superintendent at Pinehurst in North Carolina, the site of several U.S. Open tournaments. He mostly worked on courses 1 and 4, but also on No. 2, which is where the Open is often played.

He spent three years at Pinehurst and then returned home to be an assistant superintendent at the Greenwood Country Club for six years. He later was course superintendent at Parkland for eight years and then spent 12 years as superintendent at Star Fort.

He said he soured on the golf course business when Star Fort ran into financial trouble, so he went to work for the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. He tested soil before people purchased land, and he also investigated environmental complaints.

He late went into business for himself, installing irrigation systems and doing landscaping. He had a pesticide license, so he sprayed ballfields in Greenwood County and at area parks. He spent time working in Savannah Lakes Village in McCormick, doing landscaping for spec homes.

Bishop then served as grounds manager at Wesley Commons for nine years before joining WP Law, an irrigation company. He traveled a lot and missed seeing his parents, who are in their mid-80s. When Billy Ford left the superintendent job at Stoney Point to move to Charleston, Bishop thought the time was right to return to golf course maintenance.

“I’ve always loved this golf course,” Bishop said. “This has always been the best golf course in Greenwood. The reason I came back here was to get off the road. I was tired of being on the road, even though I’d only been there (WP Law) about two years. I could just see that my time away from home was getting more and more.”

Bishop said that, in addition to listening to Wilson and Pendley, he also listens to other golfers about their likes and dislikes. That can be somewhat ambiguous, though.   “It depends on the round and how they played that day,” Bishop said. “The guy who played really well thought the greens were perfect. The guy who didn’t play so well thought they might have been too slow or too fast.”

Bishop often fields questions about pin placements. During events, tournament directors determine pin locations. The rest of the time, Bishop and his team make the decisions on where to punch the holes on the green. “People think we are putting it (the pin) in a tough spot,” he said. “We have to move it around because of play. We have a tremendous amount of play here.”

He said the biggest challenge is trying to work around the golfers.  “We want to have it looking how we want it to look without being a nuisance to them, being in their way or making noise,” Bishop said. “The environment is neck and neck with that. The weather is just not predictable anymore.”

He used to be able to look at a calendar and plan work and treatments. The shifting weather patterns have made his job more difficult. And then there are seasonal changes.  “In the wintertime, while the leaves are falling, it’s clearing the golf course so people can find their golf ball,” Bishop said. “Nobody wants to be out there five hours playing golf. We have to maintain the smoothness of the greens because the grass isn’t growing this time of the year.”

Stoney Point has machines with rollers to press the greens during winter months. The maintenance team also paints the greens. Ball marks are hard to heal in the winter, and cart traffic is another issue because the grass is not growing.  “A little bit of water goes a long way in the wintertime,” Bishop said. “A half an inch of rain looks like two inches in the summertime because the grass is not taking it up. We actually move holes more frequently in the wintertime than we do in the summer, just because of the traffic and the wear and tear on the grass.”

Bishop said he wants to thank course owners Jim and Denise Medford and his hard-working staff for everything they do.



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