Archives for June 2012

200 golfers set for Special Olympics tournament in Arizona in September

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – More than 200 golfers from 18 Special Olympics North America programs will compete in the 13th annual Special Olympics North America Golf Invitational Tournament at the Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park, Ariz., Sept. 6-9, 2012.

Special Olympics golf, part of a worldwide sports program for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, offers five levels of play for athletes with different golf abilities. Olympic-style Opening Ceremonies will tee off the event on Thursday, Sept. 6, with three competitive golf rounds played Friday, Sept. 7, through Sunday, Sept. 9. Awards ceremonies for the golf competition will take place immediately following the final round on Sunday, Sept. 9.

KPMG, The PGA of America, USGA and PGA Tour are presenting sponsors of the 2012 tournament. PGA Professional Greg Leicht will share the tournament director role with Special Olympics Senior Sports Development Manager Craig Pippert.

Leicht received the 2011 Conrad Rehling Award for his contributions to the growth of Special Olympics Golf and is the general manager and director of golf at Vistal Golf Club in Phoenix, Ariz. A PGA member since 1998 and currently serving as Secretary of the Southwest PGA Section, Leicht began training and coaching Special Olympics golfers in 2003. He has served as the tournament director of the Arizona Special Olympics State Golf Championship for the past nine years and is head of the Arizona delegation to the Special Olympics Golf Invitational Tournament.

“From the first practice I attended back in 2003, I have been hooked on Special Olympics,” said Leicht. “The athletes demonstrate true sportsmanship and positive attitudes toward the game. They are not in competition with each other, only with themselves. The athletes see the good in everyone else. They look at competition through a different set of glasses.”

“We are pleased to continue our support of Special Olympics and the 13th annual Special Olympics Golf Invitational Tournament,” said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski. “We are especially proud of Greg Leicht and his leadership in the Southwest Section and nationally for the growth of Special Olympics golf. He represents the very best of PGA members volunteering at a grassroots level for Special Olympics across the United States and we look forward to his involvement with their tournament.

Special Olympics Golf allows athletes to grow in the game as they gain experience. Level I competition consists of an individual skills contest, where six golf skills are tested. Level II is an alternate shot team play, where a Special Olympics athlete is paired with a non-Special Olympics partner of more advanced skill for a 9-hole competition. Level III is Unified Sports® team play, pairing Special Olympics and Unified partners of similar ability for an 18-hole competition. Levels IV and V are individual stroke play 9-hole and 18-hole competitions, respectively.

More than 19,000 Special Olympics athletes participate in golf training and competition within 49 U.S. Special Olympics programs. Worldwide, more than 50 countries offer Special Olympics golf programs.

The Special Olympics golf program began in 1988 with the assistance of The PGA of America and USGA. Since then both associations contribute to the growth of the program with grassroots training, rules education, tournament administration and national program financial support. The PGA Tour also provides ongoing financial support to the program. PGA Tour player Padraig Harrington and LPGA Tour player I.K. Kim are global sports ambassadors for Special Olympics, helping to implement golf programs and initiatives designed to spread respect for people with intellectual disabilities.

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 3.7 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship. Visit Special Olympics at specialolympics.org. Engage with us on: Twitter@specialolympics; fb.com/specialolympics; and youtube.com/specialolympicshq.

Second Annual Ryder Cup Junior Academy welcomes 83 junior golfers

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Junior golfers representing 40 PGA Sections and select charitable associations will participate in the 2012 Ryder Cup Junior Academy, developed in response to recommendations from past United States Ryder Cup Team Captains, and part of the 2010 Ryder Cup Outreach program. U.S. Ryder Cup Legends Billy Casper and Dow Finsterwald will serve as featured presenters.

After a successful debut in 2011, the Academy returns July 1-8, to PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Fla., with 83 juniors participating.

“We had a tremendously successful first year of the Ryder Cup Junior Academy,” said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski. “It was wonderful to see first-hand the impact this initiative had on a special group of junior golfers from across the country. The wonderful input of our past Ryder Cup Captains will give junior golfers a rare opportunity to learn more about the game of golf and its values beyond the competitive arena. We are confident that the Academy will continue to offer positive impressions to help build our great game.”

The Ryder Cup Junior Academy is a week-long program that emphasizes the PGA Sports Academy in a variety of skills, including playing and competing in both stroke- and match-play formats, swing mechanics, competitive course management, as well as fitness and physical assessments. Highlights of the week will include a Captains’ Clinic, Captains’ Dinner and golf instruction from award-winning PGA Professionals.

Ryder Cup Captains Casper and Finsterwald, each who have etched their names in golf history and provided support to both golf’s premier spectacle and PGA of America programs, will share their experiences with the junior attendees.

