Fall 2018

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NCGA.ORG | FALL 2018 61 D I S T I N G U I S H E D S E R V I C E A W A R D T hey say that golf is a gentleman's game. If anyone personified that, it was RJ Harper. For 32 years, Harper, who was born Robert Thomas but came to be known as RJ after a hometown newspaper misidentified him, wasn't just the key guy at Pebble Beach Golf Links. He was as beloved as any figure in the game, a symbol of the power of friendship. A classic American success story, having grown up in modest means in Tennessee, Harper began his career at Pebble Beach as a $5-an-hour marshal before work- ing his way up to head pro and eventually Executive Vice President of Golf and Retail. His charismatic personality, one of a kind smile, and outgoing nature endeared him to countless Pebble Beach employees and guests. That persona would lead him to be known as "Mr. Pebble Beach." Among his many accomplishments were serving as Championship Director of the 2000 U.S. Open and General Chairman of the 2010 and 2019 U.S. Opens. He was also instrumental in Pebble Beach securing the 2023 U.S. Women's Open and 2027 U.S. Open and was involved with the annual AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and PGA Tour Champions PURE Insurance Open. Always giving back, he also helped found the AT&T Pebble Beach Junior Golf Association. Growing up, Harper was drawn to the game by watching Arnold Palmer on television. It wasn't just the bravado that riveted the young Harper, it was also Palmer's grace and class. When Palmer became part of the Pebble Beach Company's ownership group in 1999, Palmer and Harper quickly forged a bond. Any changes to the course had to be approved by Palmer, and Harper became his eyes on the ground. But all that's just a glimpse of Harper's legacy in Northern California golf circles. For Harper, who was lost to pancreatic cancer in 2017 at the age of 61, Pebble Beach was a special place. For golf, Harper was a special person. Career Highlights • Pebble Beach Golf Links Head Professional • Pebble Beach Company Executive Vice President of Golf and Retail • Championship Director 2000 U.S. Open • General Chairman 2010 and 2019 U.S Opens Special Person at a Special Place 2018 Distinguished Service Award The late RJ Harper was as beloved as any figure in the game, and embodied the power of friendship.

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