Willard and the late Archie Goode Inducted into the Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame   (5 years ago)

by  Randy King | 981-3126

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

 Ron Willard's golf game is not the reason he's headed to the Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame.

"The lowest my handicap has ever been has been a 10  and today, I'm shamed to say, it's a 16," Willard said. "Frankly, I  never thought about taking the time to conquer the game."

No big deal. The rest of Willard's golf resume is  impeccable, thus there was no shock when he was confirmed by the  selection committee as a 2013 inductee to the hall of fame.

Willard, whose company's three golf courses - The  Water's Edge, The Waterfront and Westlake - have been key in molding  Smith Mountain Lake into a popular retirement community  , will be  enshrined as the hall's 40th inductee at the organization's November  banquet.

The late Archie Goode, manager and pro at Roanoke's  Brookside Par-3 from 1962-87 and   a major player in the development of  golf turfgrass, will also be inducted   at the banquet.

Willard, 67, was a no-brainer   for the selection  committee. After starting his construction company in 1973, the Scruggs  native has been the lead man in transforming Smith Mountain Lake from a  rural valley into a resort area that attracts people from all across the  United States  .

The Willard Companies employ more than 200 people in golf, home-building and various other businesses.

"When I got into business it wasn't to get into the  hall of fame, it was to develop the recreational part of community  development and golf seemed to be the natural thing, especially around  water," said Willard, a 1964 Franklin County High School graduate.

"I went out and did a lot of research on other lakes  and looked at what they were doing with golf, and it seemed that  everywhere you went whether it was to the beach or to Florida or it was  to just [a]man-made lake, the water was just a natural draw and the golf  was just a natural recreation."

The construction on the first   club  , The  Waterfront Country Club in Moneta, began in 1976. The Water's Edge, a  highly decorated country club in Penhook that includes an island green  par-3 hole that borders the property of Willard's home, was launched in  1985. Then, in 1996, the company purchased the former Chestnut Creek  course in Hardy   and changed its name to Westlake Golf & Country  Club.

Willard said he has seen two generations of retirees since the Waterfront opened.

"I see people who have been playing golf at The  Waterfront for over 30 years, there are guys in  [their]  80s who are  still out there playing golf, and when I run into them they come up to  me and say: 'I want to say thank you because the reason I'm still living  is because of golf ... it keeps me agile, it keeps me happy and it  keeps me away from Mama!' " he said.

"They can come out here, get in the cart, get a  cooler of beer, go out and play and come in and have me a couple of  drinks and go home and say, 'I'm happy!' And when they get home and Mama  says this is what you need to do, they can say, 'I'm too tired Mama,  I'll get it another day!' "

While the recession has trimmed housing sales and slowed   the golf business   , Willard chooses to look at the bright side  .

"The big thing is value and appreciation of  lifestyle," Willard said. "Golf has brought a lot of wealth to Smith  Mountain Lake."

Now that he has turned over many of his daily work  duties to his son, Ron, Willard has found more time to play golf. The  ultimate salesman has long parlayed the game for business.

"The real thing about golf is if you want to get to  know somebody - you can go out to dinner, you can do whatever you want  with them, you can go fishing with them - but when you play 18 holes of  golf and hang out with them for four hours you can learn an awful lot  about the person you're with," Willard said.

Those business rounds have helped Willard make  decisions about the people he works with. And he's not above losing a  round to make potential client happy. When he's not using his game to  negotiate, Willard's career-low round of golf is a 75. Better than most  ever shoot, certainly.

"The lowest I've had this year is an 83," said  Willard on Tuesday. "I'm playing this afternoon and all the guys want to  bet me because they find my game a little bit suspect. But I've been  working on it so I'm going to give them a damned good surprise today!"

Was he surprised when he got the call on becoming a hall of famer?

"I'm very honored to even think that this committee  would even consider putting me into the hall of fame," Willard said.  "The real compliment I get out of all this is for those guys to  recognize and just give me a little piece of an opportunity to be a part  of this hall of fame. It really makes me feel good."


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