Tommy Valentine was a talented athlete and professional golfer, but friends and family say they will remember him for the love and loyalty he showed those around him.
Valentine always had a natural athletic ability, but picked up golf when he was 11 after a year-long recovery from being hit by a car, his brother, Richard “Dick” Valentine, of Gainesville, said. He was attracted to the challenge golf posed.
“It’s not a game of perfection but it’s a game you can always strive to perfect,” he said.
His brother said Tommy Valentine, who attended Gainesville High School and later the University of Georgia where he played golf, was also captain of his high school basketball team and quarterback of the football team, but golf was his sport.
“I was always competing to be the first-string quarterback or the starting point guard and he always won out,” said longtime friend Charlie Langford, who frequently visited Valentine for golf and fishing trips.
Langford said he was a wonderful friend and confidant, someone who never met a stranger and always made him feel like the most important person in the room, but he was not much of a fisherman.
“I would say his talents were more on the golf course,” he said, laughing.
Thomas “Tommy” Ervin Valentine, 64, of Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich., died of complications from kidney cancer. A memorial service is planned for Tuesday at 2 p.m. at St. Paul United Methodist Church. Little-Davenport Funeral Home is handling arrangements.
He grew up in Georgia but moved to Michigan when he left the PGA tour and became head pro at Lochmoor Country Club in Grosse Pointe Woods. It was there he met his love of 16 years, Terry Tenaglia.
“She has been a great confidante, and during his final months when he was ill, an incredible caretaker,” Tommy’s brother, Dr. Mike Valentine, of Virginia, said.
Family said Tommy, an avid coin collector and unwavering fan of UGA football, played golf at UGA as a walk-on but eventually earned a scholarship and later joined the PGA Tour.
Mike Valentine said Tommy made friends all along the way.
He said a golfer from Florida called and said Tommy had helped him deal with his nerves in the final round of a tournament they played when they were young.
“Ten years after, he was playing with Tommy in a tournament and Tommy remembered his name, his golf swing, his putting style and the things they said to each other in that tournament when he was 17 years old,” Mike Valentine said. “He knew then they would be lifelong friends.”
He said his brother was an extraordinary people person and a true Southern gentleman who loved to teach, not only about golf but about life. He also had a knack for bringing people from all walks of life together.
“One of the most interesting things about Tommy, or sometimes annoying, is whenever you were with Tommy his cellphone went off constantly because friends from all over the country that he created over 40 years were calling him,” he said. “That was perhaps the most unique thing about Tommy is all of his friends from everywhere came together.”
In addition to his two brothers and longtime love, Tommy Valentine is survived by his mother, Bonnelle Lawson Valentine of Gainesville.