The 1977 U.S. Captain, Finsterwald won the 1958 PGA Championship, the first conducted in a stroke play format. A member of the PGA Professional Hall of Fame, Finsterwald compiled a 9-3-1 record while competing on the 1957, ’59, ’61 and ’63 U.S. Teams.

Casper, the 1979 U.S. Captain and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame, is the all-time U.S. leading point-winner in Ryder Cup competition. He earned 23 1/2 points, while competing on eight U.S. Teams in 1961, ’63, ’65, ’67, ’69, ’71, ’73 and ’75. Casper captured three major championships, including the 1959, ’66 U.S. Open, and the 1970 Masters.

The Ryder Cup Junior Academy is designed to expand the outreach of the Ryder Cup and provide aspiring young players an opportunity to experience an elite player development academy, while targeting those who may not have the resources or means to attend. It will also offer the juniors expert instruction from past U.S. Ryder Cup Captains and award-winning PGA Professionals.

As part of the 2010 United States Ryder Cup Team’s commitment—which has already impacted U.S-based charitable organizations and students at colleges and universities nationwide—the team designated a total of $650,000 to create and support the Ryder Cup Junior Academy.

Each of the 41 PGA Sections nationwide were given the opportunity to nominate one boy and one girl each, with the remainder of the juniors selected through an at-large process. Also receiving invitations were boy and girl participants from the Notah Begay III Foundation, Lorena Ochoa Golf Foundation, Bill Dickey Scholarship Association, Pan-American Golf Association, and the AJGA Ace Grant Program.

About The PGA of America
Since its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has maintained a twofold mission: to establish and elevate the standards of the profession and to grow interest and participation in the game of golf. By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, The PGA enables its professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in the multi-billion dollar golf industry. By creating and delivering world-class championships and innovative programs, The PGA of America elevates the public’s interest in the game, the desire to play more golf, and ensures accessibility to the game for everyone, everywhere. As The PGA nears its centennial, the PGA brand represents the very best in golf.

Family Golf Month offers many ways for families to enjoy golf together

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. –- PGA and LPGA Professionals nationwide are celebrating Family Golf Month this July by making it easier than ever for families to learn and enjoy the game of golf together. Throughout July and the rest of the summer, participating courses will offer a variety of programs designed for families to learn and play golf together for no cost or for an affordable rate.

A variety of programs are available for families of all sizes and skill levels at nearly 2,200 facilities. Some of the programs being offered include Family Golf Clinics, Family Play Days, Get Golf Ready for Families, Kids Play Free programs, family-friendly and TEE IT FORWARD course setups, free use of junior clubs and Bring Your Kids to the Range, to name a few. During the week of July 9-15, The PGA of America teams up with the National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA) to promote Take Your Daughter to the Course Week, a program designed to promote overall participation in golf, especially among girls and their families. Participating facilities offer at least one complimentary instructional clinic and free green fees to juniors accompanied by a paying adult.

“This July could be our biggest Family Golf Month ever, based on the number of courses participating and the variety of programs available for golfers of every age and experience level,” said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski. “Golf is a game that families can play together and we want to make it easy for the entire family to come to the course and enjoy a fun, healthy activity without breaking the bank.”

Many of the programs offered are free, but those with a cost are still affordable when compared to other summer activities. A family golf program for a family of four is only slightly more expensive than an afternoon at the movies and considerably less expensive than a trip to an amusement park. When the added benefit of exercise and camaraderie for the whole family is included, a day at the golf course is invaluable and is the perfect summer solution.

“Golf teaches important lessons like discipline, honesty, sportsmanship and etiquette, and having parents on the course with young golfers only increases the chance that those lessons are taken to heart,” added Wronowski. “Family Golf Month is a great way to improve the health and fellowship of the whole family, and it hopefully will encourage the next generation of golfers to take up a game they will enjoy for a lifetime.”

For more information on Play Golf America and any of the family or junior golf programs, consumers can visit PlayGolfAmerica.com. The site allows users to find and register at participating facilities in their area by searching their city or zip code.

Since its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has maintained a twofold mission: to establish and elevate the standards of the profession and to grow interest and participation in the game of golf. By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, The PGA enables its professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in the multi-billion dollar golf industry. By creating and delivering world-class championships and innovative programs, The PGA of America elevates the public’s interest in the game, the desire to play more golf, and ensures accessibility to the game for everyone, everywhere. As The PGA nears its centennial, the PGA brand represents the very best in golf.

PGA of America announces new PGA Championship logo

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — The PGA of America announced the launch of a new official logo for the PGA Championship, which showcases the Season’s Final Major while also supporting its host venues and its worldwide golf appeal.

The PGA of America engaged PS212 of New York City as design consultant, to support its objective to capture the significance of a Championship that originated in 1916, the spirit of golf and enthusiasm of unscripted entertainment that is live sports. The first usage of the new logo begins with the 95th PGA Championship in August 2013 at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y.

