Somber reflections of 2018

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Once more, the Christmas and New Year’s holidays brought special times, special memories and a welcomed break — for a while — from the daily routine.

But far, far too many didn’t experience the accompanying wide-eyed excitement, merriment, gifts, parties, the family ties, the rekindling of traditions, reliving the good ole times and the hope, joy, the celebratory anticipation of the first tick beyond midnight and, if you will, the start of a new year.

So many approached the holidays with dread and reality of the forthcoming loneliness and somber reflections of absent loved ones who passed away during the year.

I definitely understand that somber reflections eventually emerge and personally extend sentiments and thoughts to the families, loved ones, friends and acquaintances of Ron Poythress, Pat Fagala and Kathy Bullin.

All departed the area sports scene in 2018 and I was extremely fortunate that our lives’ paths crossed because of golf involvement.

RON POYTHRESS — He enjoyed golf history, its legends and its famous venues. Ron visited several and always returned with glowing reports that lingered as long as anyone would listen.

He played golf as a member of Happy Valley Country Club and Willow Springs Country Club for years and years. Ron enjoyed tournaments, especially when the opportunity presented itself to be paired with his son, Todd, or his brother, Royce.

He was my neighbor for the last 14 years and we chatted frequently about our neighborhood.

Ron was also an avid card player and his participation in the annual Bowl Contest — now observing its 42nd year — was a certainty.

Ron loved dancing and was well known as a loyal, active Shriner.

He seldom hurried and, in card games, his opponents wonder if the tendency was a deliberate ploy.

Ron spoke often of his wife, son and grandchildren. His nickname of “Unique” was most fitting.

He expressed a disdain for controversy and commotion. Occasionally, the Marine in him would surface and he would instruct all to “stand down.”

PAT FAGALA — She was a doer. A strong-willed personality, Pat gave generously of her time, energy, talent and resources.

She truly promoted golf, especially for women, juniors and seniors.

Upon my departure from Wilson for nearly three years in 2001, Pat attempted to provide golf coverage in behalf of The Wilson Times sports department. She encountered numerous frustrations and obstacles, but she never abandoned the cause until my return in 2004. She continued to provide information.

The golfing community owes her a debt of gratitude. She cared.

Pat was influential in senior women’s tees being established at Wilson courses.

She enjoyed golf competition, winning club and county championships.

She could be outspoken. Pat didn’t hesitate to express her viewpoint and was prepared for rebuttal. I always found we could agree to disagree.

As previously suggested, Pat got things done — and she didn’t have to be asked to become involved. Her willingness to take the initiative met with approval and, occasionally, disapproval. But Pat moved on.

In her later years, Pat was extremely active with the Wilson County Junior Golf Association and its county championship tournament in the heat of the summer.

She assisted in numerous roles and her greatest pleasure came as scorekeeper for groups of boys and girls in the younger age divisions. Relating her experiences often brought her to tears.

I certainly will never forget her kindness — and the fact she was an excellent cook.

KATHY BULLIN — We’re told that behind every great man stands a strong woman. Hopefully, the adage goes something like that.

We adored Grover Bullin, her husband of 46 years who preceded her in death, as a great man on the basis of a remarkable tenure of more than 40 years as head golf professional at Wilson Country Club.

Kathy not only stood behind Grover, she stood beside him.

She was his chief advisor; he didn’t make many decisions without conferring with her. Kathy understood the golf business and spent countless time with Grover in the golf shop.

She knew a lot about a lot of people. But everything with Kathy was always about Grover and not about her.

She offered constructive criticism without being asked and Kathy convinced that her No. 1 life’s mission was the best alternative for Grover.

Kathy could finally relax with Grover’s induction into the Carolinas section of the Professional Golfers Association Hall of Fame.

HAPPY VALLEY — The sadness lingers over Happy Valley Country Club being closed in early August.

The popular landmark in Wilson for more than 50 years died a slow, agonizing death.

The venue lived up to its moniker as the country club located in the country. Folks were folks there.

Ah, the memories — especially those high-volume, high-octane spades games.

I could never adequately express my gratitude to owner Bill Powell, golf pro Gary Hobgood, his wife, Cynthia; and John Owens, the pro shop guy, for the welcome, kindness and courtesies they extended.

So valuable was rekindling friendships with such individuals as John Wooten, Tommy Howell, Ron Vance, M.A. Tyson, the late Ron Poythress, Doug Raper, Rick Proctor, Rick Watson, Billy Gay, Russell Lamm, Kevin Wooten, Darryl Baker, Jim Fagala, Don Ferrell and others.

And enough can’t be said about live-wire new cronies: Larry Lane, Greg Narron, Scott Irby, Brandon Godwin, Brock Godwin, Lenny, Bryson and Ethan Boyette; Tommy Barnes, Skeeter Branch, Buddy Page, Leander Green, the late Bob Dickson, Donald Tomlinson, Ray Bass, Bruce Spivey, Ricky Joyner, Doug Barnes and even Zim Hagan.

How I miss traveling that entrance road that was so badly in need of repair.

Thanks for reading and sincerest wishes for a healthy and meaningful new year.