News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Dixie Section PGA honors Decatur’s Burleson

From Staff Reports

The Dixie Section PGA is paying tribute to one of Decatur’s own during its senior championship at Point Mallard.

W.S. “Bill” Burleson, 89, believed to be the oldest member of the Dixie Section, is being recognized for his long membership in the organization and his contributions to golf. He served as the honorary starter for Sunday’s pro-am event. Action for the 36-hole Dixie Section tournament begins Monday at 7:30 a.m. and concludes Tuesday, when play tees off again at 7:30 a.m.

“I am honored,” Burleson said. “I enjoyed playing in the Dixie Section tournaments over the years and remember fondly some of my playing partners, such as Dick Cline, Otey Crissman and Conrad Rehling. We had a lot of fun at the tournaments.”

Born in Decatur in 1917, Burleson got his start in the game as an 11-year-old caddie at Decatur Country Club during the Depression.

“We got 35 cents for 18 holes, and if we were lucky, sometimes a nickel tip,” Burleson said.

He became a near scratch player by the time he was 16. After graduating from Decatur High, he took a job in a hosiery mill. He married the former Margaret Ann Holland of Athens, and they had two sons, Alan and Jim.

He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.

“I had always wanted to get into golf,” Burleson said, “but didn’t have the opportunity until many years later. In 1954, I heard that the new Athens Country Club was looking for a pro-superintendent.”

Burleson said Bill Curtis, the head golf professional at Decatur Country Club, helped him get the job.

Although he knew little about operating a pro shop or growing grass, he learned fast.

“It was strictly on-the-job training,” Burleson said. “But I had a lot of support from the members, most of whom had never played golf before. I gave a lot of lessons.”

Burleson became a Class A member of the PGA in 1959 and left Athens to take a job at Dothan Country Club as course superintendent. In Dothan, he had to prepare the course for its noted Future Masters tournament.

In 1965, he accepted the job as pro-superintendent at the new Burningtree Country Club.

He started at Burningtree while the bulldozers were still roughing in the course. He got to know the architect, George Cobb.

During his tenure, in 1967, Burningtree started its popular Spirit of America tournament, which still attracts some of the best college players in America each year.

Burleson became the first pro at Point Mallard in 1970, and he stayed until his retirement in 1980.

Later, he helped son Jim run a nine-hole course in Athens, where he scored his last hole-in-one a few years ago on a 200-yard hole.

He was inducted into the Morgan County Sports Hall of Fame in 1999.

He has been a member of Southside Baptist Church for 74 years.

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