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Gary Wilkins inducted into Northern Ohio PGA Hall of Fame
(Oct. 23, 2010) In late October, former NGCOA board member Gary Wilkins was inducted into the Northern Ohio PGA Hall of Fame (NOPGA). He joined such luminaries as Charlie Sifford, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, and Don Padgett, former president of Firestone Country Club and current president of Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina, in this year’s class.
Wilkins, the 59-year-old comptroller of Norwalk Golf Properties, has nearly four decades of experience in the golf industry. His career began in 1973, when he was hired as club professional and course superintendent of the former Norwalk Elks Country Club, a position he held for 24 years. He later joined forces with Bob and Ken Bleile in purchasing two adjoining farms and constructing Eagle Creek Golf Club in Norwalk. The course was completed in less than a year, and opened to the public in 1995.
In addition to operating courses, Wilkins has been active in golf at the local, state and national levels. He was heavily involved with the Lake Erie Junior Golf Association, serving as its president for several terms. He also served on the board of the Ohio Golf Course Owners Association, including a four-year term as president, and was a member of the NGCOA’s board for six years.
Always a solid player, the highlight of Wilkins’ playing career was in 1984, when he qualified and played in the PGA Championship at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Alabama. It was as a senior player, however, when he truly hit his stride.
Wilkins won the Ohio Senior Open in 2001, and after several section wins prior to that victory, he was named the NOPGA Player of the Year. Playing on his home course the following year, he won the Senior Sectional Championship. In 2002, however, back problems forced Wilkins to cut his playing schedule back to approximately six tournaments each year.
Despite his reduced playing schedule, Wilkins remained competitive, winning at least one event each year, including 2010. His record of finishing in the money in every tournament but one over the last 10 years is a mark that some observers believe may never be equaled. The only miss came in the 2004 Senior Sectional Championship at Mayfield Country Club, when Wilkins was forced to play with a broken toe. He managed a 71 on the first day, but struggled to a 76 in the second round, finishing at 147 and just missing the money.