Sonny Skinner, a former PGA Tour player and a veteran Georgia PGA member, was inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame recently, with the ceremony held at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Skinner joins recent Georgia PGA inductees James Mason, Ray Cutright, Stephen Keppler, Lowell Fritz and Richard Crawford, who have joined the GGHOF since 2012.
The 57-year-old Skinner was born in Virginia, but grew up in the southwest Georgia town of Sylvester and still resides there. He played golf and football at Worth County High School and attended both Shorter College and Abraham Baldwin before turning pro.
Skinner began his golf career as an assistant professional at Valdosta Country Club in 1982, and was the head pro at Pine Knoll GC in Sylvester from 1984-89.
From 1990 to 2004 Skinner was a full-time tour pro, beginning his career on the PGA Tour in 1990. He spent four years on the tour in the 1990s, tying the course record in the Buick Open in 1997 with an opening round 62 at Warwick Hills outside Detrot.
Most of Skinner’s tour career was spent on what is now the Web.com Tour. He played the tour for 10 years between 1991 and 2004, and continued to make occasional starts before turning 50 in 2010. Skinner won tournaments in Shreveport in 1993 and Richmond in 1994, with his ’93 victory coming after he played his way into the field in a Monday qualifier. Skinner placed among the top 30 on the money list three times, finishing as high as 11th in ’94.
Since turning 50, Skinner has made 30 starts on the Champions Tour, most of them via pre-tournament qualifiers.
Skinner began playing Georgia PGA events full time in 2006, and has been one of the top players in the Section since then, while also making an impact at the national club professional level. He has twice earned Georgia PGA Player of the Year honors (2006 and 2014), and has placed fourth or higher six other times in the points standings.
Among his tournament victories are two each in the Georgia PGA Championship (2009 and 2012) and Atlanta Open (2015 and ’16), winning the latter event in consecutive years in his mid-50s. He also won the Match Play Championship in 2006 and was runner-up a decade later. Skinner narrowly missed the Georgia PGA’s career Grand Slam, finishing one shot out of a playoff in the 2006 Georgia Open.
Since turning 50, Skinner has won numerous Georgia PGA tournaments at the senior level, including the Georgia Senior Open in 2012 and the Georgia PGA Senior Championship three times since 2010.
At the national level, Skinner has twice finished as runner-up in the PGA Professional National Championship, the top event for the country’s club professionals. He placed second at Reynolds Plantation on Lake Oconee in 1998, just one shot behind the winner, and again was second two years later in Indiana.
Since becoming a club professional in 2006, Skinner has been an almost annual qualifier for both the national club professional and senior club professional championships, and has placed high enough in both events to be a frequent participant in both the PGA Championship and Senior PGA Championship. He finished as low club pro in the 2011 Senior PGA.
Skinner became the first PGA member to win honors as both national Player of the Year (2008) and national Senior Player of the Year, claiming the latter award three straight times from 2010 to 2012. His Player of the Year award in 2008 was aided by a top-20 finish in a Nationwide (now Web.com) Tour event at Jennings Mill outside Athens after making it into the event via a Georgia PGA qualifier.
Since returning to the club professional ranks, Skinner has worked as a head pro and instructor at River Pointe in Albany and Spring Hill in Tifton, as well as serving as a sales representative for several golf-related companies. He is currently an instructor at Spring Hill.
Skinner was inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame along with three other honorees. Also inducted were career amateur golfers Wright Waddell and Martha Stacy Leach, along with Stephen Hamblen, the long time Executive Director of the American Junior Golf Association, which is based in metro Atlanta.