PGA of America

2021 PGA of America Awards Recipients

 

TOM WILDENHAUS, PGA – PGA GOLF PROFESSIONAL OF THE YEAR - Olde Florida Golf Club – Naples, Florida

Tom Wildenhaus, PGA, the Director of Golf at Olde Florida Golf Club in Naples, Florida, is the recipient of the 2021 PGA Golf Professional of the Year Award. This 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. 

Wildenhaus’ involvement in PGA of America governance began in the South Florida PGA Section’s Southwest Chapter in 1994, when he served as Education Chairperson prior to serving on the  Chapter’s Board of Directors. He also served on the South Florida PGA Section Board of Directors from 1999-2007. From 1999-2001, he was elected Section Secretary, followed by his election to Section Vice President from 2001-2003, and eventually his election to Section President from 2005-2007. He was also elected President of the South Florida PGA Foundation in 2010, and still holds that position today. At the national level, Wildenhaus served on the PGA of America Public Relations Committee from 2010-2012, and was appointed to the Board of Control from 2015-2019.

Prior to winning his first national award from the PGA of America, Wildenhaus has earned numerous awards and accolades from the South Florida PGA Section, including the Horton Smith Award* in 1996 and 1998, Golf Professional of the Year Award in 2007 and 2016, and the Bill Strausbaugh Award in 2008. He was elected to the South Florida PGA Hall of Fame in 2011.

Wildenhaus has spent more than 28 years at Olde Florida Golf Club, where his leadership has continually driven a full membership, while his business acumen has helped retire all debt. Perhaps his greatest impact on the game is from the many PGA Professionals and assistants he has coached and mentored to be better in their roles – whether head professional, director of instruction or another role more tightly aligned to their interests and skills. 

\**Now the PGA Professional Development Award*

JAMIE MULLIGAN, PGA - PGA TEACHER & COACH OF THE YEAR - Virginia Country Club – Long Beach, California

Jamie Mulligan, PGA, a Southern California PGA Section Member and Chief Executive Officer of Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, California for the past 20 years, is the 2021 PGA Teacher & Coach of the Year for his “outstanding services as a golf teacher, innovator and coach.” 

Featured regularly as one of GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers and one of Golf Digest’s Best Teachers, Mulligan was among the first instructors to study the swing’s biomechanics in the 1980s. His self-developed culture of coaching is based on efficiency of movement, as he recognizes the physical and mental capability of each student and leverages their attributes to help them reach their full potential. Mulligan’s students have captured hundreds of professional victories across every major tour, highlighted by Patrick Cantlay, John Cook, Melissa “Mo” Martin, Amy Alcott, Jessica Korda, Nelly Korda, Paul Goydos, Kevin Na, Bill Haas and Max Homa, among many others. Mulligan developed the “Wheel Concept” to determine which spokes (ingredients, travel, family, preparation, skills, character traits, activities) work best for each individual’s overall objective. He then helps students create a system to keep their spokes straight. 

He was inducted into the SCPGA Hall of Fame in 2012 and earned numerous awards at the Section level, including the Teacher of the Year (1999-2000, 2004, 2010, 2012), Golf Professional of the Year (2004-2005), Metro Golf Professional of the Year (2002) and PGA Professional Development Award (2003-2004). Mulligan is also a member of the Long Beach State University Hall of Fame, and he continues to serve as a consultant for the school’s mens and womens golf teams.

Having conducted over 200 coaching seminars at the Chapter, Section and collegiate levels, Mulligan enjoys sharing his wisdom with colleagues while helping to develop the next generation of PGA Members. Mulligan is the founder and co-chair of the California Teaching and Coaching Summit (2015 inaugural year). He also founded the Smooth Swing Golf School and Jamie Mulligan Junior Golf Camp, positively impacting more than 30,000 golfers of all ages and levels. 

In conjunction with leadership at Virginia Country Club, established in 1909, Mulligan helped design many aspects of their world-class practice facility, which has made VCC more of a golf club. This practice facility includes a six-hole golf course, world-class chipping green, separate shag range, as well as a 400-yard double-sided driving range, one of the largest in Southern California.

JOE ASSELL, PGA - GOLF EXECUTIVE OF THE YEAR - GOLFTEC – Englewood, Colorado

Joe Assell, a Colorado PGA Section Member and the President & Chief Executive Officer of GOLFTEC in Englewood, Colorado, is the 2021 PGA Golf Executive of the Year. The honor 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.

