"Don Williams was a pro in every sense of the word," Jack Carey said. "He loved golf, loved his church, loved to hunt and was a great friend."
Those words echoed the sentiment of friends on the loss of the former Chattahoochee Golf Course head professional, who passed away Wednesday at the age of 72 following an extended illness.
Williams, a native of Mobile, Ala., was a permanent fixture in the golf community of Hall County after moving to the area in 1967.
He served as Chattahoochee’s head professional for 36 years before retiring in 2003, and was also the course superintendant from 1980-1992. Those who knew Williams best, all remember his tremendous work ethic. Williams’ reputation was to arrive at the course when it opened in the morning, and stay past when the last customer left in the evening.
Over the course of five decades spent at the city-owned course, he earned the right to be called a pioneer in the ranks of golf professionals. Some of the major projects he tackled at Chattahoochee included converting fairways from Bermuda to a higher quality turf, overseeing the installation of the course’s irrigation system, rebuilding two course greens and both practice greens, as well as building new tees and bunkers.
Chattahoochee’s superintendant Sheldon Foote says that Williams was always willing to tackle big responsibilities to help improve the course.
"Don always treated people with respect and was great at promoting the game of golf," said Ron Sinnock, Chattahochee’s superintendant from 1968-1979. "He’ll be sorely missed."
Friends also say that Williams was a modest man in his personal and professional life. He never sought out attention for his own accomplishments and always credited others for the golf course’s success. He was also a well-regarded player of the game he loved so much.
In his prime, Williams was able to play a round of golf at even par without any trouble. He regularly played in a group that included Gainesville native and 1973 Masters champion Tommy Aaron.
"Don did it all, and did it well," Carey added. "Chattahoochee Golf Course was his life."
His church family at Lakewood Baptist was also a major part of life. It was a running joke among his inner circle that Williams only crossed over Thompson Bridge to get to church.
"People used to always say, ‘I saw Don’s (Chevy) Blazer going across Thompson Bridge, he must have been going to church,’" Carey said.
Before becoming a golf professional, Williams was a professional baseball player in the Brooklyn Dodgers organization for seven seasons. He advanced as high as the Class AAA affiliates in Montreal and St. Paul, Minn. He returned to finish his college education at Southern Mississippi in 1960.
While he was in college, the former baseball player took up playing golf, and was quickly hooked. His first job as a course professional was at Belle Meade Country Club in Nashville, Tenn., as an assistant.
"I consider him one of the biggest influences in my life," Chattahoochee’s director of golf Mark Bowen said.