Bill Neal inducted into golfers hall of fame
MINERAL WELLS — Bill Neal, a longtime Parkersburg resident and owner of Woodridge Golf Club, has been inducted into the African American Golfers Hall of Fame.
Neal was presented the award in May at the 13th annual African American Golfers Hall of Fame Leadership Conference and Golf Tournament in Palm Beach County, Fla.
For the benefit of family and friends who weren’t able to travel to Florida, an AAGHF representative will be visiting Woodridge Golf Club on Saturday to present the award again to Neal during the 18th annual Bill Neal Classic golf tournament, which will be Saturday and Sunday in Mineral Wells.
He received the association’s 2017 Trailblazer award. Neal said according to research by the AAGHF, only five golf courses in the U.S. are African American-owned. Woodridge is the only one with a single owner, the others being owned by groups or families.
“It was a great honor to be recognized, nationwide, for that,” he said of the Trailblazer award.
A St. Albans native, Neal attended college at West Virginia University, WVU-P and Mountain State College. He worked as a grocery store employee and later manager in St. Albans before joining Borg Warner Chemicals in 1973 as a lab technician. He held several position at the plant before retiring in 2001 as a manufacturing process leader from subsequent owner GE Plastics.
Neal said he was introduced to the game of golf by friends and co-workers after moving to Parkersburg.
“I didn’t play well at all, but I loved the challenge,” he said of his initial efforts. “I just picked it up and really liked it.”
In 1995, he became a chartered member of Woodridge Golf Club and was elected to its board of directors in 2003. He became general manager in 2009. In that role, he established Woodridge as an LLC in 2010 with the expectation of rapid expansion in the golf and banquet industry. He purchased Woodridge and became its owner in 2012, fulfilling a dream he had had for many years, he said.
“I loved the game of golf and I loved management,” he said.
“I just loved this place,” he said of Woodridge. “I was in love with it. It’s a beautiful place. I had the opportunity to buy it when it came available.”
As is often the case, although he owns a golf course, Neal said he doesn’t get to play as much as he used to because of his responsibilities.
“I’ve played my own golf course three times this year,” he said, adding he still enjoys his work as general manager and owner.
“I’m really proud of this place.”
Neal started the Bill Neal Classic 18 years ago as organizer and founder. At the time he was traveling around the country to participate in tournaments. The first Bill Neal Classic wasn’t a big event, with about 40 golfers, but was a way to share a love of the sport. The tournament has grown over the years, reaching as high as 160 participants from around the country.
Neal said openings remain for this weekend’s tournament, with registration accepted through 6 p.m. Friday or until the maximum of 120 golfers is reached. The cost is $185 for the weekend. More information is available by calling Woodridge at 304-489-1800 or online at www.woodridgegolfclub.com.
Woodridge remains a popular venue for area golfers. Neal said he is pleased with where things are but is always looking for ways to improve the course and the facilities.
One ongoing project involves restoring access to the golf club from West Virginia 14 in Mineral Wells. Previously, the golf club could be accessed in two directions, from W.Va. 14 to the north and W.Va. 21 to the west. However, the 2015 floods which struck Mineral Wells washed out access in that direction.
“We are working diligently to try to get the bridge replaced,” Neal said, adding he has received support from the community and friends on that effort.
“It’s friends helping friends trying to get that bridge replaced,” he said.