Hub City resident James Ray (J.R.) Carpenter died early Wednesday at his daughter’s home in Hattiesburg following complications from congestive heart failure. He was 91. Services, which are being handled by Hulett-Winstead Funeral Home, are pending.
Carpenter was elected to PGA membership in 1969, and served as PGA president from 1987-88, applying both homespun wit and counsel to become a respected leader in the golf industry.
Through Carpenter's nearly 50 years in professional golf, he never wavered in bringing to his work leadership, fairness and a strong sense of understanding the PGA Member.
“The PGA of America is saddened by the passing of J.R. Carpenter, a loyal and passionate PGA Professional who followed a simple yet effective formula in life – leave the place better than when you arrived,” said PGA of America President Paul K. Levy. “J.R. mentored so many who went on to meaningful positions in the golf industry. He had a wonderful way about him with down-home humor, but he never lost sight of the mission of the PGA, and what the Association could do for its members. We will miss him and our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Carpenter graduated from with a B.S. and a subsequent Master’s Degree in physical education in 1951. He spent three years in the U.S. Air Force. Following his service, Carpenter returned to civilian life to become a high school basketball coach in Biloxi. He sold insurance before moving into oil field supplies.
Born in Runnelstown, Carpenter was an all-state football and basketball player in high school. He didn't touch a golf club until he was 33 years old – being introduced to the game in 1959. As a salesman of oil field supplies, Carpenter's career path soon transformed into golf.
In 1964, the USM physical education instructor, who also acted as golf coach, head professional and course superintendent was retiring and school officials searched for a replacement. Carpenter, then one of the facility’s best golfers, was offered the position and accepted.
His leadership skills led his golf teams to winning seasons in each of his 13 years with USM.
Carpenter left USM in 1990 to serve as director of golf at Timberton Golf Club in Hattiesburg. In 1998, he co-designed nine additional holes at the facility.
Carpenter was inducted into the USM Sports Hall of Fame, the USM Alumni Hall of Fame, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and the Gulf States PGA Hall of Fame.
Carpenter was preceded in death by his wife, Mary, in 2009. Survivors include five children: Richard, Deborah, Jimmy, Melinda and Gary; 13 grandchildren and four great grandchildren.