Potter, Babb Headed for 'Hall'
Colo. Golf Hall of Fame will induct 2 who've given much back to game
by Gary Baines
When volunteers are sought, many people do their best to fade into the background. Gary Potter is just the opposite, often being one of the first to put forth his services.
Over the last four decades, he's done it with the CGA, CJGA, Colorado PGA, Trans-Mississippi Golf Association, Pacific Coast Golf Association, USGA, Arizona Golf Association, the Colorado Open Committee and the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame.
"It's all part of giving back to society," said Potter, who's also done plenty of volunteer work outside of golf. "You meet people, then you see needs, and that's what you do."
All that giving back over the years resulted in Potter (pictured) being selected Wednesday for induction into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame. The lifelong Coloradan will be enshrined on June 10 at Cherry Hills Country Club, along with the late Tom Babb.
Babb, the director of golf at Inverness Golf Club from 1973 to 2000, was a highly regarded instructor, a decorated member of the Colorado PGA and an enthusiastic host as major Colorado tournaments were played at Inverness.
Babb was a two-time president of the Colorado Section PGA, and he won each of the following Section awards twice: Professional of the Year, Teacher of the Year and Resort Merchandiser of the Year. He also earned the Colorado PGA's Warren Smith Award for lifetime achievement.
During Babb's tenure at Inverness, the club hosted the Colorado Open six times, the John Elway Celebrity Classic, Colorado Section Championships and the Colorado Open Golf Marathon, which raised significant funds for Craig Hospital. Babb also was an ardent supporter of junior golf.
As former Colorado PGA executive director Myran Craig once noted of Babb, "Of the long list of those representing the Section as the president, none did more, and few did as much as Tom, in constantly striving for the improvement of the Section, its members and programs."
As was the case with Babb, Potter has held many leadership roles in golf. He's a past president of both the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame and the Pacific Coast Golf Association, and he served as tournament director for the 1980 Trans-Miss Championship at Denver Country Club, chairman of the 2010 Trans-Miss at DCC, and the tournament chairman for two Pac Coast Championships.
"All the things you do in golf, you do because you love the game and you love to give back," said the Colorado native, who will turn 70 on Saturday (Nov. 12). "You don't expect pats on the back, but it's tremendous to get (an honor such as a place in the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame)."
Potter, a longtime lawyer, first volunteered his time to golf organizations in 1973 after Dr. Homer McClintock asked him if he'd be interested in joining the CGA Board.
"They were trying to bring new blood into the Colorado Golf Association," Potter recounted. "At that time, the CGA had a lot of things that were frozen in the past."
Among other things, Potter spearheaded the CGA's return to the Pacific Coast Golf Association -- which allowed local players to compete in the Pacific Coast Amateur -- and Colorado's participation in the Junior America's Cup matches. In addition, he was instrumental in expanding the number of state amateur championships. He helped lay the groundwork for the CGA Mid-Amateur, Four-Ball and Father-Son, as well as the Mixed Championship.
"I tried to create a bunch of tournaments for all sorts of people because I thought the CGA had the time and ought to be doing that for more people than just the championship (level players)," Potter said. "We just invented things because there was a vacuum."
Potter also was a key figure in the creation of the CGA club liaison program, which enlisted a member of each men's club to represent the CGA at the club's meetings.
"The thing I take most pride in is the way the CGA has developed," Potter said.
Potter likewise was instrumental in the creation of a totally separate Colorado Junior Golf Association which could oversee a single tournament schedule for juniors, rather than having many separate organizations run their own, often-conflicting schedules.
"At the time, it gave kids one tournament a day to play instead of having to choose between the PGA, CGA, interclub matches and Insurance Youth qualifiers -- which was what was happening," he said.
The CJGA now operates in conjunction with the CGA and the CWGA.
Besides the administrative work he's done, Potter has been a solid tournament player, having won numerous statewide team championships, including the 1983 and '84 CGA Father-Son titles (with son Matt), the 1982 CGA Four-Ball (with Gary Longfellow), the '87 Four-Ball (with John Hamer), the '93 Senior Four-Ball (with Hamer), and the 1993 and '94 CGA Senior Two-Man Team (with Hamer).
In addition to the induction of Potter and Babb, several people/groups will receive honors on June 10 at Cherry Hills.
David Brown, the longtime superintendent at Flatirons Golf Course in Boulder, will be Golf Person of the Year after winning the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America National Championship in February.
Two groups will receive Distinguished Service Awards. One is the Colorado PGA, which in August was named the winner of the national PGA of America's Herb Graffis Award, given to a PGA Section for "extraordinary and exemplary contributions in player development". In the Colorado PGA's case, that includes the Golf in Schools program that the Section conducts along with the other Allied Golf Associations. The other DSA winner is the Broadmoor Golf Club, for hosting yet another major championship, the 2011 U.S. Women's Open. That tournament nearly broke the all-time record for attendance for a U.S. Women's Open.
And a Lifetime Achievement Award will go to Mick Sweetman, a co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Golf Saleman's Association and a longtime stalwart in the Colorado golf community.