Originally created 01/06/01

Ploeger, Love, Dahlbender to be honored



Just about any other year, lifelong amateur Bill Ploeger of Columbus, Ga., would receive the lion's share of publicity for his induction into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame tonight.

This isn't a normal year. Rather, Ploeger happens to be one of the Class of 2001 inductees that includes PGA Tour star Davis Love III of Sea Island.

Ploeger, Love and the late Gene Dahlbender of Atlanta will be honored at Radisson Riverfront Hotel Augusta during the 13th annual Georgia Golf Hall of Fame Induction Banquet.

The 61-year-old Ploeger doesn't mind being overshadowed by Love, the 1997 PGA Championship winner who is the world's seventh-ranked player.

After all, the 36-year-old Love is second to Tiger Woods on the PGA Tour's career money list with more than $14 million and is in the prime of a PGA Tour career that includes 13 victories. Love has been a Masters Tournament runner-up twice.

"Not at all," Ploeger said. "I'm thrilled to death to even come in with him. It's a wonderful thing for me to be inducted with Davis. I'm as proud of it as I can be.

"It's wonderful that he's going to be there," Ploeger said of Love, who is skipping this week's Match Play Championship in Australia. "It's an indication of the importance he places on the golf hall of fame. Knowing that his father (the late Davis Love Jr.) has been inducted, it probably means something extra special to him."

Tonight's induction carries great importance to Ploeger, a former golfer at Georgia Tech, where he served as captain and was an honorable mention All-American as a senior in 1962.

"This is probably the nicest thing that's ever happened to me in golf," Ploeger said. "It's something you kind of dream about. To have it happen is pretty incredible."

Ploeger has won so many amateur tournaments he's lost count of the number.

His biggest victory came in 1999, when he won the U.S. Senior Amateur at Portland (Ore.) Golf Club. Golf Digest magazine ranked him as the No. 1 senior in the country for 1999.

The U.S. Senior Amateur victory led to Ploeger's being named the 1999 recipient of the Georgia State Golf Association's Tommy Barnes Award as the outstanding player of the year and his induction in 2000 to the Georgia Tech Sports Hall of Fame.

The U.S. Senior Amateur victory also means Ploeger receives invitations "to just about every senior amateur tournament in the country," he said.

Regionally, he has won the Golden Isles (Ga.) Invitational 11 times and played in the U.S. Amateur five times and the U.S. Mid-Amateur four times.

Though he never won the Georgia State Amateur, Ploeger has won the Georgia Senior Amateur three times and was a multiple runner-up in the Georgia Mid-Amateur.

"He's been one of our best players for I don't know how long - forever," said Layne Williams, the senior director of rules and competition for the Georgia State Golf Association. "He's got a perfect swing. It's as pretty as you'll ever see."

With the induction of Ploeger, Love and Dahlbender, there will be 56 members of the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame. They include Masters co-founder and amateur legend Bobby Jones and former Augustan Larry Mize, the 1987 Masters champion who lives in Columbus.

"When I think about the great golfers in there, I feel very humble," Ploeger said. "I'm lucky and thankful to be chosen."

Ploeger is a six-time club champion at Columbus' Green Island Country Club, the same course where Mize is an honorary member.

"I know him well," Ploeger said of Mize. "We played golf one day after it was announced that I was an inductee into the hall of fame, and he congratulated me and said it was well-deserved."

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.