Assell co-founded GOLFTEC in 1995, with a mission to help people play better golf by equipping PGA Teaching Professionals with emerging technology designed to deliver a better lesson. The company has given more than 12 million golf lessons, including over 1.5 million lessons in the last year across 220 locations in six countries. GOLFTEC has positively impacted hundreds of thousands of golfers, and with more than 600 PGA Professionals on staff today, the company is one of the largest employers of PGA Members.

Assell’s commitment to philanthropy led him to create GOLFTEC Cares, the company’s community outreach program, which contributes more than $2 million annually to golf-focused community initiatives, such as PGA HOPE, the Notah Begay III Jr. National Championship and Black Girls Golf.

A graduate of the Mississippi State PGA Golf Management University Program, Assell has won multiple awards at the Section level including: the 2020 Warren Smith Award for lifetime achievement, 2015 Colorado PGA Golf Professional of the Year, 2012 Colorado PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award, 2006 Vic Kline Award for outstanding board service and the 1998 Colorado PGA Teacher of the Year award. A Member of the PGA Quarter Century Club, he has also been honored among the 2021 Golf Inc. 25 Most Powerful People in Golf and as the 2008 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year for the Rocky Mountain Region.

His commitment to service is evident as a two-time member of Colorado PGA Board of Directors, long-standing member of the Finance Committee and an active member on several PGA of America National Committees.

TIM BECKWITH, PGA (posthumous) - BILL STRAUSBAUGH AWARD - Sarasota National Golf Club – Venice, Florida

Tim Beckwith, PGA, was a decorated PGA Member in the North Florida PGA Section and most recently the Director of Golf at Sarasota National Golf Club in Venice, Florida. He is being honored posthumously with the 2021 Bill Strausbaugh Award, after passing away last year following a courageous bout with Cancer. The Award recognizes a PGA Professional who demonstrates exceptional character, integrity and leadership through teaching and mentoring other PGA Professionals. A PGA Master Professional, Beckwith was passionate about mentorship and guiding the next generation of PGA Members to achieve their career goals. Under his guidance, more than 10 former Assistants ascended to either Head Golf Professional or Director of Golf roles, while several others assumed leadership positions within the golf industry. As a teacher, Beckwith was an eternal optimist. He saw possibilities in people that they could not see within themselves. He believed that everyone had something to offer, and always reminded his students to be patient and kind to themselves. He received numerous awards from the North Florida PGA Section, including the 2016, 2020 and 2021 Bill Strausbaugh Award; 2010 Merchandiser of the Year-Private Category; 2012 and 2020 Golf Professional of the Year; and 2021 Deacon Palmer Award.

DR. RICH BALLINGER, PGA - PGA PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AWARD - Sam Houston State University PGA Golf Management University Program – Huntsville, TX

Dr. Rich Ballinger, PGA Master Professional and a PGA Member since 1996, has earned the 2021 PGA Professional Development Award. This honor recognizes a PGA Member who displays commendable contributions to the education of PGA Professionals. A graduate from the Ferris State University PGA Golf Management University Program, Ballinger has served as the Director of the Sam Houston State PGA Golf Management University Program since its inception in 2005. In addition to his responsibilities overseeing the program at SHSU, he also serves as the Director of Golf Operations for Sam Houston State University’s Bearkat Course. A four-time recipient of the Southern Texas PGA Professional Development Award (2008, 2012, 2014, 2017), Ballinger was honored as the Southern Texas PGA Golf Professional of the Year in 2019. His program has also helped more than 130 SHSU graduates become PGA Members. Ballinger is passionate about service and helping his fellow PGA Members reach their desired career goals, evident by his involvement on many National and Section committees. He currently serves as Secretary for the Southern Texas PGA Section.

BRYAN DeMARCO, PGA - DEACON PALMER AWARD - Pine Barrens Golf Club - Jackson, New Jersey

Bryan DeMarco, PGA Head Golf Professional at Pine Barrens Golf Club in Jackson, New Jersey, has been selected for the 2021 Deacon Palmer Award, honoring a PGA Professional who displays outstanding integrity, character and leadership in the effort to overcome a major obstacle in their life. Diagnosed with Cancer at just 21 years old during his junior year at Penn State, DeMarco battled the disease while pursuing his dream to become a PGA Professional. As his career progressed, and after 15 years in remission, while handling his responsibilities at Pine Barrens Golf Club, his Cancer returned in 2016. The Pine Barrens staff offered full support as Bryan learned to make adjustments and continued to work while fighting off the disease. He worked remotely, visiting the club when possible giving lessons and club fittings while sitting in a cart when he did not have the strength to stand. Today, Bryan continues to give back, having raised over $30,000 for the New Jersey Golf Foundation through his seven years presiding over the Pine Barrens Member-Guest-Professional Tournament. He also is an active supporter of DetecTogether, a foundation dedicated to early detection of Cancers. He believes that if he is able to help just one person through his endeavors, it is all worth it.

