PGA Golf Professional of the Year
Craig Harmon, PGA Head Professional at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, N.Y., has been named the 51st recipient of PGA Golf Professional of the Year, the highest honor bestowed by The PGA of America on a PGA Professional.
A resident of Rochester, N.Y., Harmon, 58, is in his 33rd year at Oak Hill Country Club, and is the first member of the Western New York PGA Section to be so honored. He will be recognized at The PGA of America Awards Program, Jan. 28, 2005, during the PGA Merchandise Show at the Orange County Convention Center's Linda W. Chapin Auditorium in Orlando, Fla. The program will feature all 2004 national award winners.
Also winning national awards are: PGA Teacher of the Year Hank Johnson of Birmingham, Ala.; Horton Smith Trophy winner Ralph Bernhisel of Phoenix, Ariz.; Bill Strausbaugh Award winner Paul Reinking of Bourbannais, Ill.; and PGA Junior Golf Leader winner John Godwin of Pine Mountain, Ga.
A native of New Rochelle, N.Y., Harmon grew up in one of America's heralded golf families. Guided to the game by his father, Claude, a premier instructor and the 1948 Masters Champion, Craig witnessed his father's innate ability to connect with both the game's finest players as well as amateurs, building lifelong relationships and enhancing one's teaching skills.
Like his father, Harmon became a skilled instructor and a skilled mentor of young people and the most influential employment chairman for the Western New York PGA Section.
"There have been two moments in my career that I count as very special," said Harmon. "The first was in 1972 when I got a call that Oak Hill Country Club was selecting me as its head professional. That gave me the opportunity to further myself in golf. The second moment was when I was named PGA Golf Professional of the Year. This honor is very humbling, because it says that my fellow PGA Professionals have deemed a job well done."
Harmon attended the College of the Desert in Palm Desert, Calif., and San Jose State University in San Jose, Calif., before joining the staff at the Lakeside Golf Club of North Hollywood, Calif. from 1969 to 1971. He then spent a winter at Thunderbird Country Club in Palm Springs before he was named PGA head professional at Oak Hill Country Club. From that call to service at Oak Hill in March of 1972, Harmon has gone on to become one of the country's most influential and respected PGA Professionals.
In its most recent listing, Golf Digest voted Harmon the 24th best teacher in America and Golf Magazine lists him along with his three brothers - Butch, Dick and Billy - on its top 50 roster of the nation's foremost golf teachers.
During the 2003 PGA Championship - one of six significant or major championships conducted at Oak Hill the past 23 years - Harmon became the 35th inductee into the club's Hill of Fame. He joined a list of past honorees that includes Walter Hagen, Ben Hogan, Bob Hope and former U.S. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford.
"Teaching is the most rewarding thing we can do in our business," said Harmon. "We actually get a chance to help someone with their game and their smile is our tremendous award. The modern professional should make teaching their top priority."
Harmon is a four-time Western New York PGA Teacher of the Year (1986, '91, '95, 2002), the 1983 Section Golf Professional of the Year and was the 1993 Section Horton Smith Award winner. He also enhanced his teaching reputation by serving as co-chairman (1994) and chairman (1996) of the PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit.
Harmon and his wife, Sandy live in Rochester, N.Y., and are the parents of four children: son, John, 31, a daughter, Liz, 28, and sons Joe, 25, and Ben, 16.
Teacher of the Year
In his 14th season as PGA Director of Golf at Greystone Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, Ala., Henry (Hank) Johnson, 63, is one of the most traveled clinicians and innovative PGA Teaching Professionals. He also was an accomplished player long before building his teaching resume.
A 1964 graduate of Auburn University and a three-year letterman for the Tigers' golf team, Johnson was the 1962 runner-up in the Southeastern Conference before turning professional. He won the 1969 Tri-State PGA Assistant Professional Championship, competed that year in the U.S. Open and is a three-time participant in the PGA Club Professional Championship.
