Joe Malay named Golf Hall of Famer


Legendary local and Idaho golf player and colorful personality Joe Malay was recently honored by the Idaho Golf Association as part of its Hall of Fame class of 2024, which honors the state’s greatest in the amateur and professional golfing ranks. It is the IGA’s inaugural year for the Hall of Fame designation. The first class holds several of Joe’s lifelong friends who have played with or against him. Above, he is shown with Idaho radio personality Kevin Miller at Tim Wrightman’s Champion Mindset Dinner, Auction, and Football Camp held at the Lazy Bear Ranch this past weekend. Wrightman’s dinner benefitted youth who participated in his annual football camp, which was held Saturday, April 27. In the background are several past teammates Wrightman played with during his days at UCLA. Far left, background, is former NFL quarterback Jay Schroeder. Joe, who served as the evening’s emcee, is regularly asked to emcee special events due to his extroverted and likeable personality, professionalism and humor. Read Joe’s story, beginning on this page, upper left. Photo by Philip A. Janquart
By: 
Nancy Grindstaff
 Often referred to as Weiser’s good-will ambassador, Joe Malay has seen a lot of “firsts” through his 70-plus years, especially in relation to his lifelong devotion to the game of golf. In fact, other than his close connection with Santa Claus and Weiser’s annual Christmas Ho Ho Express, all over Idaho Malay and golf are practically synonymous.
 So, when the Idaho Golf Association released its first ever Hall of Fame Inaugural Class of 2024 honoring some of the state’s greatest in both amateur and professional golfing ranks last week, it was to nobody’s surprise to find Malay among the mix. 
 Well, except for to the surprise of Malay.
 This first class holds several of Joe’s lifelong friends who have played on teams with him or against him, or in individual competitions: Payette’s Scott Masingill, the owner of nine Idaho Men’s Amateur wins; Jean Lane Smith, the only Idahoan to win a USGA championship, the 1995 Senior Women’s Amateur; and Karen Darrington, the winner of 21 major amateur titles in Idaho; plus posthumously, three great influencers and leaders of Idaho golf, Shirley Englehorn, an 11-time winner on the LPGA tour; Arnold Heneke, Hillcrest Country Club’s head professional for nearly 30 years; and Wayne Berry, the first executive director of the IGA.
 Among Malay’s long list of accomplishments over the past 50-plus years include: 1986 Men’s Amateur Champion; Men’s Four-Ball Champion (1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1996, 1999 and 2011); represented Team Idaho on 50 different cup teams and at four Pacific Coast Amateurs; and co-founder of the Idaho Junior Golf Foundation.
 “I am very humbled, very honored, very privileged about being in this category, particularly it being the inaugural one,” Malay told the Signal American. “They have to start somewhere, and, like I told somebody, Scott Masingill set the bar so high, fortunately I can get under it,” he added with his signature good-hearted laugh.
 “Scott and I have teamed up at different events and played against each other many, many times,” he said. “Won the state four-ball championships, the last one in 2011 with Scott.  Jean Smith and I are friends that go back forever. She is an accomplished amateur golfer, never turned professional, and won a U.S. Senior Amateur Championship, which is open to all women in the nation.
 “Karen Darrington is quite an accomplished senior,” he went on. ‘She is still going strong. Some of us are, and I’m not so much. My mouth is going better than my back, and it’s limited a lot of things for me. Still, I compete in all the IGA things I can, especially the senior events, and love to be involved with the junior events. I’ll keep on doing that and going from there.
 “I have another tournament this weekend … all kinds of events and functions, and I like that and like giving back, and I’ve received a lot, but this is the best of any kind of acknowledgment I’ve ever had, because it’s a first and it spans all the golfers statewide for decades,” Malay said.
 Worth mentioning, another first for Joe was being named the first Golf Nut of the Year by the Golf Nut Society of America in 1986.
