by Robert Balicki
(Feb. 24, 2011) -- Robert Hoadley isn’t quite sure just how he got chosen as a semifinalist for what is perhaps the nation’s highest honor for amateur athletes, but those who know him best say he is more than worthy.
Hoadley, a sophomore and All-Southern Conference selection last season at North Carolina-Greensboro, has been selected as one of 12 semifinalists for the Amateur Athletic Union’s prestigious Sullivan Award.
The award, presented annually since 1930 to the outstanding amateur athlete in the U.S., is based on athletic performance, qualities of leadership, character, sportsmanship and the ideals of amateurism. It is open to participants in every AAU-accredited sport.
The 12 semifinalists will be trimmed to an undetermined number of finalists, and the winner will be announced March 14 in New York. If Hoadley is among the finalists, he will be the first men’s golfer since Tiger Woods in 1995-97 to earn that distinction. The finalists are expected to be named about March 1.
“This is quite an honor,” Hoadley said. “Right now, I’m just taking it all in and enjoying it.”
Hoadley said he never had heard of the Sullivan Award until his mother recently told him he had been nominated for it.
“I quickly did some research and found out it is one of the top honors in amateur sports,” Hoadley said. “I was like, wow, this is something very special.”
He admits he was surprised at his selection, especially after looking at the other semifinalists.
“I went down the list and said to myself, ‘There’s a name on this list that doesn’t quite fit, and it’s mine,” he said with a chuckle. “I mean, you’ve got an Olympic gold medalist (Evan Lysacek, figure skating), a Heisman Trophy winner (Cam Newton, Auburn) and national champions (Elena Pirozhous, wrestling, and Regina Jacques, water skiing). And then there’s this all-conference golfer who has done some stuff but not quite as much as the others.
“I’m just a small-town name, but I’m very proud of my accomplishments so far, both on and off the golf course,” Hoadley said.
Other semifinalists are college basketball players Jimmer Fredette (BYU), Maya Moore (Connecticut) and Tahnee Robinson (Nevada), as well as football standout D.J. Williams (Arkansas).
“Robert is a most respectful and humble young man and will do anything to help his friends, family, teammates or a complete stranger,” said UNCG men’s coach Terrance Stewart. “He will have a very bright future, no matter what he does.
“It always amazed me how many schools never gave him the time of day because he wasn’t a 6-foot-2 bomber, but he became the 13th-ranked junior in the country and a very good college player. This truly shows good things happen to good people. I can’t wait to see the next two years of his college career. On top of everything, he has made the athletic honor roll every semester, carries a 3.6 GPA and stays extremely involved in a number of school- and community-related activities.”
Wendell Welch, a Greensboro resident who runs AAU golf programs nationwide and has known Hoadley for a decade, submitted his name for Sullivan Award consideration.
“I’ve watched him grow up through golf,” Welch said. “He does so much both in and out of golf, and I feel he represents all the attributes of the Sullivan Award. He has done some great things here in the state and is very highly regarded by all who know him.”
Hoadley, who plans to major in marketing in UNCG’s Bryan School of Business and Economics, has volunteered with the First Tee program in and around his hometown of Southern Pines, N.C., since he completed the program as a participant in 2004.
“At that point, I was playing a lot of tournaments around the country,” Hoadley said. “Later, I was starting to get recruited by colleges, and I turned into a mentor. I’ve worked with kids from the ages of 5 to 12. I think stuff like that – especially in the First Tee, which has such a great influence in its communities – can catch the eye of (selection committee members) looking at resumes.”
Hoadley won the Pinehurst Intercollegiate and tied for ninth at the Fireline Towson Invitational in consecutive events last spring. A 15th-place finish at the Southern Conference Championship secured his selection on the all-conference team.
The 5-foot-8 Hoadley, a two-time state junior champion, had five top-30 finishes in six starts this past fall, including a second at the VCU Shootout and three other top 20s.
Bobby Jones won the inaugural Sullivan Award in 1930, but no golfer has claimed the prize since W. Lawson Little Jr. in 1935.