Johnson is a popular instructor to PGA and LPGA Tour professionals, including Steve Lowery, Tom Kite, Hubert Green, Tom Purtzer, Nancy Scranton, Shani Waugh, Siew Ai Lim, Marisa Baena and Michelle Estill. Elected to PGA membership in 1973, Johnson is the first Dixie PGA Section member to be named PGA Teacher of the Year.
In 1979, he co-founded the Tuscaloosa Junior Golf Tour, exposing more than 200 juniors to golf instruction and competition. In 1982, that tour was honored by Golf Digest as the "Best Junior Golf Program in America."
A member of the Golf Digest School staff from 1976 through 1994, Johnson has conducted extensive research related to biomechanics and the physical aspects of the golf swing.
Since 2002, Golf Digest has listed Johnson on its "Top 50 Teachers" roster and as the No. 1 teacher in Alabama. Since 1999, Johnson has been selected among the top 100 U.S. golf instructors by GOLF Magazine.
For more than 20 years, he has been a frequent contributing author to Golf Digest and, published in 1993, How to Win the Three Games of Golf - a study that explores the Swing, the Shots and the Score. In 2002, he was a presenter and task force member at the PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit, and this year served as an instructor for the national PGA Advanced Teaching Seminar in Orlando, Fla.
"To be selected for this award is certainly one of my top moments in golf," said Johnson. "I am honored and humbled to receive such recognition. My father (Henry) was an avid player and he started me playing as a youngster of 10. I have truly enjoyed the journey and where it has led me to meet and to teach so many wonderful people."
Johnson said that his focus on understanding the fundamentals of learning has enabled him to branch into other productive study areas that positively impact his students.
"My work has led me to study the process of learning of motor skills and how we can best adopt these skills for improved performance. I think it is helpful if we can illustrate our teaching using a student's past experiences.
"The strategy for playing golf is in many ways like playing other sports such as football. In football, the defense actually determines the plays that the offense can run effectively. You have to plan your attack based on what the defense presents. Therefore, playing golf is a matter of understanding the shot you are capable of playing consistently and matching those shots against the design of the golf course. In golf, the course features and hazards are the defense. The challenge is to read them correctly so you can develop an effective plan."
Johnson is a four-time Dixie PGA Horton Smith Award winner, and was the 1985 Dixie PGA Golf Professional of the Year and the 1997 Dixie PGA Teacher of the Year. He was also the 1984 Alabama Golf Association Professional of the Year, and in 2001 was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame.
In 2002, he founded The Hank Johnson School of Golf, which operates at Greystone in Birmingham, Ala., and Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Destin, Fla.
Johnson credited renowned teaching professionals Bob Toski and the late Davis Love II as individuals who have had a major impact upon his career.
"There have been many who have guided me along, but I would say that Bob Toski was most instrumental in the development of my career," said Johnson. "And, I was so pleased to have spent a lot of time with Davis Love II. Having had the opportunity to learn from those gentlemen and the other great instructors on the Golf Digest School staff was truly special."
Johnson and his wife, Sybil, live in Birmingham, Ala., and are the parents of four children: a son, Hank III, 42; daughters Ashley, 38, and Suellen, 36; and a son, Michael, 32. They currently have six grandchildren.
Horton Smith Trophy
Ralph Bernhisel is the first member of the Southwest PGA Section to be named a Horton Smith Award winner, the Association's highest award for contributions to PGA education. A 23-year veteran in the PGA business school system, Bernhisel did not begin playing golf until age 25. A native of Portola, Calif., who spent most of his life in La Cañada, Calif., he first competed in football and baseball. He graduated in 1962 from Pasadena (Calif.) City College, and spent the next four years as a sporting goods salesman for the Spalding Company.
Bernhisel left that sales venture to become an assistant professional at Century Country Club in Los Angeles (1966-68), and later an assistant professional at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles (1969-72). He was elected to PGA membership in 1976.
"My entry into golf came after working with the professional golf division of Spalding. I was so impressed with how well the professionals looked in their jobs and in the way they dressed and carried themselves, that I decided I needed to be a part of golf," said Bernhisel. "That decision was the best I've made. It opened many doors and allowed me to learn from so many great PGA Professionals. I didn't get into PGA education for any other reason than to be with the guys. That was education for me. I learned from the best, chief of whom was Eddie Merrins at Bel-Air Country Club and Larry Startzel (PGA Director of Golf at Black Diamond Ranch Golf & Country Club, Lecanto, Fla.), who is my best friend."
