Gary Pinns is probably best known in Illinois golf circles for winning the Illinois Open five times. No one else has done that.
Pinns has done much more than that, howeve3r. He gave the PGA Tour a four-year shot before making an instantly successful transition into teaching. He’s been doing that as director of instruction at Oak Brook Golf Club for 31 years and has won numerous awards for his teaching prowess.
For those reasons he will be among six inductees into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame during ceremonies at The Glen Club, in Glenview, on Friday.
The Hall of Fame inducts new members every two years, and Pinns will joined by one other teaching pro, Dr. Jim Suttie. Suttie’s pupils include PGA Tour players Paul Azinger, Chip Beck, Jeff Sluman, Kevin Streelman and Mark Wilson.
Other inductees, all deceased, include Phil Kosin, creator of Chicagoland Golf magazine and radio show as well as the Illinois Women’s Open; Bessie Anthony, the state’s first great women’s player in a career that was highlighted by a title in the 1903 U.S. Women’s Amateur; Mason Phelps, an Olympic champion and two-time Western Amateur winner more than a century ago; and Herbert James Tweedie, a pioneer architect who designed 21 Chicago area courses in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Pinns’ career is one that stretches through all phases of the sport. A Wheaton resident now, he won the Illinois high school title for Glenbard East in 1974, then was a two-year captain at Wake Forest on teams that featured eventual PGA Tour members Gary Hallberg, Scott Hoch and Robert Wrenn.
First of the Illinois Open wins came at age 19 in 1978 at Elgin Country Club.
“My last tee shot went right and hit a tree,’’ recalled Pinns. “The ball came back in the fairway, and I won. Once you win one time you think you can win again.’’
He dd – again and again and again and again. Pinns picked up three more titles in the 1980s and the final, most dramatic one on his long-time home course at Village Links of Glen Ellyn in 1990. That one led him to enter qualifying for the Ben Hogan Tour – one of the predecessors of what is now the Korn Ferry Tour. From the developmental tour Pinns went on to the PGA circuit.
“I probably played in 75 tour events and made the cut in 30 of them,’’ he said. The highlight was his lone top-10 finish at the now defunct Greater Milwaukee Open. Eventually, at age 33, the realities of the real world set in. Married with two children by then, Pinns needed another means of support and teaching was it. His brother Doug has long been a teaching pro at Village Links.
“I got busy right away in the first month because my name was known,’’ said Pinns. “I needed it to happen then, and it’s turned out that teaching has been a better life than tour life. It’s been very satisfying, and I ‘ve been very fortunate.’’
He now has three adult children and has been working 60-hour weeks during this busy summer for recreational golfers. Tournaments are a thing of the past.
“I lost interest in competition because I couldn’t work at it,’’ said Pinns, who believes his record five Illinois Open titles will withstand the tests of time. Mike Small the University of Illinois men’s coach, has won the Illinois PGA Championship 13 times and is Pinns’ only challenger since he stopped playing. Small won four Illinois Opens but is now playing mainly in the senior ranks.
“My record won’t be broken,’’ predicted Pinns.“It’s harder now because there’s a lot of good players. When I was working at it I had just a few good club pros to beat.’’
WWGA honors Fullmer
Sandra Fullmer, an Illinois Golf Hall of Fame inductee in 1997, will add the coveted Woman of Distinction Award from the Women’s Western Golf Association on Thursday at Lake Shore Country Club in Glencoe.
Fullmer had an outstanding playing career, winning four Mexican Amateur titles as well as the Spanish and German amateur crows in 1959 before moving to Chicago. She kept winning here, claiming four Chicago Women’s District titles, three Northern Illinois Women’s titles and five Illinois State Senior crowns as well as the National Club Championship for Women in 1991.
She’s also been a long-time WWGA board member and a past president of the organization that has been a leading organizer of women’s events since 1899.
HERE AND THERE: The Chicago District Golf Assn. championship season concludes on Thursday with the end of the four-day Amateur Senior Four-Ball at Ravinia Green in Riverwoods….The leading assistant professionals from Illinois and Wisconsin will collide in a four- ball match play competition on Friday at Strawberry Creek, in Kenosha…..White Eagle Country Club, in Naperville, has announced plans for a $12.5 million upgrade of its facility. The club, site of the Illinois Open in 2020, will be the site of the Mid-American Conference tournament next April.