Jr. tourney has Selma legacy

Published 9:33 pm Tuesday, July 28, 2009

When the winner of the 64th annual State Junior Golf Championship is handed the trophy Thursday in Point Clear, the spirit of Selma’s driving force in junior golf goes with him.

Since 1999, the champion has received the Art Gleason Jr. Memorial Trophy, named for the long-time chairman of the Alabama Golf Association junior program who lived in Selma. Many years Gleason himself presented the award.

“He loved young people,” said his wife, Rosemary Gleason. “Stewart Cink was one of his kids. When he won the British Open this weekend, I wished Art could have seen it.”

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Cink, a Huntsville native, won the Alabama State Amateur title in 1990.

Gleason grew up in Florida with a golf club in his hand. His father was the pro at the Normandy Shores in Miami Beach, Fla., and his mother ran the pro shop.

He played on the University of Florida golf team, married at 22 and moved to Rosemary’s hometown, Selma. Three years after playing at Florida, Gleason won the Alabama State Amateur in 1959.

He won the Selma Country Club Invitational five times: 1966, 1970, 1971, 1977 and 1980. Then in 1981, he was named director of the state junior golf tournament.

That became his life’s work, he said during a 1999 interview after the trophy was named for him.

“I love the junior program,” Gleason said. “Children are a lot more fun than adults.”

He was an imposing figure at first sight, “larger than life,” Rosemary described him.

Buford McCarty was executive director of the Alabama Golf Association in 1999.

“You know where you stand with Art,” he told a reporter. “And people listen to him when he talks.”

Gleason, however, always stood with the younger golfers.

“This isn’t a competition for these kids; it’s a learning process,” Gleason said. “I’ll keep doing it until the children cease to be enjoyable to me.”

His crowning achievement was receiving the Joe H. King Award in 2001 for his contributions to amateur golf in Alabama.

He and his friend, Jackie Cumming of Tuscaloosa, each were given awards by King himself.

In 2005, he retired from Henry Brick in Selma after 43 years of work. Then he passed away in 2006 at age 70.

His golfing spirit is carried on by his grandson, Bain Hanning (born Arthur Bain Gleason Hanning), who won the State Amateur Championship this year at Selma Country Club.

The title came 50 years after Gleason won it.