Golden Isles Golf History - Johnny Paulk

Meet Johnny Paulk, director of golf at the Jekyll Island Golf Club. The Valdosta, Georgia, native has been the golf pro there for 37 years. Talk to Johnny (he's on a first name basis) for very long and you soon realize you are the beneficiary of the man's natural charm. If there is one figure that looms above others in the annals of Jekyll island golf, it is Johnny Paulk.

Paulk, congruent with his Southern upbringing, moves in easy, rhythmic paces, always ready to lend a hand, no matter how busy, or stop and talk. But watch out! Once he starts talking, you won't want him to stop.

We caught up with him as he was organizing this year's annual Georgia-Florida Classic Invitational. "And be sure to put the 'Georgia' first when you write about it," says the unapologetic Georgian. Paulk started the tournament in 1979 when he had 40 players, both golf professionals and amateurs. This year, he has 576 players.

The 2-day tournament is played on two of the club's three 18 hole-courses, with participants playing in eighthsomes in a scramble format. "It's an amazing feat of course management," he says in typical understatement.

Paulk manages very well, particularly when it comes to hosting tournaments which also include the US Kids World Championship, the Georgia PGA, and the Georgia Women's Golf Association championship. But the Georgia-Florida is his pride and joy, giving him particular pleasure in helping to promote Jekyll Island, which he calls "Georgia's best kept secret."

Before coming to Jekyll, Paulk was an assistant pro at Atlanta's East Lake Country Club. Through a member there he became the announcer at the 9th hole at The Masters. Now, Paulk announces at #18 and is only the third to hold that job in the history of the tournament.

Paulk met Bobby Jones while at East Lake and once asked the Grand Slam winner for a job reference. Jones wrote him back to say he'd be happy to recommend him if anyone asked. The framed letter is still hanging in the hallway of the clubhouse. "It was a treat to meet Bobby Jones," recalls Paulk. "I wish I had had the chance to be around him more."

Paulk came to Jekyll in 1968, the same year the clubhouse and the Pine Lakes course opened. He and his wife honeymooned on the island back when it was only accessible by boat. He loved it but never dreamed he would be back.

At 70, Paulk is living his dream, helping kids get started in the game, running tournaments, teaching, and just plain spending time with people. "You can imagine in 37 years how many people I've met. Europeans, Canadians. All the Georgia governors during that time. It's the best part of my job," he said. *

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