STILL SETTING THE PACE | East Texas golf legend inducted into LA Tech corridor of fame | Sports activities

Observe Roy Pace for about 30 minutes and you will realize how he stays so fit and lean for a man his age. At a stage of life when most men are slowing down, Pace never stops moving. He is a man of action.

Pace has done almost everything you can do in the game of golf from the time he took up the game as a young boy growing up in Judson, just north of Longview. He started as a teenager working at Alpine Golf Course, mowing the greens and fairways while learning the game from course owner Wendell Benningfield.

Becoming good enough to earn a college scholarship by the time he graduated from high school, Pace was all set to go to the University of North Texas before changing his mind at the last minute to go east to Louisiana Tech.

Looking back, it was an idyllic college career made even better just recently when Louisiana Tech announced that Pace is the first golfer selected for the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

“It’s a great honor and I am very happy about it,” Pace said. “I have been in touch with the coach and the players recently since Squire Creek became the home course for the team. Coach Matt Terry called me with the good news.”

Pace remembers former Tech football coach and athletic director Joe Aillet (pronounced I A) as the catalyst for his going to school in Ruston, Louisiana.

“Joe was quite a good coach and the stadium there is named for him,” Pace said. “He loved golf and was from South Louisiana and knew Jay and Lionel Hebert who were on the Tour at that time. I wanted to study engineering so it was a good fit. Looking back, it was really a good decision to go there.”

Pace played on four conference championship teams, won the individual conference championship in three of those years and qualified as a senior to play in the New Orleans Open as an amateur. He scored better in the first round than both Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

“That was so exciting playing in my first Tour event in New Orleans and I shot a 73 that first round with Palmer and Nicklaus both shooting 74,” Pace said. “It was a special treat during my senior year.”

As cited in the announcement of the 2021 Athletics Hall of Fame at Louisiana Tech, Pace had a record 62 during one round of the Louisiana Tech Invitational in 1962 and was the individual champion in 1961-63 with a third place finish his freshman year in 1960. The announcement by Tech AD Eric Wood also mentioned that Pace was voted the 1987 Pro of the Year in the prestigious Metropolitan Section of the PGA and is a member of the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame.

The 2021 Hall of Fame class at Louisiana Tech includes football players Ryan Allen and Tramon Williams, track star Bryant Wesco, baseball pitcher Richie LeBlanc, basketball player Debra Williams and Pace the golfer. The class will be inducted at a banquet this fall before a home football game with special recognition at halftime.

Not surprisingly, Pace has a connection to Meadowbrook Golf and Event Center. Pace won the tournament, one of the oldest in the state, in 1963, and then returned to college that fall – an extra semester – to receive his engineering degree in January of 1964. But he never used it, pursuing golf as his career.

“I got my tour application signed by Jay Hebert and Palmer Lawrence, who was the pro at Pinecrest then,” Pace said. “Lawrence gave me my first formal lesson and after he signed my application, it was off to California and the Tour.”

Those were the days of only 60 exempt players on tour so Monday qualifying to get into the tournament became a weekly ritual for young aspiring pros.

“I missed qualifying for the Bob Hope that first week but got into the next tournament at Tucson,” Pace said. “I missed the cut but my friend Jacky Cupit won that week.”

Pace made his first check the following week at the Texas Open at Oak Hills Country Club in San Antonio.

“I learned a great lesson that week at the Texas Open,” Pace said. “I was paired the last day with Bruce Crampton and we were way down the leaderboard. I shot a 74 and won a little money but Crampton shot a 28 on his final nine holes and ended up winning the tournament. He persevered and it paid off for him. The lesson is never give up on the golf course.”

Pace played on Tour a total of 10 years in two different stretches. He played that rookie year in 1964 and another year in 1965 before taking an assistant pro job at Wee Burn Country Club in Darien, Connecticut. His second stint on Tour was from 1967 through 1975 and included a win at the Magnolia Classic in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

In 1976, Pace was given an opportunity to return to Wee Burn as the head pro and served there for 23 years before moving home to East Texas.

Upon his return to Longview, Pace started the First Tee of the Piney Woods and every October hosts The Texas Legends Pro-Am as a fundraiser. Many of his peers on the PGA Tour come to Longview to take part in the fun each year. The tournament has featured golfing greats such as Lee Trevino, Don January, Bruce Lietzke, Bill Rogers, Homero Blancas and Cupit.

The First Tee has perhaps been Pace’s greatest achievement. He stays busy giving back to the game he loves by teaching golfers young and old.

Pace has been called “The Pro’s Pro,” and rightfully so.

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