In mentoring young professionals and traveling to PGA of America education seminars, Bernhisel has continued a constant theme in his work, which is reflected in this award.
"The Horton Smith Award is about a man who served his Association, elevated its standards and passionately gave back to The PGA of America. I feel the Horton Smith Award is not about an individual; it is about becoming part of an Association."
Bernhisel, 63, is one of the most active and honored members of the Southwest PGA Section. He served as Section president in 1980, 1991 and 1993. He was chair of the Section Junior Golf Committee (1978), Section Tournament Committee (1990) and Section Education Committee (1992). He was named the 1980 Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year, and also won the Section Bill Strausbaugh Award (1989), Horton Smith Award (1992) and was named Section Merchandiser of the Year (1995).
A resident of Phoenix, Bernhisel has served as a member of the PGA Rules Committee since 1996. He is also a board member of the Boys and Girls of Hope, and tournament chairperson for Special Olympics International.
Bill Strausbaugh Award
A native of Lombard, Ill., Paul Reinking is marking his 29th year as PGA head professional at Kankakee (Ill.) Country Club. He is the second Illinois PGA Section member to be named recipient of the Bill Strausbaugh Award, following one of his mentors, William Heald of Riverside, Ill., who won in 1981 and 1999. The Bill Strausbaugh Award is named for the late PGA Master Professional who died in 1999. Strausbaugh inspired his fellow PGA Professionals with his teaching and his mentoring, which led to improved employment situations and servicing of one's community.
"When I was an apprentice, Bill Strausbaugh was one of the instructors in the PGA Business Schools," said Reinking. "The impression he left with me and with others in the room epitomized what a golf professional should be. My feeling is The PGA is an association of members who give back to the game. For a young person to come up and say that he remembers your words from a 1987 business school really leaves you with a good impression about your efforts."
Guided to the game by his grandfather, Reinking caddied at Glen Oak Country Club in Glen Ellyn, Ill. and competed on the local high school golf team. He later advanced to play three years for the University of Illinois-Chicago, then turned professional in 1969. He was elected to PGA membership in 1973.
Reinking, 61, served as a member of the PGA Board of Directors from 2001 to 2003, and twice as president of the Illinois PGA Section (1993-94 and 1999-2000). He was a member of the national PGA Education Committee (1995-97) and co-chairman of the national PGA Employment Committee (2001-03).
The Illinois PGA Section named him the 1980 Section Horton Smith Award winner, the 1990 Section Bill Strausbaugh Award winner, the 1994 PGA Golf Professional of the Year. In addition, he was the recipient of the
1995 and 1997 Section Junior Golf Leader award.
"The PGA of America badge represents golf to the masses," said Reinking. "The integrity of the Association, how we conduct our tournaments and business is a strong message to the general public as to who the keepers of the game might be. Each PGA Professional has the responsibility to promote the Association in word and deed in order for the public to have faith in our leadership."
In 1993, Reinking was inducted into the Chicago Athletic Hall of Fame and received the 2003 Illinois Junior Golf Association Distinguished Service Award.
Reinking and his wife, Judy, live in Bourbonnais, Ill., and are the parents of a daughter, Kris Woodard, 33, and a son, Jeffrey, 29.
Junior Golf Leader
Born in Racine, Wis., and raised in Columbus, Ga., PGA Master Professional John Godwin, 52, is the first member of the Georgia PGA Section to be named national PGA Junior Golf Leader. He is in his fifth year as PGA head professional at Godwin Creek Golf Course in Columbus, Ga.
"This is obviously a great honor and a humbling one," said Godwin. "I believe that every PGA member at the core is passionate about junior golf. I have been blessed to have had a father who touched many young people after his professional football career ended, as a high school football coach. Though he was never a golf professional, he was passionate about the game and introduced me to the game when I was 10 years old."
