A class of 12 PGA Members from across the country was celebrated for their contributions to the game and the industry. They were honored for their commitment to represent the nearly 28,000 PGA Professionals across the world and the game of golf at the highest level. Tom Wildenhaus, PGA Director of Golf at Olde Florida Golf Club in Naples, Fla., was named PGA Golf Professional of the Year.
In a Nov. 1 ceremony, PGA Golf Professional of the Year Tom Wildenhaus; PGA Teacher & Coach of the Year Jamie Mulligan; and PGA Golf Executive of the Year Joe Assell headlined the PGA National Awards celebration Tuesday night at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix, Ariz. to kick start the 2022 PGA Annual Meeting.
A class of 12 PGA Members from across the country was celebrated for their contributions to the game and the industry. They were honored for their commitment to represent the nearly 28,000 PGA Professionals across the world and the game of golf at the highest level.
Hosted by Sirius XM’s “PGA of America Radio” host Dave Marr III, the PGA of America National Awards program annually acknowledges PGA Members for their outstanding performances both on and off the course.
“Tonight is a very special night, as the PGA of America recognizes 12 remarkable PGA Members who represent the ultimate in character, dedication and service to our sport, our Association and our industry,” said PGA President Jim Richerson. “To reach this pinnacle of success, you must be extraordinary in your career, and each winner, in their own right, has accomplished just that. There are certainly thousands of PGA Members who deserve awards consideration, and narrowing down the list each year is an overwhelming task.”
The PGA Golf Professional of the Year is the highest annual honor given to a PGA of America Professional, awarded for leadership, strong moral character and a substantial record of service to the Association and the game of golf.
“You know, I think anything worthwhile is uphill … You really have to focus on the journey,” said Wildenhaus, the PGA Director of Golf at Olde Florida Golf Club in Naples, Fla., and a South Florida PGA Section Member. “The journey is what makes us who we are. It’s not the destination, it’s all the things that happen in the middle. If you’re paying attention, you’re going to learn a lot and be really successful.”
Mulligan’s keep-it-simple approach to coaching has won the praise of players on the PGA and LPGA Tours, such as Patrick Cantlay and Nelly Korda, who turn to him for his expertise.
“It’s a quest,” said Mulligan, “At the end of the day everybody can relate to this, whether you’re folding a shirt, vacuuming the shop, giving a golf lesson or fitting golf clubs, it’s the quest—the quest to be great.”
The PGA Golf Executive of the Year Award recognizes outstanding services in an executive management position, as well as leadership, vision, courage, moral character and a substantial record of service to the Association and the game.
Tears were evident as North Florida PGA Member Tim Beckwith, who served Sarasota National Golf Club in Venice, Florida, was honored posthumously with the Bill Strausbaugh Award, after passing away last year following a courageous battle with cancer.
His wife, Jill, and 14-year-old son, Jackson, accepted the award in his memory. Beckwith authored “The Back Nine” as a life guide for Jackson when he was only two-years old. The lessons from the book became a centerpiece of the tribute.
“The biggest philosophy of his was definitely to make your own luck,” said Jackson Beckwith. “What that means is if you put in the effort, nobody can tell you that you can’t do something. You already know that you can do it.”
The Bill Strausbaugh Award recognizes a PGA Professional who demonstrates exceptional character, integrity and leadership through teaching and mentoring other PGA Professionals.
Deacon Palmer Award recipient Bryan DeMarco, PGA, Head Professional at Pine Barrens Golf Club in Jackson, N.J., also moved the room with his courageous story of overcoming three bouts with cancer, including last year.
“To see so many people say you’re an inspiration is very humbling to say the least,” said DeMarco, a New Jersey PGA Section Member. “In golf, you’re out on the course by yourself, you own what you are doing. When this all started, I told myself that I was going to own this and do whatever it takes to beat this.”
The Deacon Palmer Award honors a PGA Professional who displays outstanding integrity, character and leadership in the effort to overcome a major obstacle in their life.
The Patriot Award was presented to PGA Member Joe Grohman, Owner and Operator of the Joe Grohman Golf Foundation, in Hobe Sound, Florida. Grohman has served as a National Trainer for PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere), the military pillar of PGA REACH.
“My dad was a pilot, I was a military brat until I was 17 years old,” said Grohman. “It didn’t hurt that I spent 22 of 29 years at a military golf course … Veterans need love, they need therapy that we are able to provide through this great game of golf.”
The honor is granted to a PGA Professional who personifies patriotism through the game of golf and demonstrates unwavering commitment and dedication to the men and women in uniform who have valiantly served and protected the United States of America.
PGA Professional Development Award winner PGA Master Professional Dr. Rich Ballinger, the Director of the Sam Houston State PGA Golf Management University Program in Huntsville, Texas, said that he aims to take special care of each of his students, not only about passing the program but mentoring them to face the challenges of life.
“It’s why I do what I do,” said Ballinger. “My favorite part of the job is watching an 18-year-old freshman come into the program, and you see them mature and develop to the point where they find internships, their first job and graduate. That evolution you see is awesome. To know I played a role in that is extremely rewarding for me.”
The PGA Professional Development Award recognizes a PGA Member who displays commendable contributions to the education of PGA Professionals.
The PGA Player Development Award was given to Thomas Yost, PGA, Director of Programs at the First Tee – Four Corners in Kirtland, New Mexico. This honor bestows special recognition to a PGA Member who has displayed extraordinary and exemplary contributions and achievements in the area of player development.
Andrew Miller, PGA Director of Instruction at LedgeRock Golf Club in Mohnton, Pa., was honored with the PGA Youth Player Development Award. The honor is given to a PGA Member in recognition of extraordinary and exemplary contributions and achievements in the area of youth player development.
PGA Merchandiser of the Year Awards were bestowed on Caroline Basarab, PGA, Director of Retail at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Ga. (Resort Category). This marks the second win in this category for Basarab, who also earned the award in 2009. Brian Tolnar, PGA, the Director of Golf Operations & Recreation at Mill Creek MetroParks Golf Course in Youngstown, Ohio; and Ian Brown, PGA, Director of Golf at Butterfield Country Club in Oak Brook, Ill., were respectively the Merchandiser of the Year honorees in the Public and Private categories.
The PGA Teacher & Coach of the Year is presented for outstanding services as a golf teacher, innovator and coach.
Assell, the President & CEO of GOLFTEC, was honored for his innovative advances that meshed the game with technology in becoming the company’s first-ever employee and then building it to become one of the largest employers of PGA Members in the world.
“Our mission is to help people play better golf, and there is nobody in the world better at helping people play better golf than PGA Members, and we built this business on PGA Members,” said Assell. “The spine of GOLFTEC Nation is PGA Professionals.”
The PGA Merchandiser of the Year Award recognizes PGA Professionals who have excelled in business and merchandising in the promotion of golf.