“For more than 95 years, golf enthusiasts around this country have embraced a world-class PGA Championship field that competes for the Rodman Wanamaker Trophy,” said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski. “That sparkling trophy and The PGA of America brand also have connected with many of the finest venues in our sport. The new PGA Championship logo reflects a proud, distinctive history while also paying tribute to magnificent hosts.”

David Gaglione, PS212’s founder, said that the new PGA Championship logo, with its centerpiece Wanamaker Trophy, features four pennants representing golf’s four major championships and captures the celebratory spirit that the Championship delivers. The branding of the PGA Championship logo was a six-month endeavor that, Gaglione said, “combined the teamwork of future host sites.”

“The banner and circle are familiar visual references in golf. The shading, color, and effects used in the creation of the PGA Championship logo deliver a strong reinterpretation of these classic elements,” said Gaglione. “The rich blue used for the logo emanates from The PGA of America’s core colors that are found in The PGA’s seal.”

About The PGA of America
Since its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has maintained a twofold mission: to establish and elevate the standards of the profession and to grow interest and participation in the game of golf. By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, The PGA enables its professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in the multi-billion dollar golf industry. By creating and delivering world-class championships and innovative programs, The PGA of America elevates the public’s interest in the game, the desire to play more golf, and ensures accessibility to the game for everyone, everywhere. As The PGA nears its centennial, the PGA brand represents the very best in golf.

About PS212
Founded in 2008 by David Gaglione, PS212 is a strategic marketing, naming and design firm in New York City. PS212 works intimately with clients to understand their unique needs, provide a cohesive experience and ultimately achieve impactful solutions. For further information, visit PS212.com; contact@PS212.com or (917) 374-5050.

Defending PPNC champ Hutsell working for balance in career

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Defending PGA Professional National Champion David Hutsell will do some “fine-tuning” in the next 10 days before he enters the showcase event for PGA Professionals, June 24-27, at Bayonet Black Horse in Seaside, Calif.

Fine tuning is a given for any competitive golfer, especially for Hutsell, a 41-year-old PGA director of instruction at Elkridge Club in Baltimore, whose travel the past few months has been a humbling experience.

“It is a matter of balancing travel and work,” said Hutsell, who was the second reigning PGA Professional National Champion to compete in the Japan PGA Championship in May, after competing in Mexico and Puerto Rico. “I think your level of expectations goes up a bit and you put a little pressure on yourself to perform well. I have been working on my game, but need to play a little bit more.”

Hutsell will fly to Charlotte, N.C., to visit one of his most trusted mentors, PGA Master Professional Don Trahan.

“I’m taking a golf lesson from Don, and I need the fine-tuning,” said Hutsell. “I just have to stick to the basics and not forget how those things have helped me enjoy what success I have had.”

Hutsell leads a field of 312 in the National Championship presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz, and OMEGA. Bayonet Black Horse is just the second Northern California site to host a PGA Professional National Championship. Hutsell got a preview of Bayonet Black Horse last February during a cold, rainy Media Day trip.

“The weather wasn’t cooperating then, and I just got to play Black Horse,” said Hutsell. “What I do know is that we have to be ready for all types of weather conditions. It certainly will not be as warm as what I am experiencing in Maryland. The ball may not carry as far. It will take some adjusting.”

The 2011 PGA Professional Player of the Year, Hutsell is the third Middle Atlantic PGA member to win a PGA Professional National Championship. He was born in Fort Meade, Md., the youngest of three sons of a former Navy senior chief petty officer. Hutsell grew up on Ruggles Golf Course in Aberdeen, Md., at the Aberdeen Proving Ground. His late father, Max, a Vietnam veteran, was then a retired military personnel and had family playing privileges.

However, baseball called Hutsell first. A lifelong Baltimore Orioles fan, Hutsell played through high school in Havre de Grace, Md., making a growth spurt and handed the pitching duties. He sustained a right elbow injury his sophomore year, but that didn’t deter his extending his time on the diamond. He moved on to compete for University of Maryland Baltimore County and then Towson University, where he played third base, first base and pitched short relief. In 1991, during his junior season, Hutsell’s baseball career ended when he underwent “Tommy John” surgery. He was soon looking to golf and turned professional in 1993.

“Golf is little more of a social game than organized baseball, which I had played since I was eight years old,” says Hutsell. “The injury was not holding me back, but it was always there. I already was showing interest in golf while I was in college.” He joined the grounds crew at Mount Pleasant Golf Course and Bonnie View Golf Course near Baltimore. During this time, he met his future wife, Patty.

In his efforts to make strides in golf, Hutsell arrived at Hilton Head Island, S.C., where he met Trahan.

“Don was quite a boost to me, helping me with my ballstriking, and understanding my strengths and weaknesses,” said Hutsell. “Don helped me with what I needed to improve.”