John's father, Bill Godwin, was a starting center on the University of Georgia's 1943 Rose Bowl team and later played for the old Boston Yanks, an NFL football team that evolved into today's Indianapolis Colts.
Bill Godwin sold insurance later in his life before retiring in 1988. That year he opened a nine-hole course at the Fountain City Golf Center. Following his death in 1998, the facility was re-named in his honor. Bill Godwin's 1988 creation, Seniors for Kids, was a precursor to today's First Tee Program.
John Godwin is director of programming for The First Tee Columbus Inc. He established The First Tee Program at Godwin Creek to give juniors year-round opportunities to develop their golf games and to compete.
Godwin Creek Golf Course is today a 22-acre park with a nine-hole course that features six par-3s and three par-4 holes emphasizing access and continuing training in fundamentals for junior golfers. Since 1988, more than 2,000 area youth have participated in Seniors for Kids and The First Tee Program at the facility.
"When I decided to dedicate the rest of my career to developing junior golfers, my leadership skills were put to the test," said Godwin. "First, I had to convince local business leaders, the USGA and The First Tee that an aging golf facility started by my dad was worthy of their investment."
Godwin campaigned for the funds needed ($300,000 overall) and in 2000 reopened Godwin Creek Golf Course as a facility dedicated to youth involvement and helping juniors have fun in the game.
"The pre-teen and teen groups are such a large segment and cannot be ignored," said Godwin. "We need to look at that generation as a large component of the mix of play of golf in this country."
A 1974 Florida State University graduate, Godwin was elected to PGA membership in 1977. He is an accomplished player, having competed in two PGA Championships. He was also the 1985 Rocky Mountain PGA Section Player of the Year, 1990 Rocky Mountain PGA Teacher of the Year and the 1995 and 2000 Georgia PGA Junior Golf Leader.
Godwin lives in Pine Mountain, Ga.
Merchandiser of the Year - Private
Born in Atlanta, Harmon began playing golf through the guidance of his grandfather. But, it was his father who set him on a life master plan.
"I was fortunate to have a baseball scholarship as well as a golf scholarship, and my father gave me the best advice I've ever received," said Harmon, a former standout infielder who is now in his 19th year as PGA director of golf at Secession Golf Club in Beaufort, S.C. "He said that you can probably compete until age 30 in baseball, but you can play competitive golf forever. As it turned out, and judging by the knees I have, it was a wise decision to listen to him."
Harmon, 50, is the fifth individual and seventh overall Carolinas PGA member to win the PGA Merchandisers of the Year Award. He said his merchandising skills stemmed from having first worked at an upscale men's clothing store at age 16.
"I enjoyed the fashion side of the game," said Harmon. "It was very close to my life. This award is a tribute to our staff, particularly PGA Head Professionals Jason Hildreth and Franklin Newell, who handled the inventory through the years. This award means as much as any award from The PGA of America. It is truly special."
A 1978 history graduate of Middle Tennessee State University, Harmon declared himself a professional that year and went on to compete on the PGA Tour from 1980 to 1982. When the Tour went to an all-exempt format in 1983, Harmon missed earning a Tour card by three strokes.
Had he and partner Barry Harwell not finished two strokes behind champions Danny and David Edwards in the 1980 Walt Disney World National Team Championship, Harmon said his career plans might have been altered.
"Winning that year might have turned me in a different direction, but in fact that experience opened up a wonderful club professional life for me," said Harmon. "This golf club is a special place. We have had a great start. In time it will be regarded as one of the finest in the country. It just needs some tradition behind it." Secession Golf Club was designed by Tour veteran Bruce Devlin and opened in 1991.
"I have a great staff of four in the golf shop," said Harmon. "My duties have gone beyond golf operations. We developed a logo that is one of the most recognized in the country and we have built a great member base of 750, with most of those players whom we would see only three to four times a year. My merchandising philosophy is to buy right and buy deep. We may buy as many as 25 to 30 pieces of a particular piece of merchandise, keeping it conservative but bright in coloration. This is a small shop of 500 square feet, but we have a knowledge of what will sell. We would much rather have a lot of great pieces than be left with a wide variety of marginal pieces. I am fortunate to be doing two things I always loved as a youth; to be around the game I love so much and own my own clothing store!"
