Born: March 30, 1943 (Liverpool, England)
Graduated: Maghull (Liverpool, England) Secondary School, 1960
Roy Turner isn’t your typical Kansas Sports Hall of Fame inductee in many ways. For one, he was born over four thousand miles from the place he now calls home. But Kansas is where he made a name for himself, not only for his contributions to the game of soccer, but also in his current role as Tournament Director for the Wichita Open golf tournament.
Turner was born and raised in Liverpool, England, where according to him “soccer was the only game played and was a lifestyle.” That lifestyle was what led him to begin playing as a kid and when he got to high school, people started to approach him about playing at the next level. That was what Turner set his sights on.
At the age of eighteen, Turner began playing as a professional in the UK but said he “wasn’t good enough” to make the first team so he came across the pond to play in North America. Turner had professional stints for the Philadelphia Spartans, Toronto Falcons, Cleveland Stokers, and for the Dallas Tornado, from 1967 to 1978. He was also a member of the U.S. National team in 1973.
As Turner’s professional playing career was winding to an end, he was sent to Wichita to help promote youth soccer. His stay was supposed to only last six months. It turned into forty years and the Englishman has now become a Kansan.
During his forty years in Wichita, Turner was the head coach for eleven seasons for professional indoor soccer’s Wichita Wings from 1979 to 1986 and again from 1990 to 1994. Turner led the Wings most successful seasons, including winning 1981 Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) Western Division Championship.
In total, Turner won 254 career games at the helm of the Wings. Under his coaching, the Wings made the MISL/National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) playoffs in ten of eleven seasons. He coached the team to four MISL semi-final playoff appearances. He also coached forty-five players who played for national teams and thirteen players that reached the English Premier League. In addition, he served as head coach on two MISL All-Star teams.
While his team’s enjoyed major success on the field, his primary goal remained the same: to grow the game of soccer. As the team he coached showed success, he witnessed the popularity of the sport spread throughout the community as youth club teams and school teams sprang up like a phoenix. With orange and blue wings, of course.
Turner switched roles during the later stages of his soccer career and finished as the General Manager and President of the Wings. The transition allowed for him to share a lot of ideas, grow the organization, and helped him fall more in love with the community.
His fondest memories don’t come from his personal success though. It was seeing the players that he coached, including all the different nationalities, blend into the community of that he grew to love.
Turner stepped away from the Wings in 1996 but that wasn’t it for Roy Turner in Wichita. Just three years later, he began his second career in Wichita in an entirely different sport: golf. Turner was named the Tournament Director of the Wichita Open in 1999. Under Turner’s leadership, the tournament has grown into one of the biggest events on the its professional tour and generates over $6 million in economic impact each year.
From Liverpool to Wichita. From soccer to golf. It certainly wasn’t an easy path to get to this point, nor was it a path that is typical. Yet, without the contributions of Roy Turner, across two different sports, the landscape of athletics in the state of Kansas would look much different.
By: Molly Hackett