A friend of a friend-Don Clayton-Bill Kirby-August 16

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for August 16, 2015.

My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.

Today marks the 228th post utilizing the concept of “A friend of a friend”.  Sometimes I have to admit I am asked if I will ever run out of people to write about. I don’t worry about that as much as I know I will stop on December 31, 2015 and might leave someone out that really I want to brag on.

When you are a coach there is something unfair that happens that quite frankly occurs in other walks of life also. That unfairness is the amount of credit you get when things go well. The credit that coaches receive often is the result of what their team accomplishes but that doesn’t stop newspaper writers and professional associations from giving out “Coach of the Year” Awards.

I have to say that over my twenty-three year career I had some newspaper writers treat me more than fair and quite frankly heaped praise on me when I didn’t deserve it. One of those writers was Bill Kirby of the Fayetteville Observer. At the time I was coaching basketball Bill covered sports. Bill still writes for the Fayetteville Observer today but his focus is more on the Saturday Extra Edition and columns.  He also has a great blog called The Gospel Truth. You can find a link to some of blog posts below.


Bill wrote a powerful piece on my dad Francis D Kenney when he passed away in March 1991. At that time I was the basketball coach at UNC Pembroke and Bill was sports editor of the paper. That column is framed and still hanging at my house. He probably has no idea how important that column was not only to me but to my mom. My mom passed away in 2012 and she cherished that column also. Not everyone in my family has met Bill but they all know him because how he praised my dad. I have to say that the praise Bill gave my dad was well deserved. He got it right.

Bill is more than a writer he also has had quite a career as pro putter. He actually is a member of the Professional Putters Hall of Fame.  He started out in 1961 as an amateur but in 1971 he turned professional. From 1990 to 1995 Bill was either the player of the year of Co-player of the year for the State of North Carolina on the PPA Tour. On six different occasions he won the North Carolina PPA Championship. Bill got inducted into the PPA Hall of Fame in 1994, and he capped his PPA career in 1995 by winning the PPA National Championship and the PPA Norfolk Open.


There is an entire link that list his Bill Kirby’s accomplishments


Bill had a friend named Don Clayton who died in 1996.

The Friend – BILL KIRBY

Bill Kirby

The Friend of a Friend-DON CLAYTON


The man behind Putt-Putt Golf Courses

I have a friend named Alan Fowlkes who used to own a Putt-Putt franchise in Lumberton, NC. The history of that business got it’s start in North Carolina.

In 1954 Don Clayton was 28, he felt such pressure selling insurance in his hometown of Fayetteville, N.C., that his doctor feared he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and ordered him to take a month’s vacation — but neglected to tell him not to engage in any formal relaxation.

Sure enough, Don was soon out playing miniature golf — and becoming so worked up over what he considered the deplorable conditions of the ill-designed course that when he got home, the only way he could stave off a nervous breakdown was to sit down to design what he considered a superior version of the game.

The idea to redesign courses Don got in 1954 had grown into Putt-Putt Golf and Games, an international franchising operation with $100 million in annual revenues when he passed away in 1996. That nervous breakdown turned into something completely different.

Don deplored miniature golf courses that resembled pin ball games or obstacle courses. To test his idea, Don and his dad spent $5,200 to build an 18-hole course on a shaded lot and charged 25 cents a game.

Putt Putt

When they had earned their investment back 29 days later, Don knew he was on to something, but did not know exactly what until he went to the bank to open a business account. He had intended to call his enterprise Shady Vale Golf Courses, but when he realized he was not sure how to spell “Vale,” he substituted the name Putt-Putt on a whim. If he did better in spelling in school I am not sure the name Shady Vale could be franchised.

Don never went back to selling insurance but began a franchise operation in which each of its 265 courses is based on a set of his 108 copyrighted holes.

Lest anyone dismiss Putt-Putt golf as child’s play, Don also started a Professional Putters Association tour that has awarded more than $6.5 million in prize money from 1959 to 1996.

Some of that prize money found it way into Bill Kirby’s pocket and that is The Gospel Truth.

Bill wrote a great tribute to Don Clayton’s wife in 2014



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