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Jim Brown Honored with Bob Wells Volunteerism Award

Jim Brown Bob Wells Award

The Texas Golf Association is pleased to announce longtime director and past president Jim Brown has received the Bob Wells Distinguished Service Award, the TGA’s highest honor for individuals who’ve contributed to the growth of the game through their volunteerism and meritorious service.

The words volunteerism and service define Brown, a retired personal injury attorney who joined the TGA Board of Directors in 2010 and in less than a year promptly received the North Texas Volunteer of the Year Award. From the outset, Brown annually has averaged more than 50 days a year working both on the course as a TGA Rules Official at multiple men’s, women’s and junior championships and off the course attending to association-related business matters at board meetings. That’s in addition to the time he’s given volunteering as a Rules Official for the United States Golf Association, Southern Golf Association and Trans-Mississippi Golf Association.

Brown was surprised when he received the news – “aghast” is the word he used – but there’s been no one in recent TGA history who is more deserving.

“I have admired the people who previously have received this award ever since I’ve been involved with the TGA,” Brown said. “Those people have mentored me, with or without their knowledge, with all the dedication they’ve shown. That’s what makes me so gratified to just be considered among those people. I’m so grateful I found the Texas Golf Association. The people and the association add immense value to my life.”

TGA Executive Director Stacy Dennis said there is no better representative for the game of golf and the association than Jim Brown.

“He is the kind of person I imagine this award was created to honor,” Dennis said. “He has meant more to the TGA than the deep Rules knowledge and countless days he’s contributed as a volunteer. He is a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. He sincerely loves the game and, most importantly, he loves our players.”

One of the foremost experts on the Rules of Golf in Texas, if not the entire country, Brown served as TGA President from 2016-18.

“His heart and soul are in the TGA,” said his friend, neighbor and colleague Carey Schulten, an esteemed Rules Official in his own right who succeeded Brown as TGA president from 2018-20. “Jim has done everything. The number of days he does Rules work is virtually every tournament that is within his reach.”

Schulten, who lives two streets away from Brown in central Dallas, met his friend back in 2010 when they found themselves working TGA championships together. Schulten, a former U.S. Air Force and Delta Air Lines pilot who won the Legends Junior Tour’s Volunteer of the Year Award in 2015, said it’s the lawyer in Brown that makes him such a trusted expert on the Rules.

“I think he sleeps with a Rules book,” Schulten joked. “He drinks and sleeps the Rules book. He’s on it all the time, and it reflects his background. He’s down to the fine print on that Rules book.”

First presented in 2005, the Bob Wells Distinguished Service Award is named after the late Bob Wells, who served as TGA president from 1980-87.

Current president Leslie Henry met Brown in 2012 when she began serving on the Board of Directors for the Women’s Texas Golf Association, which eventually merged with the TGA in 2014. Henry said Brown joined her in championing the idea of the men and women golfers in Texas coming together as an inclusive statewide association.

“I’ve had the privilege of working closely with Jim,” Henry said. “He is one of the most caring, compassionate human beings I have met in my lifetime. He’s the true example of treating everyone with respect and fairness. The award is so deserving, and we are all proud to call Jim Brown our friend and a force for the TGA.”

Brown, 74, is in his 12th year as a director of the TGA. Prior to his tenure as president in 2016-18, Brown served two-year terms as 1st Vice President and 2nd Vice President. He’s also put in countless hours as a member of several sub-committees, including Nominating, Finance, Compensation and Rules & Competitions.

A longtime advocate for amateur golf, Brown has also been a member the Southern Golf Association’s Board of Directors since 2001 and a member of the Executive Committee since 2011. He’s a former SGA president, too, and previously served as the SGA’s 1st Vice President, 2nd Vice President and Treasurer.

Brown received his BBA and JD from SMU in Dallas. He was a letterman on the Men’s Golf Team from 1963-1965 and has continued to support his alma mater by taking an active role on the Payne Stewart Cup Committee, the SMU Golf fundraiser, since 2003, serving as Chairman in 2009 and 2011. He’s also just about the biggest SMU fan anyone will ever meet.

Brown and his wife Camille have two adult children and four grandchildren.

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Jess Claiborne, 1947-2020

The Texas Golf Association is saddened to announce that Robert Jess Claiborne, a longtime TGA Board Member, passed away on Aug. 1 in Alto, New Mexico. He was 73.

Claiborne was an integral part of the Texas golf landscape, both as a player and volunteer, for more than 50 years.

A Texas native, Claiborne was born in Haskell and soon after moved to Lamesa, where his father established the family’s grocery store business. Claiborne developed a passion for the game of golf at an early age. Over the years, he blossomed into one of the state’s best amateur players and was a fixture atop the leaderboards in the ultra-competitive West Texas BBQ circuit tournaments.

Claiborne attended Texas Christian University from 1965-69 and earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. He was a stalwart on the Men’s Golf Team all four years and won the Southwest Conference individual title in 1968.

While he was at TCU, Claiborne had the good fortune of developing a friendship with the iconic Ben Hogan. Claiborne regularly shagged balls for the nine-time major champion and no doubt gleaned some knowledge about the golf swing from Mr. Hogan. Later in life, Claiborne often regaled his friends with stories about spending time with the steely-eyed man known as “The Hawk.”

After graduation, Claiborne had a go at professional golf for several years – including a stint as an assistant at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth – before returning to the grocery business.

During the past 45 years, Claiborne grew and expanded the family business to various locations and labels, including Piggly Wiggly, Claiborne’s Thriftway, Seminole Thriftway and Super Mercado in Midland and San Angelo.

After regaining his amateur status, Claiborne also grew and expanded his trophy collection. Among his many victories, his biggest wins were with partner Bill Holstead of Wichita Falls. They proved to be a formidable best-ball team, winning three straight Texas Four-Ball Championships from 1979-81.

“Above all, Jess had no enemies,” said longtime friend and TGA Director Mickey Jones. “He was liked by everyone, always had a smile on his face and owned most every golf club known to man. I will certainly miss him.”

Claiborne’s lifelong passion for golf led him to one of his proudest accomplishments – the creation of Escondido Golf & Lake Club in Horseshoe Bay. As a Founding Member, Claiborne was instrumental in bringing the vision of a world-class facility to realization. His tireless efforts helped Escondido and the Tom Fazio-designed course become one of the most award-winning clubs in Texas. For Claiborne, it was his “heaven on earth.”

Claiborne is survived by his wife Carolyn, children Jessica and Robert and four grandchildren.

The TGA extend its deepest sympathies to his family and friends.