When he got home from work in early November, Tommy Pendley had an ordinary letter sitting on his table addressed to him from the South Carolina Golf Association.
He almost didn’t open the letter because he thought it was just another tournament coming up.
Instead, the four-paragraph letter revealed that he was named the 2021 Tom Fazio Service to Golf Award.
“I was really shocked and surprised because I’m nearing the end of my career,” Pendley said. “Come June, it’ll be 45 years in this industry. I never was thinking or anticipating anything like (the award). I thought it would be for some younger guys or some bigger, fancier things than what I have done.
It was the first time since 1996 Pendley received an award from the SCGA, as he won both the Junior Golf Leader and the other was Golf Professional of the Year that year.
“I just figured I was just coasting to the end of my career in a year or two. That totally got me out of left field,” Pendley said. “I was never anticipating anything like this.”
The Tom Fazio Award is given to someone who “recognizes efforts that especially help to enhance and promote the game of golf with an emphasis on the South Carolina Junior Golf Association.”
Pendley has been coaching since he was at Erskine, where he graduated with a degree in physical education. The first five years of his coaching career were spent between football, basketball and golf. He went to golf full-time after the fifth year and hasn’t looked back, coaching the sport for 45 years.
“It’s just natural,” Pendley said. “I like being outdoors. It’s always been in my blood since the ninth or 10th grade.”
In 2013, Pendley moved out of the Star Fort golf shop, where he had worked 36 years in a variety of roles. He started teaching golf full-time at that point. After spending a couple of years at a driving range, Pendley had a chance to start the next chapter at Greenwood Country Club, Stoney Point or Grand Harbor.
He chose Stoney Point and opened the Tommy Pendley Golf Academy just less than six years ago.
Through his academy, Pendley has coached several golfers who have become college athletes.
“That’s the greatest reward for me — to see them get to do something they have dreamed about and to see that dream become reality,” Pendley said. “I’ve had several go on to go play in college. My oldest son played professionally for six years and is now coaching at a D-1 school at Winthrop. Three of the guys on the staff were former students of mine.”
Along with coaching, Pendley was a pivotal part of the Hootie & the Blowfish Junior Golf Series, which is now a statewide junior golf summer program that has more than 1,200 annual participants.
Pendley, his wife and two of his three sons were in attendance on Jan. 8 when he was given the award at the Columbia Country Club. He was one of four people recognized, as Gary Schaal was inducted into the South Carolina Golf Hall of Fame, John Durst received the Charles Drawdy Service Award and Paul Manikowski won the Rick-Miller Volunteer of the Year award.
“It’s rewarding to see that,” Pendley said. “We have three sons, but I have thousands of sons and daughters.”