 Following is  the biographical sketch of Malay in the IGA’s press release announcing these first class Hall of Famers:
 “Joe Malay is the kind of guy you’re likely to spot on the driving range or in the clubhouse before you meet him. Under a trademark goatee and a plume of white hair, selections from his brightly colored and boldly patterned wardrobe spill down toward his feet as he buzzes from person to person, old friends and new ones, representing everything good and everything golf in Idaho.       
 “‘Joe Malay, Weiser, Idaho’ is how he introduces himself to new faces, proud to represent his beloved hometown along the Oregon border where he’s achieved a rare celebrity among locals. He’s held the course record at his home club – Rolling Hills GC – for more than 40 years. He’s won the club championship 41 times. He’s gone out of his way to play at least one round with every member of the club. And when the maintenance crew is unavailable or understaffed, Malay is always ready and willing to hop on a mower.
 “Malay graduated from Weiser High School in 1967 and shipped off to Kansas City Community College where he played on the golf team for a year before signing up with the U.S. Marine Corps in 1968. He received an honorable discharge in 1969 and returned to Weiser where he ‘hung around, played golf and had no real plans.’
 “Planned or not, Malay turned his golf life into something far more significant than ‘hanging around.’ For decades, his presence in the Idaho golf landscape is felt far beyond the Ore-Ida border towns that raised him, consistently competing across the state – with notable success – in every format and division that he could find. 
 “And when he’s not playing golf, Malay is one of the most visible champions of junior golf in Idaho. 
 “Malay is one of the founders of the Idaho Junior Golf Foundation, an organization that raises and distributes money to junior golf programs around the state. Since its founding in 1997, IJGF has provided essential funding to programs like the Idaho Junior Tour, First Tee Idaho and sends Idaho juniors to college on the foundation’s Cody Hayes Scholarship. Every year, Malay hosts a putting competition and raffle at the Idaho Junior Amateur Championship for all players.
 “In the winter, when there are no golf tournaments to attend, Malay’s charitable nature never cools down. His annual holiday fundraiser – Santa’s Ho-Ho Express – has raised more than a quarter million dollars for underprivileged youth in the Payette/Weiser area. In 2001, locals nominated Joe’s Ho-Ho Express for a national competition put on by Walmart to profile local charities. When Malay won the competition, Walmart sent a camera crew to film a commercial which aired in all 50 states over the Holiday season. 
 “While his legacy is most defined by his presence off the golf course, Malay commands plenty of respect as a player. He’s represented Idaho, most often as a player, on more than 50 different cup teams, won the Idaho State Four-Ball seven times, qualified to play in eight USGA Public Links Championships, and carved his name into the Men’s Amateur Championship trophy in 1986. 
 “In 2019, the IGA’s Senior Amateur Championship trophy was named in his honor.” 
 Before heading out onto the fairways at Rolling Hills Golf Course for a weekly round of play with 30 to 40 of his closest friends last Thursday evening, one of his earliest local Idaho Junior Golf Association members, Jonathan Edwards, gathered the group, announcing Malay’s Hall of Fame designation.
 That particular crowd of delighted friends were: Edwards, Mike Pulsipher, Steve Duran, Rob Woods, Eliseo Sanchez, Drew Surmeier, Steven Shade, Frank Fuller, Larry Nakamura, Kim Rowley, Clint Netherton, Dana Maxfield, Berto Reyes, Bryce Glarborg, Carl Smith, Tony Hickey, Robbie Salazar, Guy Gage, Harvey Hirata, Brian Whiting, John Furbie, Ron McDaniel, Brandon Masingill, Jon Stewart, Cary Gibbs, Kevin Sylvester, Clint Brown, Ron Gardner, Ben Comer, JD Howell, Marty Anderson, Nathan Malse, Mike Burke, Taylor Beams, Carson Beams, Wyatt Beams, Dave Estes, and Jay Edwards. 
 The next inductees will be announced in 2028, with the IGA planning to continue adding to its Hall of Fame every four years.

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