The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame inducted its 50th class on May 2 at the Raleigh Convention Center. Among the 11 members of the 2013 inductees was Greensboro’s Marty Sheets, a longtime Wyndham Championship volunteer and Special Olympics athlete.
The North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame website describes Sheets as one of the most highly decorated special athletes in the world. He holds 250 Special Olympic medals in an array of sports at local, state, national and world levels. Sheets has won gold, silver or bronze medals in swimming, skiing, tennis and power lifting at the world competition level, and golf at the 2007 national level. He and the late singer John Denver were chosen to lead the United States delegation into the World Games opening ceremonies in 1987. Sheets was featured on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” in 1991, and he began a 15-year run on the golf committee of Special Olympics in 1993. Sheets was chosen to sit with President Clinton at the opening of the 1995 World Games, and in 2007 he was selected by Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver to join her and four other athletes in a Special Olympics portrait featured in the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Sheets was named the 2006 PGA TOUR volunteer of the year; the story below appeared in the 2007 Wyndham Championship program.
Wyndham Championship volunteer Marty Sheets received the PGA TOUR’s highest honor for individual benevolence, earning the 2006 PGA TOUR Volunteer of the Year award in February of 2007. PGA TOUR Chief of Operations Henry Hughes and TOUR player Scott Verplank made the presentations at the site of the World Golf Championships – Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson, Ariz.
“This award is the highest honor the PGA TOUR can bestow upon a volunteer, and we are extremely proud of Marty,” Wyndham Championship tournament director Mark Brazil said. “For 15 years, Marty has been a very special part of our tournament. He’s been the perfect volunteer in every way. He always brings a smile to everyone’s face, and he’s an excellent standard bearer. He is assigned the final group in the final round each year because he does such a good job.
“All the players remember him from year to year, and they are truly excited that the TOUR gave him this incredible recognition. Marty embodies what our tournament is all about…giving back. He gives back through his volunteerism, and he represents every volunteer who has been a part of this tournament since 1938. This award is a very special not only for the Sheets family, but also for everyone associated with the Wyndham Championship.”
“When I was in Tuscon (at the award presentation) I really had a good time,” Sheets said. “When they gave me the crystal bowl, I made a short speech. Then I got a standing ovation from the crowd. That is my first time to get a crystal bowl, and I will never, ever forget it. I love this bowl they gave me. I like to show it to everybody. Some nights when I can’t go to sleep, I look all around my room at the things I have like my medals and some hats that the golfers gave me and my crystal bowl. I wish the golfers could come see my room.”
Sheets, 53, is a Special Olympics of North Carolina athlete with Down Syndrome. He currently competes in golf and power lifting but has also competed in alpine skiing, tennis and aquatics in the past. He represented North Carolina in 1968 at the first International Special Olympics Games at Soldier Field in Chicago. Sheets has won more than 150 medals at local, state and international Special Olympics competitions. He started volunteering for the tournament after a very special visit.
“Marty has loved golf ever since he was a teenager and would regularly attend the tournament,” Marty’s father Dave Sheets said. “One evening a friend of ours brought PGA TOUR professional Kenny Perry to our home to meet Marty. Since then Kenny has been one of Marty’s favorites. Several years ago during the tournament, he was following Perry’s group as a spectator and Marty made the comment that he wished he could carry the ‘score sign.’ The gentleman who was the standard bearer for that group heard Marty’s comment and told him to come inside the ropes and he would let him carry it for a couple of holes. Marty loved doing it and has volunteered as a standard bearer every year since then.”
“That’s just one of the things I like to do every year,” Marty Sheets said. “I have two flags with a lot of golfers’ autographs on them. I really like walking with the golfers. They are nice. The caddies are nice, too. I have the big $900,000 check that K J Choi won (after winning in 2005). It is on the wall in my room.”
“The PGA TOUR is proud of all of the volunteers who help to make each tournament happen. Marty Sheets has shown such great dedication throughout the years. Without volunteers like Marty, our tournaments and our TOUR would not be able to make such significant contributions to the communities in which we play,” PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem said.
Marty Sheets has been honored in some other ways, too. At the 1995 Special Olympics World Summer Games, he was chosen to sit in the Presidential Box with President Bill Clinton. On Dec. 7, 2000 at the North Carolina state capital, Governor James B. Hunt presented Marty “The Order of the Long Leaf Pine” award for being a good ambassador for the state of North Carolina; it is the highest civilian award given in the state. Both of these were tremendous honors, but few athletes are more deserving that Marty Sheets.
Despite the awards, medals and even the crystal bowl, Marty remains the laid-back, low- key person he’s always been. You can see him in action during this year’s Wyndham Championship…just look for the standard bearer in the final pairing of the final round. Marty will be carrying the sign with pride, and when the round is over, he’ll probably pose for a picture with the winner of the inaugural Wyndham Championship…yet another memorable moment to be displayed on his bedroom wall.