Hutsell spent the next eight years learning the golf profession, with positions at three Hilton Head-based facilities – Port Royal Golf Club, Golden Bear Golf Club, and The Golf Club at Indigo Run. From there, he returned to West Friendship, Md., at Willow Springs Golf Course in 1997 as a PGA assistant professional. In 2001, Hutsell worked under PGA Professional Bob Dolan Jr. at Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, Md.

From 2003 to 2005, Hutsell continued to improve. He played the Golden Bear and Hooters Tour and saw his career take a jump when he made the cut in the 2002 Kemper Open, along with the Nationwide Tour’s Richmond Open and Virginia Beach Open.

“Once you can get your game in that position, you have to see how you measure up to players of that stature, to figure out where you stand,” said Hutsell. “That was a great barometer for me.”

In 2003, Hutsell reached the second stage of the PGA Tour Qualifying School. Thanks to a member at Columbia Country Club, Hutsell was able to meet expenses during his short tour career. “I made some money, but not enough to stay out there,” he said.

Hutsell found a new niche at Elkridge Club in 2005, and developed his teaching acumen while also competing on weekends in one of the most competitive PGA Sections. Nearly one year later, Hutsell still gets “chills” when he watches a video of his playoff victory last summer at Hershey (Pa.) Country Club, where he won the crystal Walter Hagen Cup.

“I am honored to have my name on that trophy,” said Hutsell. “As club professionals, we think of ourselves in a different category; we understand what it is that we do day in and day out. Our efforts are growing the game. That is the reason we got into the business. It is a great experience to play in our National Championship, and even greater should you win it.”

Hutsell’s paycheck comes from a facility that once had the title “The Elkridge Fox Hunting Club.” This month, whether he may like it or not, Hutsell is cast as the “fox” in the hunt for another National Championship.

“It is pretty unique for us to be coming to a golf course complex with two great courses that were designed by members of the military,” said Hutsell. “I think about my father.”

Give Dad some game this Father’s Day with golf lessons

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Father’s Day is just around the corner and it’s the perfect time to get dad and the entire family outside to have fun together on the golf course by giving him some golf lessons through the Get Golf Ready (GGR) and other Play Golf America programs.

Get Golf Ready, now in its fourth year, is designed to bring adults into the game in a fast, fun, affordable manner. It targets the millions of adults in the United States who have never played golf or who have minimal experience in the game. In addition to being an introduction for beginners, it is also a great “back to basics” refresher course for those who are more experienced in the game. GGR appeals to all different levels of ability, making it the perfect way to get mom, dad and the kids and grandkids out on the course together to enjoy the game that can be played for a lifetime.

“Golf is the perfect way to get dad and the kids out to have some fun and spend time together this Father’s Day, and the gift of improving his skills with Get Golf Ready is the gift that keeps on giving,” said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski. “It allows families to have fun together outside while learning and improving their golf game. I can’t think of a better way to spend Father’s Day!”

Get Golf Ready offers five lessons that concentrate on basic skills, instruction and information on the rules of golf, etiquette and values. Participants will learn techniques regarding chipping and putting, full swing and bunker play, as well as the fundamental guidelines for use and maintenance of golf equipment, keeping score and navigating the course. Most facilities offer the program for an affordable $99, although price varies by facility, making it the perfect gift for dads and grandfathers this Father’s Day.

There are currently more than 2,700 facilities nationwide certified to host Get Golf Ready. Moms, dads, kids and grandkids can learn more about Get Golf Ready and find a local participating facility at GetGolfReady.com. Additional free and affordable Play Golf America programs can be found at PlayGolfAmerica.com. Both sites allow consumers to find and register for programs at local participating facilities by searching with their state or zip code.

About The PGA of America
Since its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has maintained a twofold mission: to establish and elevate the standards of the profession and to grow interest and participation in the game of golf. By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, The PGA enables its professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in the multi-billion dollar golf industry. By creating and delivering world-class championships and innovative programs, The PGA of America elevates the public’s interest in the game, the desire to play more golf, and ensures accessibility to the game for everyone, everywhere. As The PGA nears its centennial, the PGA brand represents the very best in golf.

About World Golf Foundation
The World Golf Foundation develops and supports initiatives that positively impact lives through the game of golf and its traditional values. The Foundation, which was founded in 1993 and is supported by major international golf organizations and professional Tours, provides oversight to World Golf Hall of Fame, The First Tee, Golf 20/20 and other industry initiatives in support of its mission. 

Industry leaders gather to promote Tee It Forward

STAFFORD, Va. – The leaders of some of golf’s most influential organizations gathered on Tuesday, June 5, to TEE IT FORWARD at Augustine Golf Club in Stafford, Va. Participants included PGA of America (PGA) President Allen Wronowski; United States Golf Association (USGA) President Glen Nager; Club Managers Association of America (CMAA) President Skip Avery; National Golf Course Owners Association (NGCOA) President Linda Rogers; and Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA) Past President Bob Randquist.

