Central Links Golf — the product of a merger of the Kansas City Golf Association and the Kansas Golf Association in 2020 — has named four outstanding individuals to join the Kansas City Golf Hall of Fame.
Rob Wilkin, Head Professional and General Manager of Heritage Park Golf Course in Overland Park, leads this year’s class. The 18-time Midwest PGA Section Player of the Year played college golf at Coffeyville (KS) Community College and the University of Kansas. He has played in ten major professional championships including the 1988 US Open, four PGA Championships, the 2011 US Senior Open and four Senior PGA Championships. Wilkin has played in every Watson Challenge since its inception and outlasted the event’s founder and namesake in a five-hole playoff for the title in 2016.
Amateur standout Steve Groom of Raytown joins the Hall on the strength of his outstanding playing career. A perennial contender for local and state Player of the Year honors, Groom has amassed more than 40 championships in Missouri, Kansas and Kansas City. He has qualified for nine USGA Public Links tournaments, five US Open Sectionals, two US Mid-Ams and one US Senior Amateur. In 2018 he lead the field in the British Senior Amateur Championship after the first round. In 2014 he carded an impressive 59 (33-26) at Bay Breeze in Biloxi, MS.
For more than 40 years, Dave Fearis served the game of golf as a leader among golf course superintendents at the local and national levels. From 1985 to 2000 he was the Superintendent at Kansas City’s Blue Hills Country Club. He served on the boards of the Heart of America Golf Course Superintendents Association, the Midwest Regional Turf Foundation and the Leawood Golf Advisory Board. From 2000 to 2007 he held various offices in The First Tee of Greater Kansas City and was its president in 2006-07.
The first woman elected as President of the Kansas City Golf Association, Mary Jane Barnes, led the organization into a new era of professional management. Under her leadership the organization hired its first full-time Executive Director and expanded tournament opportunities for local players and increased services to KCGA member clubs. Ms. Barnes was also an accomplished golfer in her own right having chalked up 18 Women’s Club Championships at her home club, Kansas City Country Club and played in two USGA national championships. She served on the USGA’s Women’s Mid Amateur Committee for 25 years, earning her the coveted Ike Granger Award.
Ms. Barnes joins the Hall of Fame as a Committee Selection.
“The Hall of Fame was created in 2012 as part of our celebration of the centennial of the KCGA,” said Greg Dunn, president of the newly formed Central Links Golf (CLG). “Our goal is to preserve our past and honor the accomplishments and contributions of those who made golf in this area great. Central Links is committed to continuing the tradition established prior to the merger of the KCGA and the Kansas Golf Association.”
“Over the first three classes of inductees,” he said, “we have recognized amateurs and professionals, men and women, contemporary as well as historic figures, golf administrators and superintendents and players and teachers. We are very proud that our Hall of Fame is all-inclusive and has recognized the greatest of those who have contributed so much to the enjoyment of our game.”
Previous inductees in the class of 2012 included professionals Tom Watson, Stan Thirsk, Leland “Duke” Gibson; 1927 US Women’s Amateur Champion Miriam Burns (Horn) Tyson; founding member of the LPGA Opal Hill; long time KCGA Executive Director Bob Reid; and pioneering course superintendent Chester “Chet” Mendenhall.
In 2014 the honorees were teaching and touring professional Bob Stone; amateur stand-out Karen (Shull) MacGee; and “The Foursome” a group of African-Americans who integrated the links at Swope Park in March 1950.
The 2016 class recognized “The Father of Kansas City Golf” James Dalgleish; amateur player Marian Gault; and Bill Ludwig, long-time Board member, volunteer and champion player.
The 2018 class brought touring professional and outstanding amateur Jim Colbert; Jean Pepper who was the “player to beat” in the 1930’s and 40’S; Frank Kirk who was instrumental in the establishment of the First Tee program and has served on the Boards of various golf organizations; and Maxine Johnson who dominated women’s golf in the 1950 in the region.
Nominees are voted on by a broad cross-section of local electors: all members of the CLG Board, living members of the Hall of Fame, the Executive Board of the Midwest Section PGA, representatives of the Golf Course Superintendents Association and emeritus members of the CLG Board. Five nominees appeared on this year’s ballot and each voter was able to cast three votes.
Because of restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s honorees will be inducted at a later date.
“It is our goal to be able to afford these worthy individuals an appropriate forum to be recognized by the Kansas City golf community as soon as that can be done in a safe manner”, said CLG President Dunn.