Interview with Dillard Pruitt
Dillard Pruitt earned his place in the South Carolina Golf Association’s Hall of Fame by winning on every level of competition. Victories as a junior golfer, college golfer, amateur golfer and professional highlight his Hall of Fame resume.
“I’ve been very lucky and happy with the career I have had,” he said. “Maybe I wish I could have played a little longer, but I enjoyed the years I played,” said Pruitt.
His career began as an outstanding junior golfer from Travelers Rest. Pruitt was raised in a golfing family. Both his father George and mother Winona were accomplished amateur golfers.
His uncle and namesake Dillard Traynham was inducted into the SCGA Hall of Fame in 1978 and his grandfather J.P. Traynham built Paris Mountain Golf Club and helped grow the game in the Upstate.
PGA Hall of Fame golf professional John Gerring was Pruitt’s teacher as a junior golfer at Green Valley and aided the promising youngster develop his foundation in the game.
Pruitt played college golf at Clemson where he helped the Tigers win the schools first ACC golf championship. He was a two-time All American and three time All-ACC player for the Tigers.
Clemson’s golf coach at the time, Bobby Robinson, recruited Pruitt as the Tigers needed to establish a local identity for its golf program.
“We were building our program and we needed to bring in outstanding players,” said Robinson. “Dillard was the best player in the state and he helped build our program to a championship level,” said his college coach.
Current Clemson coach Larry Penley was both a teammate and Pruitt’s coach during his time at Clemson. He recalled how everything about Pruitt on and off the course was what the Tigers needed.
“He brought it every day,” said Penley. He gave maximum effort and consistency every time he played. The competitiveness and character he brought to Clemson was outstanding,” said Penley who is also a member of the SCGA Hall of Fame.
After college he gained success in amateur golf. He won the 1982 South Carolina Amateur played at the Greenville Country Club’s Chanticleer course. He also earned a pair of wins in the prestigous Sunnehanna Amateur on his resume.
After playing golf in Europe for a few years Pruitt earned a spot on the PGATour. He won the 1992 Chattanooga Classic and played in two Masters. Pruitt became the first Clemson grad to win a PGA Tour event.
However, after a ten year career Pruitt was faced with a decision to have surgery for a back injury or retire from the pro Tour and begin a second career.
“I was lucky again when a couple of guys took a chance on me and gave me a chance to be on the rules staff,” he said.
In 1998 Pruitt got the opportunity to stay involved with the game he has loved his entire life. He became a PGA Tour rules official and continues in that role today.
“I’m still in the game I love and have a passion for, so I am in a good place,” said Pruitt.
While Pruitt’s family helped set the stage for his golf career, his extended family was the biggest influence on his game.
“When Jan (Pruitt’s sister) met Jay (Haas) I can’t tell you how much it meant to my career,” he said.
Jan married Jay and Pruitt not only gained a brother-in-law, but also a mentor for his golf career.
“Just playing with Jay and talking to him about golf and listening to the things he had to tell me about the game really helped my career take off,” Pruitt said about his fellow SCGA Hall of Fame member.
Much like Haas, Pruitt has been an inspiration to young golfers in South Carolina. When he began playing on the Tour there were only a handful of Palmetto State golfers competing on the games highest level.
“I hope I had something to do with that. Kevin Kisner (Aiken native and PGA Tour winner) came up to me recently and told me he appreciated a demonstration I did that he saw when he was a junior. It made me feel good,” concluded the 68th member of the SCGA Hall of Fame.