Inductee made most of trip

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Some Georgia Golf Hall of Fame members have breezed into Augusta the day of their induction ceremony, and are gone after the banquet that night.

From left, 2007 Georgia Golf Hall of Fame inductees Furman Bisher, Wendell Couch and Tom Forkner took a break Saturday before the inductee ceremony at Augusta Marriott Hotels & Suites. There are now 75 members in the hall.  Chris Thelen/Staff
Chris Thelen/Staff
From left, 2007 Georgia Golf Hall of Fame inductees Furman Bisher, Wendell Couch and Tom Forkner took a break Saturday before the inductee ceremony at Augusta Marriott Hotels & Suites. There are now 75 members in the hall.

Not Tom Forkner. The four-time Georgia Senior champion from Duluth, Ga., decided to make a weekend of it in town leading up to his enshrinement Saturday night.

"I wanted to soak it in," said the 88-year-old Forkner, who joined sports columnist Furman Bisher and former golf equipment businessman Wendell Couch as this year's inductees.

Forkner arrived Friday in Augusta and visited Augusta Country Club head pro Tommy Brannen, the former pro at Atlanta Athletic Club, where Forkner still plays "two or three" times a week.

"I've known him a long time; he's a good friend," Forkner said of Brannen.

Then he visited the hall of fame's Botanical Gardens, which he described as "outstanding."

On Saturday morning, Forkner urged on his team in the hall's Golfing Society tournament at Augusta Country Club (Forkner didn't play because he recently had a spot of melanoma removed from his right arm and it is still healing).

In the early evening Saturday, he attended a news conference with his fellow inductees, then was inducted into the hall later that night at Augusta Marriott Hotels & Suites.

"I wanted to take my time and get a feel of what it's all about," said Forkner, who had never attended one of the induction banquets, which now number 19.

The Class of 2007 brings the total number of members in the hall to 75. Those enshrined include four professional major championship winners along with some amateur stars Forkner competed against in his day.

"I knew a dozen of them in there and some of them have done so much more than I ever thought about doing," Forkner said. "To be named into it now is just special."

Forkner won his Georgia Senior championships in 1968, 1969, 1982 and 1986. He also teamed to win the Georgia Seniors Four-Ball championship twice (1981, 1982); and the International Seniors championship (1974 and 1980); and has won the 80-over division of the World Super Seniors tournament (2004 and 2005).

He also qualified for the first two U.S. Senior Opens, in 1980 and 1981.

"One of those years, there were three spots available (in the Senior Open qualifier) in Atlanta and all the pros and amateurs all went to try for them," Forkner said. "I finished second. That was probably the single best thing I ever did."

Though Forkner said his record is "pretty good" and "would stand up against most any of them," he was surprised when the call came telling him of his selection to the hall.

"I'll tell you this: It's an honor. Unless you're there, you don't realize how much it means. If you play golf, or any other sport, and all of a sudden you have some recognition in it that you didn't expect, it means a lot.

"There might be other fellas more qualified than I am, but there are none that appreciate it (the induction) more than I do.

"All through my life I always thought if you associated with good, smart, energetic people with ambition, you're going to get somewhere. So I always figured I'd be somewhere. But one thing I never one time even dreamed of was this honorary position. It never crossed my mind."

Forkner is already something of a celebrity to those who frequent the more than 1,500 Waffle House restaurants in 25 states. He and Joe Rogers Sr., co-founded Waffle House, Inc., in 1955.

Though he stepped back from the day-to-day business 20 years ago, Forkner and Rogers still go to their offices every day.

"I guess we're board members emeritus," Forkner said.

When Waffle House celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2005, the restaurants featured a large poster of Forkner and Rogers on the doors or windows.

"Most of the time when I go in one I don't get recognized," Forkner said. "I just quietly go in, order, pay my bill and leave. Now and then one of them will recognize me and have a big splash. My wife kind of gets upset when they make a big commotion."

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.

NEW INDUCTEES

Tom Forkner

BORN: Hawkinsville, Ga.

RESIDENCE: Duluth, Ga.

AGE: 88

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Won the Georgia Senior championships in 1968, 1969, 1982 and 1986. Teamed to win the Georgia Seniors Four-Ball championship in 1981 and 1982. Won the International Seniors championship in 1974 and 1980. Won the 80-over division of the World Super Seniors tournament in 2004 and 2005. Qualified for the first two U.S. Senior Opens, in 1980 and 1981.

Furman Bisher

BORN: Denton, N.C.

RESIDENCE: Atlanta

AGE: 88

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Former sports editor of the Atlanta Constitution and the Atlanta Journal. Has been a sports columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for more than 50 years. Has won 18 Associated Press sportswriting awards. Has written more than 1,000 magazine articles and 11 books. In 1961, Time magazine named him one of the top best columnists in the country. Won the Jack Nicklaus Memorial Journalism Award in 1997. Is already in the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame

Wendell Couch

BORN: Cedartown, Ga.

RESIDENCE: Athens, Ga.

AGE: 61

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Worked for 40 yards for Spalding Sports Worldwide, Top Flite and Callaway Golf. Served in numerous management and consultant positions. Served as president of the Georgia State Golf Association from 1984-86. Continues to serve on the board of directors of the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame volunteers to work Georgia state Golf Association events and is a member of the GSGA Championship committee and board of directors for the Georgia Junior Golf Association.

ELIGIBILITY

There are 75 members in Augusta's Georgia Golf Hall of Fame. To be eligible, an individual must have been born in Georgia and lived here for period of time; or participated in a golf activity in Georgia; or been a citizen of Georgia and brought honor to the state through his/her golf endeavors, and participated in the sport for 20 years or have been inactive for five years.

Here are the 75 members of the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame:Tommy Aaron, Tommy Barnes, Leo Beckmann, Furman Bisher, Charles H. Black, Arnold Blum, David Boyd, Dr. Glenn Burton, Wendell Couch, Thomas Cousins, Pete Cox, Gene Dahlbender, Mark Darnell, Jim Dent, Allen Doyle, Ed Dudley, Edward Everett, Mary Lena Faulk, Tom Forkner, Alexa Stirling Fraser, James Gabrielsen, William Goodloe Jr., Watts Gunn, Jerry Greenbaum, George Hamer Jr., Charles Harper, Charles Harrison, Fred Haskins, Ed Hoard, Suzanne Jackson, Bobby Jones, Rosie Jones, Gunby Jordan, O.B. Keeler, James Key, Jack B. Key Jr., Mary Dorothy Kirby, Martha Kirouac, George Kozelnicky, Emory Lee, Nancy Lopez, Lyn Lott, Davis Love Jr., Davis Love III, Ceil Maclaurin, Hobart Manley Jr., Palmer Maples Jr., Billy McWilliams, Steve Melnyk, Larry Mize, Frank Mulherin Jr., Larry Nelson, Dan Nyimicz, Janet Dobbins Olp, Billy Peters, Bill Ploeger, Clifford Roberts, William Roquemore, Hugh Royer Jr., Doug Sanders, George Sargent, Harold Sargent, Jack Sargent, Tim Simpson, Johny Skeadas, Hollis Stacy, Eileen Stulb, Louise Suggs, Fielding Wallace, DeWitt Thompson Weaver Jr., Gregg Wolff, Charlie Yates, Danny Yates, P. Dan Yates Jr., Bill Zimmerman.


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