Restaurants' walls honor golfers who dined there



At Luigi's on Broad Street, pictures of famous golfers line the wall along the booths at the Greek and Italian restaurant.

They are reminders of golfers who have been visiting the family-owned restaurant during the Masters Tournament since 1954, said Penny Ballas, the mother of the restaurant's current owner.

"There weren't very many places to eat here in 1954," said her husband, second-generation owner Chuck Ballas Sr. "I think there might have been five or six restaurants in the entire town."

Luigi's wall of fame has autographed photos of Arnold Palmer, Lanny Wadkins, D.J. Trahan and Ben Crenshaw, who has been eating at the restaurant for about 25 years. In one photo, Crenshaw is posing with Chuck Ballas Sr. and the current owner.

Other golfers who have dined at Luigi's include John Daly, Bob Murphy, Fred Couples, Davis Love III and Tom Kite.

The draw of famous golfers definitely helps business, Ballas Sr. said. Because of the demand, the restaurant opens on Sundays during Masters Week.

"They come flocking," Penny Ballas said.

"The one thing we've always done ... When they come in, they want to eat and they don't want to be disturbed. I do not allow anybody to go up to these people and bother them," Ballas Sr. said.

Pictures of Love hang on the walls at both Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Shangri-La on Washington Road. He's a regular at the businesses.

Two years ago, Love came in the back door at Krispy Kreme and helped cook doughnuts, then came out front and rang up orders, said district manager Greg Carswell.

"After a customer started talking to him and realized who he was, he was shocked," he said.

On its wall of fame, Shangri-La has photos of Couples, Vijay Singh, Ian Woosnam, Rocco Mediate, Mark McCumber, Jerry Pate, Ian Baker-Finch and Padraig Harrington.

There are also pictures of Chinese and Japanese golfers, including Wen-Tang Lin, Wenchong Liang, Ryo Ishikawa, Tommy Nakajima, Joe Osaki, Shingo Katayama and Yoshinori Kaneko, manager Susie Kuo said.

The restaurant created a special dish for Love, which has now been added to its regular menu, Kuo said. About five years ago, Love ate at Shangri-La and requested Tian jin beef. It has become popular with regular customers.

Among other golfers' favorite dishes, Mediate always orders Thai chicken, and Woosnam prefers the Peking duck. Shangri-La prepares authentic Chinese dishes for the Chinese golfers.

Golfers attract patrons to the business. Customers ask whether golfers are dining there and will wait until they've finished their meal to ask for an autograph, Kuo said.

French Market Grille in Surrey Center has autographed photos of golfers, including Couples, Love, Jim Furyk, Nick Price, Loren Roberts and Larry Mize. Golfers Charles Howell and Ricky Barnes have also eaten there.

Owner Chuck Baldwin and his staff often help golfers come in the back door to avoid star-struck fans. While the golfers are dining, the staff make an effort to not attract attention to them, he said.