The group was playing to promote their respective organizations’ support of TEE IT FORWARD, which encourages golfers to have more fun by playing from tees that better align with their ability. While Augustine Golf Club can be played at more than 6,700 yards, the yardage was moved up to approximately 6,000 yards for the men and 4,000 yards for Rogers on Tuesday.

Do you wish your approach shot to the green was just a bit easier? Would you rather hit an iron into the green vs. a fairway wood or hybrid? If you want to play faster and have more fun, move up a set of tees and TEE IT FORWARD!

“What a great day…the fact that the leadership of all of these great organizations took the time out of their busy schedules is indicative of the importance of TEE IT FORWARD,” said Wronowski. “Not only was the company great, but, as expected we all hit shorter clubs into every hole. We all had a wonderful time.”

Initially introduced in 2011, TEE IT FORWARD is now a year-round initiative led by The PGA of America and USGA with a special focus in June. During June, more than 2,400 registered facilities around the country are actively promoting playing from forward tees and hosting special events designed to encourage golfers to play from shorter distances. Participating facilities and more information can be found at PlayGolfAmerica.com/TEEITFORWARD.

“It is very exciting to see the deep support and commitment from the major organizations in golf for TEE IT FORWARD,” added Nager. “By working together, we can help more and more golfers realize how much more enjoyable golf can be when you are hitting shorter irons into greens rather than long irons and woods.”

The PGA of America and USGA are encouraging golfers to share their comments about TEE IT FORWARD. Between now and July 31, 2012, golfers can go to PlayGolfAmerica.com/TEEITFORWARD to post their comments and be entered for a chance to win the grand prize of two weekly grounds tickets for the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club. First runner-up receives two tickets to the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club and second runner-up wins two tickets to the 2013 PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club.

Comments from the participants at Augustine Golf Club included:

“PGA Professionals recognize the importance of making sure golfers have a good time and want to come back to the course. We are actively talking to existing golfers, new golfers and those returning to the game about playing from tees that ensure they will hit shorter irons into greens and have a great experience.”
Allen Wronowski
President, The PGA of America

“Values and traditions are woven into the fabric of the game of golf and will always be paramount to the USGA. However, having fun on the course is equally important. TEE IT FORWARD is just a great way to play the game.”
Glen Nager
President, USGA

“As a golf course owner who took up the game later in life, I really recognize the value of TEE IT FORWARD. Professionally, we need initiatives like this to attract and retain golfers. Personally, I find golf more enjoyable when I play from distances that match up with my ability.”
Linda Rogers
President, NGCOA

“Golf can be a difficult enough game without making it even harder by playing from tees that are too far back. There’s nothing wrong with golfers reach a par 5 in two shots or hitting a 9-iron into a green where they used to hit a 5-iron. Happy golfers make happy members.”
Skip Avery
President, CMAA

“Golf course superintendents recognize how critical it is for our industry to grow the game. The experience golfers have on the course is paramount in this effort. We can do this by lowering the rough, opening up the fairways and setting up favorable pin positions. Positioning tees for TEE IT FORWARD is something that can be done very easily and has a very positive impact on a golfer’s round.”
Bob Randquist
Past President, GCSAA


TEE IT FORWARD is a national initiative led by The PGA of America and USGA to encourage golfers to play from appropriate distances and have more fun on the course. More information can be found at http://www.PlayGolfAmerica.com/TEEITFORWARD 

Leicht named recipient of 2011 Conrad Rehling Award for Contributions to Special Olympics Golf

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — PGA Professional Greg Leicht, the general manager and director of golf at Vistal Golf Club in Phoenix, Ariz., has been named the recipient of the 2011 Conrad Rehling Award for his contributions to the growth of Special Olympics Golf. Leicht was honored May 29, at the Southwest PGA Spring Meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz.

Leicht (“Light”), is a 45-year-old native of Anderson, Ind., and was elected to PGA membership in 1998. He is in his 11th overall season at Vistal Golf Club and serves as secretary of the Southwest PGA Section. Leicht began training and coaching Special Olympics golfers in 2003. He also marks his ninth year as tournament director of the Arizona Special Olympics State Golf Championship. Leicht is head of the Arizona delegation to the Special Olympics National Invitational Tournament (NIT); co-founder and facilitator of the Unified Friendship Golf League; and chairperson for the Arizona Special Olympics Sports Program Committee.

“From the first practice I attended back in 2003, I have been hooked on Special Olympics,” said Leicht. “The athletes demonstrate true sportsmanship and positive attitudes toward the game. The athletes express a genuine appreciation to anyone willing to help them. The athletes are not in competition with each other, only with themselves. The athletes only see the good in everyone else. They look at competition through a different set of glasses. I have said it before that I have received more than I could ever repay.”

