James Ray Carpenter
James Ray (J.R.) Carpenter of Hattiesburg, Mississippi, the 25th president of the PGA of America, passed away Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at his home. He was 91 years old.
His services will be held at Hardy Street Baptist Church with visitation Friday, September 21 from 4:00 until 8:00 PM and the celebration service Saturday, September 22 at 11:00 with visitation preceding from 10:00 until 11:00.
Carpenter was elected to PGA membership in 1969, and served as PGA President from 1987-88, applying both homespun wit and counsel to become a respected leader of the golf industry.
Throughout Carpenter's nearly 50 years in professional golf, he never wavered in bringing leadership, fairness and supporting the PGA Member. He is credited with preparing the PGA for a new era by embarking on a sweeping reorganization of one of the world’s largest working sports organizations, after being elected PGA President in November 1986.
“The PGA of America is saddened by the passing of J.R. Carpenter, a loyal and passionate PGA Professional who followed a simple yet effective formula in life – leave the place better than when you arrived,” said PGA of America President Paul K. Levy. “J.R. mentored so many who went on to meaningful positions in the golf industry. He had a wonderful way about him with down-home humor, but he never lost sight of the mission of the PGA, and what the Association could do for its Members. We will miss him and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Carpenter graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) in Hattiesburg with a B.S. and a subsequent Master’s Degree in physical education in 1951. He spent three years in the U.S. Air Force a first lieutenant. Following his service, Carpenter returned to civilian life to become a high school basketball coach in Biloxi, Mississippi. He sold insurance before moving into oil field supplies.
Born in Runnelstown, Mississippi, Carpenter was an all-state football and basketball player in high school. He didn't touch a golf club until he was 33 years old – being introduced to the game in 1959 through a customer at Duncan Park Municipal Golf Course in Natchez, Mississippi.
“I vowed right there and then that the next time I played I was at least going to be able to find my ball once I managed to hit it,” Carpenter recalled years later. He applied his athletic skills to golf, and soon was scoring in the 70s and low 80s at the University of Southern Mississippi golf course in Hattiesburg, where he played with other USM alumni.
In 1964, when the USM physical education instructor – who also acted as golf coach, heard professional and course superintendent – was retiring, school officials began searching for a replacement. Carpenter, then one of the facility’s best golfers, was offered the position and accepted. Carpenter was elected to PGA membership in 1969, and served as PGA President from 1987-88, applying both homespun wit and counsel to become a respected leader of the golf industry.
As golf coach his leadership skills led his golf teams to winning seasons in each of his 13 years with USM.
Carpenter made an impact in the PGA of America following his election to membership in 1969. He became president of the Gulf States PGA Section in 1975 and served on the PGA Board of Directors (1980-82). Carpenter's term as president (1987-88) was marked by his determination to help guide an upgrade in PGA education programs.
During this period, the PGA Golf Management University curriculum opened at its first two universities. Today, the program is a fixture at 18 colleges and universities nationwide.
Carpenter also chaired six national committees – Junior Golf, Section Affairs, Finance, Apprentice, the PGA Professional Championship and Special Awards. Each group received his special brand of enthusiasm and direction.
Following his term as a PGA national officer, Carpenter became a respected member of one of the Association's most important groups outside the gallery ropes – the PGA Rules Committee. Among his Rules assignments were the PGA Championship, Ryder Cup, KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, The Masters, U.S. Open and The Players Championship.
Carpenter left USM in 1990 to serve as director of golf at Timberton Golf Club in Hattiesburg. In 1998, he co-designed an additional nine holes at the facility.
Carpenter was inducted into the USM Sports Hall of Fame, the USM Alumni Hall of Fame, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and the Gulf States PGA Hall of Fame; and is a member of the Memorial Tournament’s Captain’s Club. On Oct. 4, he was to be inducted into the Hattiesburg Public School Hall of Fame.
Carpenter was preceded in death by his wife, Mary, in 2009 and his grandson, James Ray Carpenter, III (Jace).
He is survived by five children: Richard (Carol), Deborah (Heath Collins), Jimmy, (Felecia); Melinda (Ron Satcher) and Gary (Lynn) survived; 13 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to the Jace Carpenter Scholarship fund at Oak Grove United Methodist Church, 4915 US Hwy 11, Hattiesburg, MS 39402.