KCGA to Induct Three into Hall of Fame

Local touring professional Bob Stone and renowned amateur Karen Schull MacGee will add their names to the roster of local golf greats when they are inducted into the Kansas City Golf Hall of Fame in the class of 2014.

Joining this duo of great players will be the “The Foursome,” golfing pioneers who took on “Jim Crow” and opened public golf facilities to players of color in the 1950s.

In the early 20th Century, the movement to build municipal golf courses was seen as a way to democratize the game, allowing the poor and middle-class to enjoy the values of health, recreation and camaraderie associated with playing golf. But these same values were denied to men and women of color. Until The Foursome came along.

These four men: George Johnson, Reuben Benton, Sylvester “Pat” Johnson and Leroy Doty changed that in March 1950. They drove “up the hill” from the hardscrabble nine-hole course blacks were allowed to play (Swope #2) to the A.W. Tillinghast designed Swope #1 (now Swope Memorial).

Demanding the “right” to play the course their tax dollars were used to maintain, the four were turned away by the man behind the desk. Unwilling to accept “no” for an answer, they laid their money on the counter and proceeded to the first tee where, to threats of arrest, they took on “Jim Crow” and won. It wasn’t quick or easy, but their heroic first steps eventually opened the gates of city owned facilities to all people, regardless of race.

Bob Stone won more than 45 times as a professional, including the Florida Citrus Open on the PGA Tour in 1969. He found success throughout the country from the mid-1950s to the 1980s always returning to his club professional roots at Rockwood and later, at Crackerneck Golf Club in Independence.

In the 1981 US Senior Open, Stone finished tied with legends Arnold Palmer and Billy Casper. In the 18-hole Monday playoff he surged into an early lead, only to be overtaken by a streaking Palmer, but besting Casper by three strokes.

Stone was a contender in state Open Championships throughout the mid-west winning multiple times in Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kentucky and Wisconsin. He was Midwest Section PGA Champion four times, US Open Sectional qualifier three times and Senior Open qualifier twice.

Karen Schull MacGee was a graduate of Southwest High School and the University of Kansas. Between 1958 and 1980 MacGee was “the one to beat” in women’s golf in the Kansas City area. She won the Kansas Women’s Amateur five times, the Missouri Women’s Amateur seven times and had twelve Kansas City Match Play and Country Club District championships.

After winning the KC Match Play championship for the eighth time in 1980, MacGee opted to focus on her career in nursing and stepped away from competitive golf.

The Kansas City Golf Hall of Fame was created in 2012 to cap the celebration of the centennial anniversary of the KCGA. The Hall recognizes the contributions and accomplishments of area amateur and professional golfers, teaching professionals, golf course superintendents and pioneers of the game.

Stone, MacGee and “The Foursome” join the golf greats who were inducted in the inaugural class last year. That class included local legend Tom Watson, long-time teaching pro Stan Thirsk, turf grass pioneer and golf course superintendent Chester Mendenhall, Opal Hill accomplished player, teacher and one of the founders of the LPGA, 1927 US Women’s’ Amateur Champion Miriam Burns (Horn) Tyson, former KCGA Executive Director Bob Reid and 25-year Blue Hills professional Leland “Duke” Gibson.

The induction ceremonies will take place in conjunction with the annual meeting of the KCGA Board of Directors on November 15, 2015 at Indian Hills Country Club at 12:00 p.m. For press credentials to the event, please contact Matt Williams at matt@kcgolf.org