Inductee has had best seat in house

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Johnny Paulk gets a lot of second looks from people who have attended the Masters Tournament.

It's not just his face that looks so familiar to Augusta National Golf Club patrons, it's that voice.

The questions about his connection to the tournament are usually asked in the Jekyll Island Golf Club's pro shop, where Paulk has been a fixture for 41 years, first as the head pro (1968-2007), and now as the owner of the golf shop.

"People say, 'I heard your voice a while ago and you sound like that fellow on the 18th hole at Augusta National.' I say, 'you're kidding' then say 'that's me,' " said Paulk, who has announced at the past 30 Masters.

The 73-year-old Paulk, who has won just about every award from the Georgia PGA that a club pro can win, was among four members inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame Saturday night.

Paulk, former PGA Tour winner Larry Hinson, former club pro and player Darwin White and the late amateur star Perry Adair were honored at the 21st annual Induction Ceremony at Marriott Hotel & Suites. There are now 82 members in the hall.

"Golf has been my life," Paulk said.

"I've tried to do the best I could. I was the first one there and the last one to leave the shop. I hope I made everyone feel at home, like I was wanting them to make me feel."

Paulk still lives at Jekyll Island, and he is often in the golf shop checking on his merchandise or helping out.

"I'll be making a tee time for somebody and they'll recognize my voice," Paulk said. "I didn't know that my voice was that distinctive, but it must be."

Paulk started as the announcer on the ninth green in 1979. In 1998, he moved to the 18th green.

"I got the job by knowing somebody," Paulk said. "In my case, I was (an assistant pro) at East Lake (Golf Club in Atlanta)."

East Lake was the home course of Augusta National Golf Club and Masters co-founder Bobby Jones. A number of East Lake members were also Augusta National members.

One of them was Hike Allen, who was the chairman of the announcers committee for the Masters.

"Eddie Thompson, who had been the announcer on No. 9, had passed on and Mr. Allen called me up and asked if I'd be interested, and obviously, I said yes," Paulk said.

When Leo Beckman of Savannah, Ga., retired as the 18th-hole announcer after the 1997 tournament, Paulk moved over to take his place. At both greens, the announcers keep patrons informed about the group approaching the greens, from their history to the scores they've shot that week at Augusta National.

It can be challenge, especially when the groups are threesomes.

"I'm not a mathematician, but I've got a system," Paulk said.

Paulk is always amazed at how courteous the Augusta National galleries are. Especially on the 18th hole in the final round when a player has a putt to tie or win the tournament.

"It gets so quiet; it's hard to believe it can get that quiet with that many people sitting around there," Paulk said. "The enthusiasm of the people is there, and they want to yell out, but they can't at that particular time.

"Then if the putt rolls in the hole, all pandemonium starts. And it is pandemonium," Paulk said.

One of the most unusual tournament rounds for Paulk came when John Huston holed a long approach shot from the 10th fairway for an eagle on No. 18, which is a par-4.

"Nobody saw the ball until it went in the hole," Paulk said. "Nobody knew where it came from; I didn't. Then we found out it came from the 10th fairway."

And Paulk had the best seat in the house.

"To see things like that; to be able to be in that position. ..." Paulk said. "Augusta National is one of the premier places in the world. There is nothing like it. You get chill bumps when you get there."

Reach David Westin at (706) 72-40851 or david.westin@augustachronicle.com.

PAULK'S BEST

Johnny Paulk, a public address announcer for the Masters Tournament since 1979, lists his top five moments:


NO. 1: Jack Nicklaus winning the 1986 Masters at age 46


NO. 2: Arnold Palmer's final round in 2004, in his 50th appearance


NO. 3: Watching honorary starters Gene Sarazen and Byron Nelson play nine holes in the 1980s, finishing up on No. 9


NO. 4: Mark O'Meara's birdie putt on No. 18 to win the 1988 Masters


NO. 5: Phil Mickelson's birdie putt on No. 18 to win the 2004 Masters


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