By ANNE MARIE TOBIN
The late Bill Flynn accomplished many things during his lifetime. A member of the Professional Golf Association of America for 52 of his 74 years until he passed away in 2011, he excelled as a player, was a skilled businessman and, when it came to giving back to the game of golf, had an unparalleled passion for serving others and promoting the game, especially when it came to juniors and inner-city youth. He believed that the game of golf could teach children some of life’s most important values.
Flynn’s legacy continues to grow.
On Nov. 9, Flynn was posthumously awarded the 2016 PGA of America Deacon Palmer Award at the 100th PGA annual meeting at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. The award is named for Arnold Palmer’s father.It honors the PGA golf professional who displays outstanding integrity, character and leadership, in the effort to overcome a major obstacle in life. The recipient is an unsung hero at their facility and in the community, one who served to inspire, empower and assist others, both inside and outside the game of golf.
The inaugural award was presented posthumously to Deacon Palmer, who had polio as a child, and accepted on his behalf by his son Arnold in November 2014 at the 98th PGA annual meeting. Though he walked with a limp, it did not hinder his passion for golf. As a teenager, he was hired to work on a construction crew building Latrobe Country Club in Pennsylvania. He was named golf course superintendent in 1926 and was later named golf professional, becoming a PGA member in 1946. He passed away in 1976 at age 71.
Flynn was one of 41 PGA golf professionals under consideration for the Palmer Award, having received the New England Section of the PGA’s Palmer Award in late October.
The entire Flynn family – Flynn’s widow Janice and children Michael, Joanne, Bobby and Janna Flynn – made the trip to New York City for the event.
Flynn’s eldest daughter Joanne Flynn, the golf pro at Windham Country Club in New Hampshire, accepted the award on behalf of her dad.
“It was just a great experience for my entire family and such a great honor for my father,” she said. “The PGA really outdid themselves, it was just an amazing and incredible week, one we won’t ever forget.” Bill Flynn’s accomplishments were also recognized by the Massachusetts Golf Association in October when he was one of six people inducted into the MGA Massachusetts Golf Hall of Fame, bringing the total members to 17.
The Class of 2016 also included fellow professional Bob Crowley, winner of more than 400 tournaments, legendary blind champion Joe Lazaro, two-time Massachusetts state amateur champion Frank Vana Jr., golf writer Herbert Warren Wind, and this writer, winner of seven women’s state amateur titles.
A self-made man, Flynn made the most of every opportunity that came his way. He was born with a physical disability that limited the use of his right arm, which was noticeably shorter than his left. He overcame his adversity by deciding to play left-handed. Against all odds, Flynn became one of the most recognized and accomplished players of his time, winning the 1959 Vermont Open at Lake Morey and setting a tournament record. His biggest title was, no doubt, the 1968 New England PGA Championship at Pine Brook.
His most memorable victory happened at Kernwood Country Club in Salem, in the 1963 Massachusetts Open, when the first-year Thomson Country Club pro ripped a page from Arnold Palmer’s book and made up a three-shot deficit over the final six holes to charge to a two-shot victory over Weston Country Club head professional Jim Browning. Flynn, who lived 10 minutes away as the crow flies across the Danvers River, shot 66 and played the final six holes at 5-under par.
Born in 1936, Flynn started as a caddie at age 10 at the former United Shoe Golf Club in Beverly, now Beverly Golf & Tennis Club. He eventually worked for head pro Tom Mahan in the pro shop and also logged extra hours working in the kitchen during the winter.
When he was 15, he moved down the road to Colonial Country Club in Lynnfield, working for former Boston Bruin-turned-golf professional Bill Ezinicki.
Flynn turned professional before his 18th birthday. Bill Barclay hired him as caddie master at Salem Country Club, where he worked until 1963 when he was hired as the first head professional at Thomson Club in North Reading, where he remained until 1988.
Flynn also served as vice-president of the PGA of America and was elected to the NEPGA Hall of Fame in 1998.
It was in 1973, however, that Flynn put the building blocks in place to take his career to a new level with the formation of the Bill Flynn Management and Development Co. Flynn had purchased Lakeview Golf Club in Wenham in 1972 for $75,000. (Lakeview was sold last year to Lynnfield-based Atlantic Tambone Co., which plans to turn the property into a luxury residential condominium community of approximately 25 townhouse units priced at $1 million or more.)
Flynn’s company was widely credited with working with the MGA to rescue and restore historic Franklin Park Golf Course and George Wright Golf Course, both in Boston.
Later, he purchased Far Corner Golf Course in Boxford in 1977 and expanded the 18-hole course to 27-holes, then built Windham Golf Club in Windham, N.H., which 0pened in 1994.