JOE GROHMAN, PGA – PATRIOT AWARD - Old Ranch Country Club – Seal Beach, California - PGA HOPE National Trainer

Joe Grohman, the PGA Director of Instruction at Old Ranch Country Club, in Seal Beach, California, is the recipient of the 2021 Patriot Award. 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 who have valiantly served and protected the United States of America. Grohman serves as a National Trainer for PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere), the signature military program of PGA REACH. In this capacity, he is responsible for delivering PGA HOPE golf training seminars to PGA Members nationwide. The simulated training sessions are designed to ensure all PGA Professionals teaching PGA HOPE provide a safe environment and are comfortable using adaptive equipment while instructing Military Veterans living with physical or cognitive challenges. In addition, Grohman serves as host PGA Director of Instruction at Old Ranch Golf Practice Center. An eight-time recipient of the Southern California PGA Section Patriot Award (2014-’21), he has also been honored with the Section’s Youth Player Development Award (2017), Bill Strausbaugh Award (2016), Merchandiser of Year (2014), Golf Professional of the Year (2013) and President’s Award (2012). Grohman has also chaired the SCPGA Diversity and Inclusion Committee since 2009. In 2010, he was recognized with the Armed Forces Recreation-Special Citation Award-the U.S. Navy’s highest award for civilian recreation employees. Grohman was elected into the Long Beach Golf Hall of Fame in 2016.

THOMAS YOST, PGA - PGA PLAYER DEVELOPMENT AWARD - First Tee Four Corners – Kirtland, New Mexico

Thomas Yost, PGA, a 24-year PGA Member in the Sun County PGA Section, is the 2021 PGA Player Development Award recipient. This honor bestows special recognition to a PGA Member who has displayed extraordinary and exemplary contributions and achievements in the area of player development. Yost, a teacher of life skills and character values at First Tee Four Corners in Kirtland, New Mexico, boasts an extensive track record of success in developing and managing creative programs focused on adults, juniors, seniors, disabled golfers and college-level athletes throughout New Mexico and in parts of Colorado. He has inspired numerous PGA Professionals to create and bolster growth-of-the-game initiatives within junior golf and adult development. He is deeply committed to the Golf in Schools program and introduced the game to 26 elementary schools across San Juan County, New Mexico, including two on the Navajo Nation Indian Reservation. Among his key programs are the Clubs for Kids program, PGA Jr. League and the Special Olympics programs. Yost was honored with the Section’s 2012, 2013 and 2015 Youth Player Development Award; the 2014, 2016, 2020 and 2021 Player Development Award; and the 2018 National Conrad Rehling Award.

ANDREW MILLER, PGA - PGA YOUTH PLAYER DEVELOPMENT AWARD, LedgeRock Golf Club – Mohnton, Pennsylvania 

Andrew Miller, PGA, a Philadelphia PGA Section Member and PGA Director of Instruction at LedgeRock Golf Club in Mohnton, Pennsylvania, is the 2021 PGA Youth Player Development Award winner. The honor is given to a PGA Member who has made extraordinary and exemplary contributions and achievements in the area of youth player development. He boasts an impressive record of serving his fellow PGA Members currently in the role of Section Chairman of Instruction and contributing to numerous committees, including Player Development. Miller is well known in his community for working with local businesses, charities and schools to grow the game of golf. He was an early adopter of PGA Jr. League and was Mid-Atlantic Captain of the Year in 2013. Miller has a passion for sharing his expertise with others, which he displayed on a large scale by presenting on junior golf at the CMAA World Conference in San Francisco back in 2018. He has received several awards from the Philadelphia PGA Section, including Teacher & Coach of the Year Award (2020); Youth Player Development Award (2013, 2018, 2019,); 5-Time Golf Range Magazine Growth of the Game Award, and one of Golf Digest “Best in PA” 2017-2022. Miller is a US Kids Master Coach and a certified PGA Coach.

