FORT WALTON BEACH—Standing at the podium during Wednesday afternoon’s All Sports Association Hall of Fame Luncheon, Edwin Watts, one of two inductees in the 2013 class, couldn’t suppress a smile.
“I will cherish this honor for the rest of my life,” said Watts. “I will cherish it because I’m looking out at a room full of friends, and when something comes from friends, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
With that, Watts summed up a day filled with smiles, a day when the All Sports Association kicked off a week’s worth of festivities centered around its 44th annual banquet and acknowledged its two newest hall of fame members.
In addition to Watts, former Laurel Hill coaching legend Betty Howard was also inducted at Wednesday’s ceremony, which was held at the Emerald Coast Convention Center.
The luncheon served as the kickoff leading up to the association’s annual banquet, which will take place Friday night at the convention center. NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders is this year’s keynote speaker.
At Wednesday’s event, both Howard and Watts shared similar messages of gratitude to the assembled members of the All Sports Association.
“Thanks to the hard work of all the players and everyone involved, we really built something special at Laurel Hill School,” said Howard. “This award is for every person at Laurel Hill. It’s for everyone that ever came to a game, everyone that rode up the roads with us, for every player that ever went through a practice or played a game.
“This is for Laurel Hill.”
Howard, who started her coaching career at Laurel Hill in 1975, coached the Hoboes to six state championships in girls’ basketball and three more in volleyball. She was introduced by Laurel Hill’s Grover Hicks, who was at the school during Howard’s successful run.
“She brought a little class to Laurel Hill, and I mean that in a good way,” said Hicks. “She was always a team player, a person that really cared about the kids. She was a great coach on the court, but she really took a special interest in helping kids away from sports, too.”
For Howard, who now resides in Memphis, the hall of fame recognition is an honor best shared with those close to the Laurel Hill program.
“All of you know that it was about the players,” said Howard. “We made a lot of good memories at Laurel Hill, and I am so proud to come back to receive this.”
After Howard’s speech, emcee Tom Brassell turned the floor over to John Watts, who then helped induct his father into the All Sports Hall of Fame.
“He is a man that truly loves people,” said John Watts. “He sees the good in everybody. He’s like that at home, at the office, on the golf course…I’m proud to introduce him.”
The elder Watts founded Edwin Watts Golf in 1968, and grew the company into the largest golf retailer in the world while at the same time earning a reputation for being one of the most influential voices in the golf industry with regards to golf club design and marketing. He’s also a PGA Golf Professional who renowned as one of the finest golf instructors in the area, one who has hosted free junior clinics in summertime for over 30 years.
Edwin Watts, the last man to take the podium on Wednesday, deflected praise onto those around him.
“If you have a great, supportive family, you can do anything,” said Watts. “I have the greatest family on Earth.”
Wattswas joined Wednesday by his mother, Hazel; his wife, Mary; his children and several other family members. During his speech, he recounted the journey of Edwin Watts Golf, a journey that started with a small retail store and eventually expanded into a 95-outlet giant of a company.
“It was never something we set out to do,” said Watts, “but God had big, big plans for this company.”