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Roanoke Golf Hall of Fame inductee Joyce honored for influence on youth

Roanoke Golf Hall of Fame inductee Joyce honored for influence on youth

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Giving back to the game.

Those five words perfectly explain why Salem’s Tommy Joyce Jr. is bound for the Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame.

Joyce, the driving force behind the origination of the highly successful Roanoke Valley Junior Golf Tour in 2000, has been tapped as the Hall of Fame’s 43rd member.

“I didn’t get in this because of my playing ability,” Joyce said with a laugh this week at Hunting Hills Country Club, where he serves as the club’s general manager.

“To me, being around the kids is fun. I think it’s been a huge success, as throughout the year we will have 120 to 150 kids play. This spring we averaged from 40 to 50 each tournament. I think we have 18 to 20 one-day tournaments this year, all on weekends.”

Joyce doesn’t do it all by himself. Roanoke Country Club teaching professional Steve Prater and Hanging Rock teaching pro Roby Roberson also donate a lot of their time to the local junior tour, which has enabled the kids to learn and experience the game.

“I thought there was a need for juniors in the area to be able to play in tournaments without the expenses and travel associated with junior golf,” Joyce said. “I thought it would be nice to have something more for starting players.”

It’s been a huge success story so far.

“Just seeing what the junior tour has produced to this point makes it quite evident,” Joyce said.

He was quick to point out such former RVJGT participants as Blacksburg’s Lanto Griffin and Courtney Ellenbogen, and Salem’s Fielding Brewbaker, all of whom eventually took their games to a higher level.

“Those kids got all this tournament experience by the time they were 10 or 11 years old,” Joyce said. “And by the time they got to high school, just look at how many high school state championships we’ve had.”

Strong point. Blacksburg won three consecutive Group AA titles from 2006-08. Salem won the Group AA crown in 2012. Last year, Hidden Valley captured the Group 3A championship.

Jerry English, who serves on the four-member HOF selection committee, said Joyce’s nomination and eventual selection to the Hall was akin to a “gimme” putt.

“All you had to [do] was look at Tommy’s career resume to see why he deserves to be in our Hall of Fame,” English said.

“The overall biggest reason is his efforts in the junior golf scene,” English said. “His efforts in forming the local junior tour have been tremendous.”

English, a 2012 inductee, also noted that the selection committee felt it was time to induct a PGA-certified professional. The last living pro who made the Hall was Chip Sullivan in 2005.

Joyce certainly fit the mold.

The 47-year-old Bassett native turned professional in 1991 after a successful college playing career at Virginia Commonwealth. After playing on pro golf’s mini tours with nominal success in the early 1990s, he served as head pro at Cypress Bay in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

He then returned to Southwest Virginia in 1999 to become head pro at Salem’s Hidden Valley Country Club. In 2012, he left Hidden Valley to become general manager at Hunting Hills.

At every stop, Joyce has heavily catered to the youngsters. He was recognized by U.S. Kids Golf as one of the Top 50 Kid teachers in America in 2004, 2006 and 2011. In 2008, Joyce was awarded the Middle Atlantic Professional Golf Association’s highest honor and recognized as its Golf Professional of the Year.

Joyce grew up in the game, spending most of his childhood days at Martinsville’s Lynwood Golf Club.

“My dad [Tommy Sr.] was the first one to put a golf club in my hand,” said Joyce, whose mother, Pauline, passed away last week. “Every Sunday after church we would get in the car and go play golf, and I would always play with his golfing buddies.” Joyce said.

“My dad had quite an influence. I was playing with 56-year-old guys and I was 8 or 9 years old, and you learned how to be a gentleman. I think that’s the good thing about golf.”

Also at the Martinsville course, the younger Joyce met one of the most influential people in his life, club pro Wayne Haley who died a decade ago.

Haley was second in line, but his influence on Joyce remains to this day.

“Wayne was my golfing dad in a lot of ways,” Joyce recalled. “He did 90 percent of the teaching to me. I would spend my summers sitting in that golf shop at Lynwood and he took a huge interest in my game.

“He would straighten me out when things were wrong. He always had advice to fix things.”

Then there was Jack Bell, his college coach at VCU who is now retired.

“Coach would always go that extra step,” said Joyce, noting that his parents worked 40 years in the old Fieldcrest Mills in Fieldale and weren’t exactly loaded with money.

“Coach would give me jobs at the golf course in the summers, and he would pay for a lot of my amateur golf so I could go and travel around in the national amateur tournaments. The stuff he did for me was unbelievable. He was a big influence on me.”

In addition to the youngsters in the RVJGT, Joyce has his own kids, too. He and his wife, Kristy, have a 10-year-old son, Trey, and an 8-year-old daughter, Kendall.

Now, he’s heading to the Hall of Fame. Joyce will be formally inducted into the Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame at the organization’s annual banquet in November.

“It’s pretty exciting stuff,” Joyce said. “It’s a big thing in the Roanoke Valley. It still makes you feel old.”

That’s OK. The guy still has all the kids to help keep him young.

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