CAROLINAS PGA SECTION - HERB GRAFFIS AWARD 

The Carolinas PGA Section has earned the 2021 Herb Graffis Award, given to a PGA of America Section that has shown tireless dedication to growing the game of golf and furthering player development programming in the community. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Carolinas PGA Section, led by President Bob Byrnes, PGA, and Executive Director Jeff Abbot, CPA, was able to continue its character-building experiences for children of every race, creed, gender and socio-economic background, a pillar of the PGA REACH Carolinas Foundation. In 2021, the Section’s PGA Jr. League teams nearly returned to normal, with more than 3,000 registered players, a 40 percent increase over the 2020 season. A total of 206 PGA Jr. League scholarships were awarded to juniors last year. The Section is also a PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) programming leader. In conjunction with the 2021 PGA Championship at the Kiawah Island Resort, the PGA HOPE Secretary’s Cup was held after being canceled in 2020, and PGA HOPE Carolinas was able to bring six teams to the event due to the chapter’s high participation rate among Veterans. Additionally, the Section raised more than $2.75 million for Folds of Honor, supporting 567 scholarships, the most of any PGA Section. The Carolinas Section also prides itself on Inclusion, employing a successful PGA WORKS Fellowship, planning various events for women, people of color, juniors, Veterans and other underrepresented groups to continue growing the game of golf.

CAROLINE BASARAB, PGA - PGA MERCHANDISER OF THE YEAR - RESORT CATEGORY - Reynolds Lake Oconee – Greensboro, Georgia 

Caroline Basarab, PGA, a Georgia PGA Section Member and Director of Retail at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Georgia, is the 2021 PGA Merchandiser of the Year Award - Resort Category winner. The award recognizes PGA Professionals who excel in business and merchandising for the promotion of golf. A passionate retailer, whose philosophy is to make each day better than yesterday, Basarab has parlayed her extensive experience and track record of success into becoming a mentor and team leader at her facility. Her mindset during COVID-19 has centered around three key initiatives: staff training, growing the game and retail events.  By engaging and involving her PGA Professionals and staff, Basarab’s golf retail operations continue to exceed financial goals, help develop future golf retail professionals and achieve industry-wide recognition. In addition, Basarab has also earned the 2008 Carolinas and 2020 Georgia PGA Section Merchandiser of the Year Award, as well as the 2009 National Merchandiser of the Year for the Resort, the first woman to receive this honor.  The Reynolds Lake Oconee Shops received the AGM Platinum Award for Golf Shops from 2017-2019; and the 2020 AGM Platinum “Best of the Best” Award for Golf Shops.

BRIAN TOLNAR, PGA - PGA MERCHANDISER OF THE YEAR - PUBLIC CATEGORY - Mill Creek MetroParks Golf Course - Youngstown, Ohio

Brian Tolnar, PGA, the Director of Golf Operations at Mill Creek MetroParks Golf Course in Youngstown, Ohio, is the 2021 PGA Merchandiser of the Year Award - Public Category recipient. The award recognizes PGA Professionals who have excelled in business and merchandising in the promotion of golf. A PGA Member for more than 20 years, Tolnar acknowledges that his deep understanding of customer preferences has helped shape and evolve his merchandising programs. A natural leader, Tolnar keeps a close eye on retail trends on the local, regional, national and international levels, and he recognizes the importance of empowering his team while establishing strong relationships with vendors and representatives - best realized through continued communication and open dialogue. Brian is a four-time winner of the Merchandiser of the Year - Public Category (2013, 2016, 2018, 2020) as a Member of the Northern Ohio PGA Section and was the Section’s 2019 Golf Professional of the Year. He has also been honored with the Western New York PGA Section’s 2013 PGA Golf Professional of the Year, 2013 Player Development and 2012 Junior Golf Leader Awards.

IAN BROWN, PGA - PGA MERCHANDISER OF THE YEAR - PRIVATE CATEGORY, Butterfield Country Club – Oak Brook, Illinois

Ian Brown, PGA, a Member of the Illinois PGA Section and Director of Golf at Butterfield Country Club in Oak Brook, Illinois, is the recipient of the 2021 PGA Merchandiser of the Year Award - Private Category. The award recognizes PGA Professionals who have excelled in business and merchandising in the promotion of golf. Managing the entire golf operation with a heavy focus on merchandising, Brown’s philosophy of merchandising premium products at competitive prices, coupled with exceptional customer service, has proven successful with Butterfield’s significantly increased sales. He uses a resort-style purchasing program to assure items never run out. In addition, he raised nearly $4,500 for Folds of Honor over the last year. He was also recognized by the Illinois PGA Section with the 2020 Merchandiser of the Year – Private Category Award.