Bill Harvey spent a lifetime playing golf in some of the nation’s biggest tournaments. Harvey also spent a lifetime sharing his love of the game with countless others.
The last tournament in which Harvey played – in fact, the last time he played golf at all – was in 2006 at a pretty low-key event: Sedgefield Country Club’s member-guest. What made the tournament so memorable was that Harvey was playing with one of those he inspired: his son, Scott.
“Of all the things I’ve done in golf, winning the member-guest at Sedgefield with my dad as my partner was far and away the most special golf moment of my life,” Scott said. “He was a member there over 40 years. There had to be 200, 300 people watching. I shot the round of my life and he played great, too. You don’t get to share things like that with your dad very often. What golf means to both of us, how close we are, the history the Harvey family has at Sedgefield – it was just a special memory for me.”
Memories such as that one flooded out from the Harvey family, friends and even strangers in the wake of Bill Harvey’s death. The 82-year-old Greensboro resident died Oct. 14 following a lengthy bout with cancer, but left behind a legacy in the game and in his family that will live forever.
Harvey spent more than 40 years playing tournament golf, amassing more than 300 titles and earning places in both the Carolinas Golf and Guilford County Sports halls of fame. He played in 18 U.S. Amateur Championships and won eight Carolinas Golf Association championships, including Carolinas Amateur titles in 1964, 1965 and 1973, the N.C. Amateur in 1966 and the Carolinas Senior Amateur in 1990.
When the family received visitors at the funeral home, Scott Harvey said about 70 percent of the stories told involved golf: people Bill met on the golf course or at his Sedgefield Driving Range, those whose lives he touched through golf that ended up helping them in other ways, young kids who would get assistance with tournament entry fees.
At the memorial service, Scott Harvey said a man he didn’t know stood up and told a story from his childhood about how Bill drove him to work every morning when the weather was bad, for no other reason than because the boy’s parents couldn’t afford to buy him a car.
Even weeks after Bill’s death, people were still seeking out Scott to share more anecdotes.
“A lot of the stories are new to me,” Scott said. “Everybody had great memories, something positive to say. It’s what I knew already, but when you hear it from so many different people…”
And Scott appreciates every kind word.
“It really puts me in a good place, because you want to remember all the good times and good memories,” Scott said. “You don’t want to remember the end, where he’s sick and struggling. Hearing all these things from these people helps me get through that.”
Pat Foy Brady of Reidsville remembers plenty of great stories about Bill. That duo was part of a larger group of great golfers from the Triad who gathered at courses from Danville, Va., to Reidsville to Greensboro every Tuesday. They played 18, 27 holes, taking bets along the way, then some of them would gather to play marathon card games when sunset chased them from the course.
“We had some terrific golf games,” Brady said. “I learned early on, you always wanted to be on Bill’s side if you could. He just loved to play golf. Didn’t matter whether you shot 100 or 65, he just loved to play golf, and he was so darn good at it.”
Brady recalled traveling to Niagara Falls with Harvey to the prestigious Porter Cup – which Bill won in 1963 in a record five-hole playoff – and many other tournaments. Harvey and Brady also enjoyed playing with Ben Goodes, father of current Champions Tour player Mike Goodes. Harvey and Brady were pallbearers at Ben Goodes’ funeral, and Brady – who is 78 – lamented the fact that Harvey’s death means their old group of 10 golfing pals is down to one.
The last time Brady saw Harvey was the night of the Guilford County Sports Hall of Fame ceremony. Harvey was too ill to attend the banquet, but Brady visited him at home. Harvey died less than a month later.
“I’m so glad I went by and saw Bill,” Brady said. “He was a true sportsman and he loved it. And he never realized how good he was. He could beat anybody in the Carolinas day in and day out.”
Harvey likely could have chased the life of a professional golfer – either on a PGA Tour that was very different from today’s game or the senior circuit – but Scott Harvey said his father put the family first and stayed home to raise his sons.
“For everybody, he was legendary for playing golf and the things he did for the game of golf. That’s how most people know him,” Scott said. “But he was 10 times the dad than he ever was the golfer. He always made sure we were taken care of. We were No. 1 in his life, way ahead of everything else, and he made sure everybody knew that.”
Scott has become an accomplished amateur golfer himself. Even before his father died, it was impossible to step onto a course without thinking of his mentor in the game. The memories are more poignant now.
“I’m always thinking about him, the lessons he’s taught me, things over the years about golf in general and life, how to act,” Scott said. “Since he’s passed, I’m out there hitting balls and thinking about him. He’s instilled a lot of stuff inside of me. He’s always going to be with me. That’s never going to leave me.”
Harvey’s legacy will live on in many ways, including a special memorial established through the CGA. Donations can be made at carolinasgolf.org/donate#Harvey.
“The Carolinas Golf Association was an important part of his life for such a long time,” Scott said. “It’s just a special organization to him and me. They can take that money and do good things with it in terms of helping youth programs, doing good for the game of golf – it felt like the right thing to do.”