SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — The Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame held their annual induction banquet Tuesday night at the Salem Civic Center. You might say the special night will be like a department store special; two for the price of one. A pair of local standouts in the game, PGA TOUR professional Lanto Griffin and his longtime mentor and teacher, Steve Prater, headline the Class of 2021. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic that caused last year’s ceremony to be cancelled, the Class of 2020 that includes former Roanoke Times sportswriter Doug Doughty and a standout on the local women’s circuit, Marilyn Bussey, will also get their well-deserved day in the sun. Also honored were be the top high school players throughout the area, Griffin and Prater being inducted in the same year was a natural due to their tight association for two decades. Prater took Griffin under his wings at age 12 after Griffin’s father had died from a brain tumor and the mentoring proved to be a life-changer for the youngster. Griffiin at that vulnerable early age, needed direction and wanted to prove himself by being successful. Prater led him down the path of golf, recognizing a youngster who had a desire to learn the correct techniques of the game along with a strong competitive nature that that leads to success in the game of golf.
Griffin would go on to excel at the high school and college levels before winning twice on the Korn Ferry Tour. Then, the talented player from Blacksburg hit the jackpot when he impressively won tne 2019 Houston Open on the PGA TOUR, making him a fixture on the big stage in professional golf. Prater, a Blacksburg High School graduate himself, has been one of the most esteemed teaching pros in golf for decades. He has given lessons to over a hundred area high school golfers who have gone on to play at the college level. Prater taught in Florida and New York before returning to this area in 1995. He was the pro at Blacksburg Country Club for over 10 years before becoming the teaching pro at Roanoke Country Club for ten years during which time young aspiring golfers from the region flocked to get his advice and instruction on improving their swing, mental toughness and techniques. In 2020 Prater returned to Blacksburg Country Club as its golf professional. In June, Blacksburg Country Club hosted The Lanto Junior Tournament, a first-year, three-day, American Junior Golf Association sanctioned event sponsored by Griffin and coordinated by Prater. “Inducting Lanto and Steve in the same year was a no-brainer,” Hall of Fame Executive Committee member Ned Baber noted in an interview with the Roanoke Star this week. “They have been connected forever. Steve took him in and mentored him as a kid. Steve taught him golf and it led to Lanto earning his way to the PGA TOUR and the PGA win in the Houston Open. Along the way, Steve Prater had a lot to do with the whole thing and Lanto has given Steve credit for being the influence that changed his life. They mean so much to each other, it was just the perfect way to induct them both at the same time.” Both Griffin and Prater are expected to be on hand November 23.Marilyn Bussey has been a fixture in Roanoke Valley golf for over half a century. She was a graduate of William Fleming High School and played on the first women’s golf team at Madison College in 1969. The school, located in Harrisonburg, later became James Madison University. She learned the game at Brookside, the par-3, 9-hole course in the Boxley Hills area near Williamson Road and “graduated” to Blue Hills’ 18-hole layout shortly thereafter. She would become the golf coach at Northside High School where she taught phys-ed. Bussey played out of Countryside Golf Club for years, and was a top player for their team in local tournaments. Countryside closed over a decade ago, but along the way she won the 2003 Roanoke Valley Golf Hall of Fame Women’s championship, two Roanoke Valley Women’s City-County titles and the 2015 Hall of Fame Senior championship. Bussey was also near the top of the leaderboard most years. Doughty is at the top of the list of sportswriters who have written for the Roanoke Times. Doughty’s first assignment in 1974 was to cover the Women’s City-County. He would go on to cover all the big names on the local women’ circuit. Two years later he would become the Times’ national golf writer where he would cover nearly 50 PGA TOUR events including numerous U.S. Opens and The Masters in Augusta, Georgia. He was one hand when names like Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Seve Ballesteros and Fuzzy Zoeller won a Major Championship. Doughty, a UVA graduate, became the beat writer for the Cavaliers in all sports and was eventually inducted into the UVA Hall of Fame. He had over 10,000 by-lines while writing for the Times. Although retired from the Times today, he continues to write his regular “College Notebook” where his expertise in college sports gives readers an insider look at everything from history, players and coaches, to recruiting. “We’re giving everyone a two-for-one this year,” Baber pointed out. “Plus, we will be honoring local tournament winners and two high school teams along with the top high school players in the area. The Hall of Fame banquet originated long ago to honor the high school players and it’s great to honor them each year. The Hall of Fame gives out over $90,000 in scholarships annually to high school students. It will be a big night.”