Chip Sullivan Inducted into RVGHOF May 9, 2005  (14 years ago)

2005: Chip Sullivan
By Randy King, The Roanoke Times
May 9, 2005, 10:51

Chip Sullivan was a complete stranger to the RoanokeValley when he showed up in 1993. A dozen years later, the guy requires introduction to few among those in the area golf circle.


Confirmation of such has been provided by the Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame, which has tapped Sullivan as the newest member of its most prestigious class.


Sullivan, 40, who in 1997 became only the second player with Roanoke ties to compete regularly on the PGA Tour, has been selected as the Hall of Fame's 2005 inductee. The Albany, N.Y., native will be formally enshrined as the Hall of Fame's 30th member in November.


"Heck yeah, this is big," said Sullivan, the head professional at Daleville's Ashley Plantation Golf & Country Club. "I haven't really looked at the list lately of people in there, but I guess I've got to be one of the few who weren't born and raised in Roanoke. If you had told me 12 years when I came here that I would be inducted into the Hall of Fame, I would have called you a liar."


Sullivan's golf game is far from a lie. In addition to his '97 foray on the PGA Tour, Sullivan has been a dominant force in the PGA's Mid-Atlantic Region. Last August, Sullivan cemented his Hall of Fame credentials when he finished as the low club pro in the PGA Championship in Haven, Wis. His 1-under-par 287 score was the best finish by a club pro in the event since 1969. He tied for 34th overall, earning $34,250.


Sullivan's performance was the subject of much national media attention. He helped put Roanoke and Ashley Plantation on the national golf map during a trying week in which his oldest sister was days short of her death in a New Orleans hospital and his wife, Kari, was expecting the couple's third child any day back home.


"That was a special moment," Sullivan said. "It's the kind of week in your life that you'll remember forever."


Sullivan said his magical week at the PGA was matched by only one other feat in his career - his third-place finish in the PGA Tour's QualifyingSchool in Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1996 that enabled him to earn fully exempt status on the '97 tour.


"Being a club pro and going out there and doing that was just really unheard of," said Sullivan, who has failed in his other 16 trips to qualify for the PGA Tour. "I don't know of any club pro who has been able to just go to Q-school and get their tour card. That kind of set up my whole life after that."


Sullivan, who maintains he's a better player today, struggled in his run with the big boys. He earned only $41,019 in 27 tournaments and fell far short of finishing among the circuit's top 125 money-earners and keeping his tour card. Still, it was an experience that only a chosen few get to enjoy.


Roanoke native Ed Sneed, who played the PGA Tour in the 1970s and '80s, is the only other player with StarCity ties to compete regularly on tour.


"I had the time of my life . . . Kari and I were newlyweds with no kids and we got to go to all these great places and be around the greatest golfers in the world," he said. "As in any business, I think if you have a few years to work in that business you could probably make it a success. But asking to do it in less than a year, to be successful at something you're really wet behind the ears, a rookie, it was a tough calling for me."


After spending 1998 as head pro at Chanticleer Golf Course in Greenville, S.C., Sullivan returned to the area in '99, taking over as head pro at owner RileyOverbay's new Ashley Plantation club.


"Kari and I both wanted to get back here, and I think it was such a good fit," Sullivan said. "I gave up playing the Nike [now Nationwide] Tour, which I qualified for in '99, to take that job and I really haven't looked back. I've been able to promote golf in the valley through my playing and, hopefully, give some things back to the community by working with juniors and establishing a whole new club.


Sullivan now has three young children - daughters Kalley (7) and Camryn (3) and son Colby (8 months) - and loves life at 40. He thanks the RoanokeValley for his prosperity.


"At first I wasn't sure about the place," Sullivan said, laughing. "When I first joined Billy [McBride Jr., head pro] at Hanging Rock, I tell you it was a struggle because I had to expect people to come take lessons from a complete stranger in town.


"But as it turned out, I hit the jackpot. Who would have thought I would meet the girl of my dreams, establish a family and residence here? Know what? It just worked out perfect."


Reprinted with permission from The Roanoke Times.


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