'Pro was and will always be a legend': Fritz leaves a golfing legacy in his former students

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Lowell Fritz, the longtime golf pro at the Dalton Golf & Country Club and a member of the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame, passed away on Dec. 27, 2020.

Lowell Fritz passed away late last month, but his impact on golf in Northwest Georgia will live on for years to come in the students he took under his wing.

Fritz, who died on Dec. 27, 2020, was the golf pro at the Dalton Golf & Country Club for 52 years. He was inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame in 2013.

For just about anyone who grew up in or around Dalton, "Pro," as he was known, was the go-to-guy for golfing lessons.

Pro was that for Bill McDonald, who graduated from Dalton High School and spent some time as a professional golfer before his current role as head men's golf coach at the University of South Carolina.

"He basically taught me to play," McDonald recalled this week. "And he was like another dad to me in a lot of ways."

McDonald began taking lessons under Fritz at age 5. It was common for young golfers in the area to take their first swings in the sport under Fritz's watchful eye.

Blake Adams, a pro golfer who has spent time on the PGA Tour, grew up in Dalton and lived here until he was 16. He too was a Fritz pupil by the time he was ready to start kindergarten.

"These valuable lessons were instrumental in my development as a junior golfer and later as a PGA Tour player," Adams said. "Pro spent countless hours with me on the range, putting green and the golf course. His unwavering support and passion for my overall development was truly a blessing."

One particular lesson with Fritz has stuck with Adams.

"Pro would move your body to a particular position and say 'Can you feel the difference?'" Adams recalled. "These words helped tremendously in my development as a player because I was forced to identify and 'feel the difference' in two different positions within the golf swing."

Adams, who also offers golfing lessons, often finds himself asking his students the same thing.

The lessons Adams and McDonald learned from Fritz were just as numerous off the course as the ones on it.

"He was a man with a strong character and he was full of kindness. He was trustworthy and true to his word," Adams said. "His passion to help others and his willingness to put others first was remarkable. He loved God, he loved to laugh and he loved life. All of these things were amazing to watch and witness."

Those traits helped Fritz develop many relationships with numerous golfers over his years of teaching.

"You think about all the kids that have come through here under his tutelage that have gone on to play college golf," McDonald said. "Not only from watching him as I grew up, but just knowing how he respected he was from everyone."

McDonald credits Fritz with starting him down the coaching career path.

After a hand injury cut McDonald's professional career short, he said a lunch with Fritz, which became a regular occurrence whenever McDonald would return to town, helped him realize what he wanted to do.

"I was just trying to find my way, really," McDonald said. "I had been teaching golf on the side some in Atlanta. I remember him looking at me and saying 'If you're happy doing that, it's the best life ever.'"

Fritz lived that "best life" as a Dalton staple on the golf scene. After a few years in the U.S. Army, Fritz became an assistant professional in an Atlanta club for three years before arriving in Dalton in 1966. By 1968, he began the role at the Dalton Golf & Country Club that he held for the rest of his life. He held an annual junior golf clinic at the club, winning numerous awards for his work in junior golf before being inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame.

"He was such a fixture there," McDonald said. "He's in the hall of fame for a reason, and to me it was overdue when he got in."

"Pro was and will always be a legend," said Adams. "His reputation throughout Dalton and the entire golf industry was full of respect and appreciation due to his kindness, unselfishness and his love for the game and others."

"I'm a living example of his influence," McDonald said. "He showed me a lot about golf and how to live my life, and I'm just trying to emulate."

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