The Duncan Banner

May 11, 2013

A hero and a gentleman

Shelton left lasting legacy in Duncan

Evan Grice
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — When it came to golf at any level in Duncan, there was one man always associated with it, Bill J. Shelton.

For 30 years, Shelton was the head pro at the then Elks Lodge & Country Club, where he mentored countless numbers of junior golfers, many of who went onto play in the DHS golf program.  

A member of the Duncan Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2006, Shelton is remembered as an ambassador for the sport of golf in Duncan.

Shelton passed away this past Wednesday at the age of 89 in Duncan, but those who knew him say he was more than just a great coach.

His passion for wanting to be a golf professional came true when he got his first job at Oakwood Country Club in Enid, shortly after graduating from Phillips University.

He would later move to Oklahoma City in 1951 with his wife Marie, before creating the first step in a lasting legacy for Duncan golf when he arrived in 1955.

Jimmy Grantham has fond memories of Shelton, especially when it comes to the game of golf.

Shelton hired Grantham to work with him at the Elks Lodge & Country Club when he was just 11 years old.

“I hit my first golf ball at 11 years old, and Bill gave me a job cleaning golf clubs and just helping out,” Grantham said. “It was one of the best experiences of my life, I absolutely loved it. He loved teaching juniors the game of golf, and he was such an amazing person to be around. There’s not enough good things I can say about Bill Shelton.”

Shelton was born in Perry on Feb. 29, 1924, and served in World War II, joining the Air Corps when he was 17 years old.

During his time serving, Shelton worked as a tail-gunner and flight engineer on a B-17, as a member of the 96th Bombardment Group.

While Shelton ultimately survived the war, his eye sight wasn’t so lucky.

A piece of shrapnel landing in Shelton’s eye started a downward spiral towards him eventually going blind and losing his eye sight completely.

“Bill fought the battle for years with his eye sight,” Grantham said. “But, when he did go blind, you never heard him talk about it or cry about it. That’s something I truly admired about him was how he carried on and kept teaching the game to anyone and everyone. He could sit and listen to a ball being driven out on the driving range and still be able to help someone even when he was blind.”

C.H. Barnes, who also had fond memories of Shelton, remembered him for his patience with anyone he was trying to teach the game of golf to.  

“I played golf with him for several years,” he said. “Whenever I had a conversation with him, I can never remember a time when he was ever down. He was such a great coach and a patient one as well. That’s what impressed me the most, was that he would teach someone something over and over and never get mad at them.”

Grantham added that he believes if circumstances had turned out differently for Shelton, he might have become a maninstay on the PGA Tour.

“If given the right opportunity, Bill would have definitely competed and possibly won on tour,” he said. “He loved teaching and passing on his knowledge of the game of golf.”