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City native plays way into Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame

City native plays way into Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame

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In a golfing career that has spanned more than 50 years, the tournaments seem to run together for Marilyn Bussey.

There is at least one she will never forget.

The occasion was the 25th annual Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame championship, originally scheduled for 36 holes at Hidden Valley before a lengthy rain delay caused the tournament to be cut from 36 holes to 27 holes, including a crosstown trip to Countryside for the final 18.

Countryside was Bussey’s home course and she took advantage, rallying from a four-shot deficit for the biggest win of her career.

Bussey had won other tournaments, including a pair of city-county championships, but the 2003 Hall of Fame title was her crowning accomplishment.

“I thought I was too old to ever win this thing,” said Bussey, who was 54 at the time.

Bussey had been a regular contender in citywide events and had too many top-five finishes to count, one of the considerations in her selection to the Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame.

“I’m really happy for her because she’s given so much to the game,” said Sara Cole, noting that Bussey had coached at Northside High School and was president of the women’s division of the Virginia State Golf Association.

Cole was named to the Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame in 2016.

“She did a lot for our area in terms of representation,” Cole said of Bussey. “She started it all and kind of passed it along to the rest of us. To me, she epitomizes the enjoyment of golf as a game.

“She likes to talk, which breaks any barrier.”

A little-known fact about Bussey, a graduate of William Fleming High School, is that she was on the first women’s golf team at James Madison University, then known as Madison College, in 1969.

“We weren’t real good,” she confessed. “Ms. [Martha] O’Donnell was our coach, who we dearly loved. She was fun to be around, but she’d slap you on the back and say, ‘Straighten up.’

“She was the one who taught me how to chip.”

Bussey, born and raised in Roanoke, was introduced to the game at Brookside, the par-3 course off Williamson Road that had a driving range at the time.

Her first exposure to an 18-hole course was when her brother, Bob, took her to Blue Hills, where he would play with some of his Sears co-workers.

“I had the worst blisters,” she said. “Golf shoes are much more comfortable now than they used to be.”

Countryside, which closed in 2010, was her home course for a long time. She had a hole-in-one at No. 14.

Bussey taught health and physical education at Northside Middle School and also was the coach of the Northside High School girls’ basketball team.

She won more than 200 games before her retirement as the Northside varsity coach and now raises cows on a hillside near Hanging Rock. She’ll even play golf on occasion.

“Seriously, I play very, very little,” said Bussey, who turns 72 in August. “I’ve tried to make myself play at least once a week and I haven’t followed through on that real well. I need to make myself do it because I know I would like it.”

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Doug Doughty is in his 44th year at the Roanoke Times, having produced an estimated 10,000 by-lines, a majority of them on University of Virginia athletics.

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