Celebrating a legend of the game
Updated: Mar 31
By Gregg Dewalt
Tee Times Editor
Whit Turnbow is used to pressure.
As a player, as a coach and now as the president of the Tennessee Golf Foundation who took over for legendary Dick Horton nearly two years ago, Turnbow has always been able to handle it with ease and grace.
But this was a different type of pressure – plan a meeting with Horton while in the same building getting a surprise party together for a major announcement about Horton being selected to this year’s class of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
No pressure, right?
“Some representatives of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame reached out and said they wanted to do somewhat of a surprise announcement for him,” Turnbow recalled recently. “I had to call somewhat of a fake meeting between Mr. Horton and myself and our chairman of the board Jim Seabury to get him to Golf House and also give them time to set up downstairs and situated.”
The trick was keeping Horton occupied until everything was just right downstairs. Like making a clutch putt to win a match, Turnbow executed the surprise perfectly.
“It took a little legwork up front, but it went off perfectly,” Turnbow said, “He was certainly surprised when he came down steps to see all those friends and family to official make that announcement.”
Local media attended the event and there was a luncheon to celebrate the announcement.
Turnbow was relieved it went off without a hitch.
“It was a little hectic there for a little while but it went off very well and we had a great time,” he said.
It came as a surprise to many that Horton, who served in about every capacity there is in Tennessee golf, wasn’t already in the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
Vince Gill, who was touring and couldn’t attend, sent a video tribute to Horton.
“I thought Dick was had been in the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame for about a thousand years,” he joked.
Turnbow was proud that Horton will be inducted, noting his many accomplishments and what he has meant to the sport in the state.
“I think back over the years of all the things he has contributed,” he said. “(Former Belmont basketball coach) Rick Byrd said it best ‘No person other than maybe Pat Summitt has done more for their sport in the state of Tennessee than Dick Horton has done for golf. I think that is absolutely right.”
Turnbow has known Horton since his junior playing days, having participated in the junior tours and attending camps. Now, he’s carrying on Horton’s legacy.
“He’s been so good to me,” he said. “Now to be able to sort of follow in his footsteps and I am starting to get a deep dive into what he actually accomplished over the years - it was really astounding to me.”
Horton remains active at the TGF in an advisory role and continues as a mentor to Turnbow.
“He’s been so good through this transition,” Turnbow said. “When I first started, he was in there every day. There were meetings and notes and agreements and everything that had happened over the years and getting a feel for all of it. You can imagine you do something for 30-plus years, everything they did was in his mind. To be able to relay that to me was so helpful. I was thrilled to get that call and know that he was going to be properly honored as one of the great individuals in sports of all time.
Horton isn’t the first legend Turnbow has followed. He followed Johnny Moore as golf coach at Middle Tennessee State.
“He’s a legend and in the hall of fame at MTSU,” Turnbow said. “He did a tremendous job as its golf coach and I stepped into his shoes. I felt like I was prepared for taking over so somebody who had been around that long and done such an amazing job. I have been fortunate to take over for two real legends in the game.”