English richly deserving of RVGHOF honor Jun 4, 2012  (7 years ago)
2012: Jerry English
By Randy King
Jun 4, 2012, 21:50

 

English richly deserving of RVGHOF honor

The former coach has helped the Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame raise nearly $1 million in scholarships.

Photo by Rebecca Barnett "It's a very humbling experience," said Jerry English of his induction into the Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame. "I shy away from all the limelight as far as taking credit for things."

Frankly, the newest addition to the Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame didn't earn that honor because of his playing proficiency.

While he unquestionably was a much-better-than-most-type golfer, Roanoke's Jerry English was a unanimous choice by the selection board as the hall's 39th member because of the countless hours of work he's done off the golf course.

Operating as the classic behind-the-scenes guy, English has been a force behind nearly $1 million in college scholarship grants that have been awarded by the organization the past quarter century.

"I'm embarrassed in a certain sense and I'm happy, too," said English, 62, a retired Roanoke County Schools teacher and coach. "I don't want the glory because it's not about me. I'm always thinking of somebody else. There's somebody else who is more deserving than I am."

Don't bet on it. Just ask the hundreds of area high school and college students and their families who have benefitted from HOF scholarship awards.

"We in the valley are lucky to have a guy like Jerry," said Jason Perdue, who played on Northside High School's golf team in the late 1970s when English was an assistant coach under the late Al Johnson.

"I'm a big believer in the players getting into the Hall of Fame, but you've got people like Jerry who have been an integral part of golf in the valley. Not just golf, but just young people in the valley. I think it's the right thing to do and it comes really at the right time because he's largely responsible for a million dollars of scholarships."

His biggest accomplishment on the course came 25 years ago when he shot 1-under-par 70 on his home course, Countryside, and shared the first-round lead in the HOF men's championship. However, English has performed yeoman duty when it comes to helping kids since. It all started when he and friends, George Morehead and Ellsworth, co-founded the Don Holliday Memorial golf tournament in 1987.

"Don had passed away and we said 'why don't we have a captain's choice tournament and maybe we can raise a couple hundred dollars for Don?'" English recalled. "We had 144 people the first year. Then Billy McBride [Jr., the late Countryside and Hanging Rock head pro] said: 'I think y'all can do a double shotgun.' So the next year we did 288, and we sold it out. The rest is history."

The $20,000 Holliday award is the biggest prize of the annual scholarship grants awarded under the auspices of the HOF, which doled out a record $62,250 this year to a record 47 area students.

"Obviously, the Holliday is the big one & one of my proudest accomplishments in golf," said English, who served as the Holliday tournament chairman and director for 22 years and remains as the tournament's executive director.

The success of the Holliday led to the creation of similar tournaments that fuel the money for the King Family Scholarship, a $10,000 award named in honor of the family that ran Blue Hills Golf Club for nearly 50 years, plus the $5,000 Lamanca Scholarship, named in honor of the late Dave Lamanca.

"I mean the whole Don Holliday thing got to where it is today because of Jerry," Perdue said. "And because of the Holliday's success, all the scholarships through the Hall of Fame program grew into what they are today."

In 1990 English, with the assistance of William Byrd High School guidance counselor Gail Foley, changed the application process for the scholarships. The move increased applications from what had been single-digits to more than 75 per year.

"I looked at the applications and I said, 'it looks like you've got to be a really good golfer to apply,'" English said. "That's not the case. It's about good work in the classroom, character and citizenship. So we took scholarship applications from the VSGA, the Scott Robertson and others, and combined them all into one. All a kid has to have is an interest in golf. We promoted it and, then all of a sudden, we went from 20 to more than 100 applicants. Now, we've got 16 major [$1,000 or more] scholarships."

In addition to all his work on the scholarships, English and then-William Byrd golf coach Tim Chocklett teamed to launch the Roanoke Valley Junior Points Championship. They also revived the old Metro High School tournament after a two-year absence and named the event after the late Roanoke World-News sports editor Bob McLelland.

"I'm proud that I somewhat had a hand in all that," English said. "But when I was coaching in high school [Northside golf and boys basketball], it was the kids who won. To me, all these things are about how we did it as a team. So there are a lot of people who share in this honor I'm getting here."

English said his passion for philantropy "came in the blood," from his parents, William Penn "Penny" and Mildred English.

"My dad co-founded the Southeast Lions Little League organization back in 1960, plus he ran golf tournaments for the Veterans Administration and the Moose Club," he said. "And my mom was in the women's club. She's always been into volunteering."

Eighty-five year-old Penny English said of the elder of his two sons: "It must run in the family. I still play golf two times a week with about 20 other old guys at Blue Hills, and I've always been the one who did all the picking and lining up everybody. I'm like kinda the commish of the group."

In the end, it's the kids who reap the awards.

"In the DJ business I'm in now," said English, referring to his nightly gigs in area clubs, "they say it's not about the disc jockey, it's all about the music.

"And the kids are the music here when it comes to the scholarships. It's all about them and not a bit about me."

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