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Sappington’s Road To Senior Hall Of Fame

They say that behind every man there is a good woman. What they don’t necessarily say is what the relationship of the man to the woman is. In the case of Spencer Sappington, it was his Aunt Dorothy who first taught him how to play the game. Dorothy Holsinger, who lived to 102 before going to the great golf course in the sky, is looking down approvingly this week, as her pupil all those years ago is being inducted into the National Senior Golf Hall of Fame in High Point, N.C. Sappington still gets emotional at just the mention of her name, and he most certainly will do so in his acceptance speech Wednesday night. Sappington, born in 1943, says he “dumb-lucked into golf” at the age of 14 and fell in love with the game in Jefferson City, Mo. He wasn’t particularly good, and at the suggestion of his father, he spent some time with Aunt Dorothy, a past Florida women’s champion who was the women’s golf coach at the University of Missouri. At age 18, Aunt Dorothy took Sappington on as a student and taught the 14 handicapper how to really play the game. Within just six months, he became a good enough player to earn a golf scholarship to Lincoln University in his hometown. While there, he earned Division II All-American honors and was captain of the golf team. He would compete at a high level for the rest of his life. For the following 20 years he played locally in Missouri and Arizona while building what would become a 33-year career with American Express. He was a regular contestant in the Missouri State Amateur, losing in the final one year to current Walker Cup captain Jim Holtgrieve. The same goes for Arizona, where he lost in the final of the state amateur to the legendary Dr. Ed Updegraff in 1969. During his time in Arizona and Missouri, he always was ranked among the top 10 amateurs in the state. Holtgrieve remembers him as “a tenacious competitor. He was the only guy I was scared of.” It was when he moved to Atlanta in 1984 that he began to fill up his trophy case. And all of a sudden, there were a lot fewer trophies to be had in the Georgia amateur game. Sappington won 16 Georgia State Amateur Championships and was named Player of the Year in 2004; he was also named Senior Player of the Year five times. He won the state senior title five times, including a record three in a row (2003-2005). He won state super seniors title three times and was the 1993 state senior open champion. For all his accomplishments in the Peach State, he was inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame in 2008. He had some success at the national level as well, winning the tournament that will honor him this week in 2001, and then again in 2011 as a Super Senior. He has Dale Morey and U.S. Senior Challenge titles to go along with those as well. Over the course of his career, he made 19 USGA appearances, where his best finish came in 2000 when he advanced to the quarterfinals of the Senior Amateur championship. “This is really humbling” he told me of his Senior Hall of Fame induction. “These are my peers. I watched them, admired them, played with and against them.” Since the World Golf Hall of Fame is comprised mostly of professionals, the National Senior Hall of Fame “is really important” said Sappington. Just 14 of the 146 inductees in the WGHOF are amateurs; all of them deserving, but so are many more. That is essentially the void the National Senior HOF fills.


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