Encouraged to play golf at age six by his grandfather in Anderson, Ind., Leicht advanced his love of golf when the family moved to Arizona when he was 12. Leicht attended Arizona State University, and turned professional in 1994. He began his professional golf career at the TPC of Scottsdale, and would later serve at the Phoenician Golf Club in Scottsdale from 1997 through 2001. He joined Vistal Golf Club in September 2001. Leicht was recipient of the 2006 Southwest PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award and the 2009, ’10 Section President’s Plaque for contributions to player development.

“The Conrad Rehling Award is a very special award and I am humbled and honored to be associated with a program that he was instrumental in developing,” said Leicht. “His program model, which was in place in 1988, well before I was in professional golf, has changed very little. That was because he did it right from the start.”

Leicht’s entire family is involved in Special Olympics Golf. His wife, Carol, serves as administrator at Arizona’s Special Olympics State Golf Championship; and the couple’s four daughters and Leicht’s mother and father team to support all statewide Special Olympics events.

Currently, 49 U.S. Special Olympic Programs offer golf training and competition, with more than 19,000 athletes in North America. The program is offered in more than 50 countries worldwide.

“Greg Leicht has done an outstanding job in building the Special Olympics Golf program in Arizona,” said Craig Pippert, Special Olympics North America Senior Manager of Sports Development. “We look forward to working with Greg and his team for the Special Olympics North America Regional Golf Invitational this summer in Litchfield Park, Ariz. It will continue a great tradition that has developed over the past 13 years.”

About Special Olympics Golf
Special Olympics Golf, part of a worldwide sports program for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, offers five levels of competition for athletes with different ability levels. Ranging from individual skills competition to alternate-shot team play to individual stroke play, Special Olympics Golf allows athletes to grow in the game as they gain experience.

About the Conrad Rehling Award
The Conrad Rehling Award, first presented in 2005, honors the late PGA Master Professional who followed a successful collegiate coaching career at Florida and Alabama by transforming his retirement into inspiring PGA Professionals to give back to the physically challenged. Rehling died in April 2007 at age 87.

The founding father of the Special Olympics Golf movement in 1988, Rehling spearheaded The PGA of America’s efforts to introduce golf to Special Olympics. The Association and its 27,000 men and women professionals have dedicated countless hours, services and funding to the growth of Special Olympics Golf.

Conrad Rehling Award Recipients
2005 – Jesse Weeks, Memphis, Tenn.
2006 – Steve Carson, Oklahoma City, Okla.
2007 – Jeff Beaudry, Sandy, Utah
2008 – Tom Addis III, Beaumont, Calif.
2009 – Frank Selva, Orange, Conn.
2010 – Dr. Eric Wilson, Port St. Lucie, Fla.
2011 – Greg Leicht, Gilbert, Ariz.

About The PGA of America
Since its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has maintained a twofold mission: to establish and elevate the standards of the profession and to grow interest and participation in the game of golf. By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, The PGA enables its professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in the multi-billion dollar golf industry. By creating and delivering world-class championships and innovative programs, The PGA of America elevates the public’s interest in the game, the desire to play more golf, and ensures accessibility to the game for everyone, everywhere. As The PGA nears its centennial, the PGA brand represents the very best in golf. 

Behind the scenes: Championship golf in midst of star-studded county

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — Sitting in his office adjoining the first fairway at Bayonet Golf Course, Dick Fitzgerald has one of many vantage points in a 36-hole golf complex that continues to evolve with both the Monterey Peninsula climate and the golf industry.

Fitzgerald, the managing director of Seaside Resort Development, said that it’s OK if you refer to Bayonet and Black Horse as a “campus” in Seaside, Calif. That description, typically reserved for higher education, just as easily depicts Bayonet and Black Horse’s growth for nearly six decades. Competing in the same “neighborhood” as such heavyweights as Pebble Beach, Cypress Point and Spyglass Hill, there is a feeling of family and singularity at this unique public access facility.

Seaside Resort Development, which began in 1999, purchased the courses in 2005 from BSL Golf Management of Houston. “We had invested in apartments and shopping centers up to then, but this is the only golf-oriented property we currently own,” said Fitzgerald. “We came in with the goal of developing a resort. When the market is right, we will go forward with our plans. Currently, we are proud of the staff we have in operating as efficiently as we can, and at a high standard.

“We are honored to have the opportunity to host the 45th PGA Professional National Championship, and proud of the community support the event has received. The courses are in championship form, the volunteers are ready, and the staff and management are looking forward to making the Championship one of the best ever.”

