Golf fans and friends are mourning the passing of golf icon Jim Ferree, a resident of Hilton Head Island, who died March 14 at the age of 91.

Ferree was born in Pine Bluff, North Carolina and learned the game of golf from his father, Purvis, a longtime golf professional at Old Town Club in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. 

The younger Ferree played golf at Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem and college golf for the University of North Carolina from 1951 to 1953. During his time at UNC, he won the Southern Conference Championship. 

He was a member of the Southern Conference 75th Anniversary team that included Arnold Palmer and Brad Faxon. In 1991, Ferree was the first golfer inducted into the University of North Carolina Hall of Fame.

After college, Ferree served in the Armed Forces and participated in intramural military golf competitions. He had a lifetime commitment to supporting and respecting America’s active armed services women, men and veterans.

In 1955, Ferree turned professional. He won once on the PGA circuit – at the 1958 Vancouver Open, where he had a one-shot victory over golf legend Billy Casper. He played in 295 tour events and had two runner-up finishes.

In 1966, Ferree became the head pro at Savannah Inn and Country Club. He later became the golf pro at Westmoreland Country Club in Export, Pennsylvania. At Westmoreland, Ferree coached many great junior golfers, including well-known PGA Tour winner Rocco Mediate. 

In its inaugural 1981 season, Ferree joined the Senior PGA (now the Champions Tour). Because of his knickers, trademark hat and signature swing, Deane Beman chose Ferree to be the model for the Senior Tour logo. 

While still playing on the Senior Tour, Ferree became the first Director of Golf at Long Cove Cub on Hilton Head Island. In 1981, he and his longtime friend, Karen Shapiro, a golf pro at Long Cove, married.

Ferree won twice on the Senior Tour. In 1986, at the Greater Grand Rapids Open beating Gene Littler and Chi-Chi Rodriguez in a playoff and in 1991, winning the Bell Atlantic Classic beating Lee Trevino by 2 strokes. Ferree also had 12 runner-up finishes.

In 1998, Ferree was inducted into the Carolinas Golf Hall of Fame. When Karen was inducted in 2014, they became the first husband and wife pair to earn the honor. They are both members of the Lowcountry Golf Hall of Fame as well.

He stayed active in golf, and in 2002 and 2003 he teamed with Miller Barber and won the Demaret Division of the Liberty Mutual Legends of Golf. In 2019, Ferree was inducted into the Western Pennsylvania Golf Hall of Fame.

Ferree remained committed to the local golf community with his support of the First Tee of the Lowcountry in his final years. 

Last year, Ferree was the guest of honor at a 90th birthday celebration held on the Long Cove course as he finished his round of golf. Dozens of friends, members and golf pros gathered near a large sign to sing “Happy Birthday” as the legend dropped his ball into the final hole.

For a video of the celebration, search YouTube for “Jim Ferree Birthday Long Cove Club.”

Dr. Jean Harris is an LPGA Master Professional and teaches at local golf courses.;