Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame to enshrine first men's champion Jun 9, 2011  (8 years ago)
2011: Dr. Peter Wallenborn, III
By Randy King
Jun 9, 2011, 07:30

 

Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame to enshrine first men's champion

Peter Wallenborn won back-to-back Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame titles in 1974-75.

One of the best golfers ever to come out of the Roanoke Valley still uses an old Persimmon-head driver.

Three and a half decades removed from his golfing pinnacle, Dr. Peter Wallenborn III remains pretty much old school.

"Yeah, I still have a wood driver!" said Wallenborn, laughing. "I've got a metal 3-wood, but I haven't gotten the metal driver yet. Some of us have a hard time changing. We get fixed in our ways."

Not anymore. Wallenborn is headed someplace new. It's called the Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame.

Wallenborn, winner of the organization's first two men's championships in 1974-75, will be enshrined as the 38th inductee into the Hall of Fame at the RVHOF's season-ending banquet in November.

"I was a little surprised to be nominated, to tell you the truth. It's an honor," said Wallenborn in reaction.

Wallenborn, who also won the old Roanoke Valley Golf Association's City-County titles in 1971 and 1974, has spent the majority of his life in North Carolina since graduating from Patrick Henry High in 1971. Since 1984, the Roanoke native has lived in Asheville, N.C., where he has been an ear, nose and throat physician.

Wallenborn played college golf at the University of North Carolina, where he was a three-year letterman and finished third in the 1974 ACC championship.

Wallenborn was the undisputed best amateur player in the valley in the early 1970s, as his capturing four major titles in the valley in a four-year span confirmed. Besides, who else could carve up a course like he could back then with one of the game's long-forgotten tools -- the 1-iron.

"That must have been my heyday," Wallenborn said. "I was in college at that time and I probably was a little more mature psychologically. You know that golf is such a psychological game. You really have to have the right frame of mind when you're playing competitively and you're right in the thick of it. You really have to train your mind to not play tricks on you."

When asked what he recalled about winning the first two Hall of Fame individual titles, Wallenborn's No. 1 memory was what he didn't do for his Roanoke Country Club team in the inaugural tournament.

"I remember that I three-putted the last hole [No. 18 at Blue Hills] for us not to be in a playoff the first year. I felt terrible about that," Wallenborn said.

"It's funny that's about all I remember. It was about a 3-foot putt. People were still putting out and I wasn't quite sure whether that was going to mean us winning it or tying it or losing it. But still it was a short putt that I missed that I should have made.

"Now, the second year we did win the team title so that was a lot nicer victory."

Wallenborn lettered at Carolina in 1972 as a freshman. He missed his sophomore season in 1973, when he was drafted into the Army and spent 4-5 months on active duty. He enjoyed his best season as a junior, playing in the final group with Wake Forest's Jay Haas in the ACC championship. Wallenborn said a couple of three-putts on the final nine holes cost him and helped spur Haas to a two-shot triumph. Haas, of course, went on to become a top-echelon player on both the PGA Tour and Champions Tour, where he still competes today.

After winning the inaugural HOF and the City-County title in a two-week span in June, 1974, Wallenborn was involved in an epic match in the VSGA Amateur Championship a few weeks later on his home RCC course. Wallenborn had Virginia Beach's Curtis Strange, who would go on to become a two-time U.S. Open champion, 3-down at the turn in a second-round match. Strange, however, rallied to win in 19 holes.

"That was upsetting," Wallenborn said. "You worked so hard and you lose it on the 19th hole to a birdie. And I was 4-under par and 3-up after nine holes. Then he birdied three holes on the back side so we were even.

"On the 19th hole, we both had birdie putts. Mine was a little longer and I missed mine, and his went right up to the hole and sat there for a minute and then fell in. I kinda felt my heart fall out from that."

Wallenborn said he started playing golf when he was 8 or 9 years old at RCC, where his 90-year-old father, Pete Jr., still regularly plays. Wallenborn's mother, Dolly, is 86.

"I was on the swimming team [at RCC] and then I started playing golf," Wallenborn said. "I guess golf was more fun. Then I went to a golf camp in Pinehurst [N.C.] when I was probably 11 or 12 for three weeks, and that was really enjoyable."

After graduating from UNC in 1975, Wallenborn said he basically didn't play golf the next 10 years because of medical school and residency duties. He returned to the game after opening his practice in Asheville. It didn't take him long to rediscover his talent, as he captured four straight club championships from 1986-89 at Asheville Country Club.

He said he stopped playing competitive golf in 1990 to spend more time with his family. He has three daughters -- Grace, Claire and Olivia -- from his first marriage and has two stepdaughters from a second marriage.

"Unfortunately, none of them wanted to play golf," said Wallenborn, who won the VSGA Junior younger-division title at age 14 in 1967. "They were into everything else and golf takes a long time and you kind of feel guilty playing golf when you should be out there watching your kids play soccer or swimming or this or that."

Wallenborn played in U.S. Amateurs in 1974-75, losing to current Champions Tour player Keith Fergus in a third-round match in 1975. In the past decade or so, he has battled health problems and has undergone knee, shoulder and ankle surgeries.

"A lot of things have changed in my life," Wallenborn said. "I've had some bad fortunes where I haven't been able to play a lot of golf recently. But it certainly was a big part of my life, and I hope it will be in the future."

While he will never play like he used to, Wallenborn has one goal left in golf.

"The ultimate will be to one day to shoot my age," he said, noting his father has been performing the feat for 10-15 years. "My prediction is I will make it at 70 or 71. So I've got about 12 years to wait."

He will be a hall-of-famer when the day arrives.

Heading to the Hall

Dr. Peter Wallenborn III

Hometown: Roanoke Age: 58 Residence: Asheville, N.C. Career highlights: Won the VSGA Junior 14-and-under title in 1967. ... Was runner-up in the VSGA Junior 16-18 division in 1969 at Roanoke's old Arrowood Golf Club. ... Won the old Roanoke Valley Golf Association's City-County men's championship in 1971 and '74. ... Won the Roanoke Valley Hall of Fame's first two men's championships in 1974 and '75. He is one of only five players to capture the title in consecutive years, a feat since performed by Dicky Linkous (1986-87 and 1990-91), Bobby Penn (1992-93), Jake Allison (1995-96) and Scott Wise (2002-03). ... The 1971 Patrick Henry graduate played college golf at North Carolina, where he was a three-year letterman and captained the team as a senior in 1975. ... Finished third in the 1974 ACC championship. ... Lost in the second round of the 1974 VSGA Amateur Championship. ... Played in the U.S. Amateur in 1974 and '75. ... He was the Asheville Country Club champion for four consecutive years (1986-89).

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