On June 24, Bayonet and Black Horse Golf Courses become the first venues designed by members of the U.S. military to host a premier PGA of America-sanctioned championship. Gen. Robert B. McClure was the architect of Bayonet in 1954, and a decade later teamed with Gen. Edwin Carnes to open Black Horse. The courses occupy property that was once part of the former Fort Ord military base near Seaside. Today, the courses that were renovated by Gene Bates in 2007 (Bayonet) and ’08 (Black Horse), proudly merge into the competitive golf landscape of Monterey County.

Last January, Golf Digest ranked Bayonet No. 21 among a list of the “75 Toughest Courses in America.”

“Bayonet gets the attention because of its history, but Black Horse is just as challenging, especially when it comes to putting. We are very proud of how it has matured,” said Bayonet and Black Horse PGA Head Professional Pat Jones. “That list by Golf Digest is pretty special, considering 13 of the top 21 courses have hosted major championships. Now, we are prepared to host our biggest event, with 312 players, what I call the largest all-professional championship in the world.”

When Seaside Resort Development made its search for a head professional, Fitzgerald said that his company chose Jones for his “bringing a different set of tools” to the position. “Pat had a good grasp of the game,” said Fitzgerald. “He also had skills in service to the customer, salesmanship and the ability that all PGA Professionals have in creating opportunities for members and guests. He brings a lot of energy to the position.”

Jones, 47, began his career in computer technology, and didn’t consider professional golf until age 35. A native of Lake Tahoe, Calif., who played baseball and basketball at San Lorenzo Valley (Calif.) High School, Jones was introduced to golf by his father at age 7. He was given a Wilson 5-wood, which Jones kept, but didn’t pursue the game with vigor. He attended North Texas State University briefly, then left school to enter high-tech marketing at age 21.

As he became skilled in the rapidly-paced industry, he went to work for IDG of San Francisco, which was the world’s largest publisher of technology magazines. He was recruited by Collabria Technologies as director of product development.

Jones’ sixth floor office overlooked the second hole at Santa Clara Golf Tennis Club. “I saw that scene every day, and had never really played much golf,” said Jones, who now oversees a staff of 32 at Bayonet and Black Horse. “I was then living the Internet dream before the industry took a downturn. I ended up playing a lot of golf, spending $300 a week. A friend said that instead of paying to play, why not becomc a club professional and be a part of a course here you could play for free.”

Jones entered the PGA Professional Golf Management Program in 2003, passed his Playing Ability Test (PAT) and earned PGA membership in 2005. He was hired at The Presidio Golf Course, assuming the head professional post in late 2005. He then accepted an assistant professional position at Stone Tree Golf Club in Navato, Calif., and was promoted to head professonal in 2007. Seaside Resort Development came calling in the fall of 2010, and Jones arrived at Bayonet and Black Horse.

“I’m working in a golfing utopia,” says Jones. “There aren’t too many places in the world where you have som many opportunities to play golf at so many different levels. Bayonet and Black Horse is unique in so many ways. The views are incredible. Bayonet is a test of golf on any level, and we have always been an advocate here of Tee It Forward, playing from the tees according to your ability.

“We believe that regardless of what course you are playing in the National Championship, it’s tournament golf at its best.”

One of the chief “lieutenants” in the team at Bayonet and Black Horse is Director of Golf Course Maintenance Ryan VerNess. He literally has the broad shoulders to match the expertise in carrying the responsibility of maintaining quality playing conditions. In his sixth season on site, VerNess oversees a 45-member grounds crew.

“It is a challenge for the amount of property and the care needed to maintain bent grass to a high standard every day,” said VerNess, a native of Stewartville, Minn. “We work in a most unique area of the country. Temperatures affect the growing pattern, and the grass doesn’t recover as quickly. You have to be creative.”

The son of a golf store owner, one of the first jobs that VerNess held was working in operations on a local golf course, where he began playing the game at age six. He was a 2003 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. Before he picked up his diploma, he gained invaluable turf management experience on another lofty plane. VerNess may be one of the few golf course superintendents who spent quality time in the NFL. He served as an assistant groundskeeper from 2000 to 2004 for the Kansas City Chiefs.

In 2004, VerNess made a major leap to one of golf’s shangri-las, the Monterey Peninsula, when he joined the grounds staff of head superintendent Chris Dalhamer at renowned Spyglass Hill Golf Course in Pebble Beach. “It was a great place to work, and to be under Chris, who has an eye for detail. I learned earlier that the players on the course Tuesday don’t care about what happens on Monday,” he said. “People have high standards and you have to maintain those standards. We work to do the same at Bayonet and Black Horse. We have a great staff, a great working relationship and good camaraderie. As we get closer to the National Championship, I am getting excited to see how the course looks on national television. We know it will be a great test of golf.”

