Jim Awtrey has been honored in just about every way imaginable for his contributions to golf. The list is lengthy and prestigious, and Awtrey admitted his selection as a 2019 Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame inductee is particularly significant.
“This one means a lot,” Awtrey said. “It’s a place I’m from and still have a great affinity for.”
The 75-year-old Awtrey has run the golf gamut, having been a junior player, an amateur, a collegiate player and coach, a touring pro, an assistant pro, a golf course and facility manager, a rules official and tournament director before ultimately becoming one of the most impactful executives the sport has known.
Although Awtrey was born in Oakland, Calif., while his father was stationed there with the Navy during World War II, he grew up in Shawnee.
Awtrey played collegiately at the University of Oklahoma and after graduating with an accounting degree in 1966, his career in the industry began as an assistant professional for 2017 Oklahoma Golf Hall of Fame inductee Joe Walser at Lake Hefner Golf Course in Oklahoma City. Awtrey later returned to his alma mater as head coach from 1972-77 and led the Sooners to three NCAA tournament appearances while mentoring three All-Americans.
After leaving the OU program, Awtrey served a variety of roles with the PGA of America and South Central PGA Section, from treasurer and president of the section before becoming a member of the PGA Rules Committee and its Board of Directors.
In 1986, the PGA offered Awtrey the position of tournament manager. Nine months later, he was selected as Executive Director on an interim basis and soon became the first PGA professional ever to hold the title. In 1993, Awtrey was named the PGA of America’s first CEO and held the position until his retirement in November 2005.
During Awtrey’s tenure, the PGA of America enjoyed unprecedented success. Most notably, the Ryder Cup became golf’s preeminent international competition and the PGA Championship gained in stature as one of golf’s four majors.
“We developed a strategic plan early and we were able to get to all of them because we kept evolving and creating benefits out of the money raised,” Awtrey said. “The plan was executed and it was a great time to do it.”
Awtrey and his wife, Jeanne, have been married 51 years, live in Windermere, Fla., and are the parents of daughters Jena and Julie; and a son, Justin.