Merchandiser of the Year - Public
The vice president of golf operations for Montage Hotels & Resorts, Villeneuve, 34, oversees three facilities and one development project in Southern California. He earned the national award for his work at Sandpiper Golf Club in Santa Barbara, Calif., an 18-hole facility where he served for 3½ years as general manager and PGA director of golf from 2000 to April 2004. Villeneuve is the fifth member of the Southern California PGA Section to win a PGA Merchandisers of the Year Award.
A native of Boise, Idaho, Villeneuve was introduced to golf by his father, Gene, along with PGA Professional Warren "Stoney" Brown, formerly of Crane Creek Country Club in Boise, a past national Horton Smith Award winner. Villeneuve attended New Mexico State University before declaring himself a golf professional in 1991. He was elected to PGA membership in 1997.
"My philosophy is to surround myself with a team of professionals that are committed and passionate about merchandising and the golf business," said Villeneuve. "Merchandising sets an image for a facility and a staff. Although my name is on this award, the credit should go to my team. I manage multiple facilities and am fortunate to have a staff of seven (at Sandpiper Golf Club) that doesn't miss a beat."
Villeneuve has worked to give the Sandpiper Golf Shop its unique identity, by "giving our guests a look at apparel lines and fashions that they will not see in other golf shops and providing high quality products and services.
"We are fortunate to be in a great destination area in Santa Barbara," said Villeneuve. "We have a golf shop of 800 square feet where the presentation is so important. I love to try new brands that are attractive, but people haven't necessarily heard of. I have found that people love to be the first to have something and that the value and quality in new brands tends to be better.
The PGA of America, founded in 1916, is a not-for-profit organization that promotes the game of golf while continuing to enhance the standards of the profession. The Association is comprised of more than 28,000 men and women PGA Professionals who are dedicated to growing participation in the game of golf.
Merchandiser of the Year - Resort
Earnest is a 1987 graduate of the University of Texas in Austin, and is in his seventh season as PGA director of golf at Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas in Irving. He declared himself a professional in 1986 and became a PGA member in 1989.
This marks the seventh time the Northern Texas PGA has had an award winner, and Earnest is the sixth individual winner and the fourth to garner the award from his facility. PGA Professionals James Bellington, now general manager of Troon Golf in Scottsdale, Ariz., won in 1990, and Michael Abbott, now general manager of Vaquero Club in Westlake, Texas, captured the 1994 and 1996 awards.
Earnest, 40, is a Houston native, who was introduced to golf by his father at the age of 12, and competed as a junior through programs of the Houston Golf Association. Today, Earnest oversees a 30-member staff at an award-winning 36-hole facility that hosts the annual EDS Byron Nelson Championship. Earnest heads an eight-member golf shop staff that includes a merchandising and golf shop manager serving a regional clientele of 725 golf members.
"This is a tremendous honor; one of the top moments of my career," said Earnest. "It's a tribute to my team that I've been blessed to have had over the years. Throughout my career, I have worked with merchandising managers who are the best at their craft. You can bring in great goods to a golf shop, but it is how your sales associates do on the floor and the dedication that they have to build relationships with vendors and customers that lead to success."
Earnest said one of the special relationships he cherishes is with a man who "prides himself as the oldest employee at Four Seasons Resort," World Golf Hall of Fame member Byron Nelson.
"I am proud to say that Byron is a friend," said Earnest. "He visits us regularly and we run his clothing line, which happens to do very well. He's a great leader for us spiritually. It's wonderful that we can have him here as often as possible and of course, we are all pretty busy during the week of his tournament."
Earnest said there is nothing secretive about being a successful merchandiser in golf.
"I believe you can build a repeat business by being genuinely warm to the people who enter your golf shop," he said. "You have to put some sizzle into the presentation and present a great product. We take great pride in our special order program. If we don't have it in our shop, we will search it out."
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