The camaraderie among the Bayonet and Black Horse staff extended to last year’s National Championship at Hershey (Pa.) Country Club, where VerNess got an unusual perspective in preparing for this year’s showcase event. VerNess caddied for PGA Professional Jason Owen, a teaching professional at Bayonet and Black Horse who also serves as the men’s golf coach at Cal State-Monterey Bay. Owen finished tied for 45th in the National Championship.

“I got an intimate look at what was happening at the National Championship while caddying,” said VerNess. “It was a great experience, and I feel it all helped in preparing for this year’s Championship.”

Rounding out the Bayonet and Black Horse professional staff are LPGA Teaching Professional Katherine Nino, PGA apprentice professionals Alexis Edwards, Darcy Lake, DJ Milligan and Mike McDonald; and assistant golf professionals Anthony Henry, Cheryl Swix, Manny Isla and Patrick Calhoun.

“My staff is excellent,” says Jones. “Mr. Fitzgerald is excellent to work for, and I love where I am. I’m living the dream. We are excited to have the opportunity to present our courses through this Championship to much of the world through Golf Channel. What we have built by reputation over the years speaks volumes for our facility.”

About The PGA Professional National Championship
Begun in 1968 as an outgrowth of the PGA Championship, , the PGA Professional National Championship is the showcase event for PGA Professsionals. Together with 41 PGA Section Championships, the Championship features a total purse of more than $1.5 million. The PGA Professional National Championship purse is $550,000, distributed among those who make the cut in the 312-player field. GOLF CHANNEL will televise all four rounds of the National Championship. The PGA Professional National Championship is presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz and OMEGA. The PGA Tour is a supporting sponsor of PGA of America Professional Championships and GOLF CHANNEL is the exclusive media partner of The PGA Professional National Championship.

About The PGA of America
Since its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has maintained a twofold mission: to establish and elevate the standards of the profession and to grow interest and participation in the game of golf. By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, The PGA enables its professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in the multi-billion dollar golf industry. By creating and delivering world-class championships and innovative programs, The PGA of America elevates the public’s interest in the game, the desire to play more golf, and ensures accessibility to the game for everyone, everywhere. As The PGA nears its centennial, the PGA brand represents the very best in golf. 

PGA Sports Academies enrolling golfers nationwide this summer

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — The PGA of America is continuing its mission to develop the next generation of golfers with the PGA Sports Academy, an interactive and exciting approach to teaching youth about health, fitness and the game of golf. Nearly 1,400 facilities nationwide have registered to offer the program and can be found by visiting PlayGolfAmerica.com.

The Sports Academy curriculum includes phased levels of instruction, making the program adaptable for youth of any age, fitness level or golfing ability. The programs are taught by certified PGA Professionals and include instruction and development in the below core areas:

– Golf Skills
– Fitness and Nutrition
– Sportsmanship, Rules and Safety
– Golf and Near Golf Experiences

“The greatest and most enjoyable service our PGA Professionals can provide is to teach a young person to play the game,” said PGA of America President Allen Wronowski. “We’re excited about the upcoming summer and the opportunity to connect with kids throughout the country that will make up the future of our game. We experienced success with the PGA Sports Academy concept when it was launched in 2011, and we continue to grow the program based on the feedback of parents, participants and our outstanding PGA Professionals.”

The Sports Academy consists of three levels that develop the necessary physical and golf skills to practice, improve and enjoy the sport of golf. Youth are tested before they begin each level to determine their level of experience and establish personal goals.

The Player Level of curriculum is aimed at introducing new junior golfers to the fundamental movements and motor skills needed for a golf; swing basics such as grip, stance and balance; ball striking games that incorporate elements of baseball and hockey; and essential safety and etiquette.
The Sport Level is targeted at the development of young golfers and includes instruction on overall sports skills and the movement skills fundamental to golf; scoring, rules, and playing golf; and swing alignment and short game development.
The Champion Level instruction stresses the refinement of the golf swing; strength and flexibility training; and course management. After completing the program, young golfers should be ready to play golf on a competitive level.
The PGA Sports Academy will also give participants a practice program to improve their skills when not under direct instruction. All levels of the program include health and diet information like how to stay hydrated during physical activity and proper nutrition before, during and after exercise. Parents of PGA Sports Academy students will also receive resources to help them support their child in his or her development in the game of golf.

The PGA Sports Academy will be structured differently at each participating course, so parents are encouraged to contact their local PGA Professional to receive specific information about the program.

The PGA of America has received the 2012 Golf Digest Junior Golf Development Award for the PGA Sports Academy.

About The PGA of America
Since its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has maintained a twofold mission: to establish and elevate the standards of the profession and to grow interest and participation in the game of golf. By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, The PGA enables its professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in the multi-billion dollar golf industry. By creating and delivering world-class championships and innovative programs, The PGA of America elevates the public’s interest in the game, the desire to play more golf, and ensures accessibility to the game for everyone, everywhere. As The PGA nears its centennial, the PGA brand represents the very best in golf.