ORLANDO, Fla. -- With NBC TODAY co-anchor Matt Lauer setting the table in a video to open the evening, nearly 1,000 guests celebrated outstanding achievements by PGA Professionals and an industry pioneer, Jan. 27, at the 2010 PGA of America Awards program in Orlando, Fla.
The program, conducted in the Linda Chapin Auditorium of the Orange County Convention Center, was as PGA of America President Allen Wronowski labeled, "our Academy Awards, our Oscars."
There were video tributes by former President George W. Bush, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, award-winning author Dan Jenkins, Jimmy Roberts, Maury Povich, 2012 Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III, along with Tour professionals Brandt Snedeker, Chris DiMarco, Joey Sindelar and Brett Quigley.
The "anchor" honors went to Ernie Sabayrac Award recipient Barney Adams of Dallas, Texas, the inventor of the Tight Lies™ fairway wood; and to PGA Golf Professional of the Year Jim Mrva of Fairport, N.Y., the PGA head professional at Monroe Golf Club in Pittsford, N.Y.
"You never make a journey like I have without lots and lots of people helping you," said Adams, who was honored for lifetime contributions to the golf industry. "They know how deeply grateful that I am. My wife, Jackie, was there all through. There were some dark days, but she was always there as a guiding light.
"I'm a range guy, that's all I ever was. When I first got started in the golf business, I thought my job was to see golf clubs. I found out I was wrong. When I went to work at Hank [Haney's] facility, I thought my job was to custom fit. I was wrong. What I learned was that my job was to improve the ball flight of the people you are working with. I have an affinity with all who work on ranges. Our job is to improve ball flight."
Mrva, a 33-year member of The PGA of America, is the second member of the Western New York PGA Section to receive the Association's highest honor bestowed upon a member professional.
"Along the way, you hear that award winners are humbled in this situation and I was never sure I understood why that is," said Mrva. "But now that I'm standing here, I feel more than humbled. I'm still nowhere near the player I want to be; nowhere near the teacher, the planner, the coach or the person that I want to be, but hopefully this award will inspire me to do more."
University of Illinois Coach Mike Small, who last June earned a record-tying third PGA Professional National Championship, also captured a third PGA Professional Player of the Year award. His tribute video featured an appearance by his longtime friend and former University of Illinois teammate, Steve Stricker.
"Tournament players have always been a cornerstone of The PGA since we started as an association," said Small. "I take pride in that. I am blessed to have a career that I love and that I really get up every day to do, and to help young men be successful and compete."
Sonny Skinner Jr., who finished runner-up to Small in the 2010 PGA Professional National Championship, paid tribute to his father, Henry Sr., a PGA Professional who passed away some three weeks prior to the awards program.
"I wake up every day with that desire," said Skinner, the PGA teaching professional at River Pointe Golf Club in Albany, Ga., and the only PGA Professional to capture both a PGA Professional (2008) and Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year award. "You have to consider yourself fortunate to go through life to be positively influenced by one person.
"My father was a tremendous influence on my life. He once said to me, 'Son, if you can find that something, that motivation, that inspiration to wake up every day to do something you enjoy, son, you will become rich beyond any means of measure. Well, I found my enjoyment through this game.
"I look upon this award as a symbol of my father's advice. In memory of my father, Henry Skinner Sr., I say thank you and to all PGA Professionals who wake up every day with the smile on your face, because you never know who will influence."
PGA Teacher of the Year Todd Anderson, PGA director of instruction at Sea Island Golf Club in St. Simons Island, Ga., counts Love and NBC's Lauer among a long list of notable students.
"I think one of the biggest compliments that I can give Todd is that I see my Dad in him," said Love, whose late father was a PGA teaching legend.
Lauer added that when Anderson works with professionals, "he is probably is a detail-oriented guy and he can work to take apart a swing and work on the minutiae. But when he works with someone at my skill level, he doesn't make it too complicated.
"Sometimes I work with him for a couple of days, I walk away with grip and tempo. That's all I think about – grip and tempo. So, I get home and play with my friends and start to play badly or not the way I wanted, I stop and think about what Todd would say, 'Grip and tempo.' Somehow I'm able to pull it back together."
Anderson said that teachers "should always put that student first and never quit learning."
The 2010 PGA of America Awards recipients:
- Jim Mrva of Fairport, N.Y. – PGA Golf Professional of the Year
- Barney Adams of Dallas, Texas – PGA Ernie Sabayrac Award
- Todd Anderson of St. Simons Island, Ga. – PGA Teacher of the Year
- John Kennedy Jr. of Rye, N.Y. – Horton Smith Award
- Nelson Long Jr. of Bedford, N.Y. – Bill Strausbaugh Award
- Ann Finke of Colorado Springs, Colo. – PGA Junior Golf Leader
- Mike Small of Champaign, Ill. – PGA Professional Player of the Year
- Sonny Skinner of Sylvester, Ga. – Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year
- Andy Barbin of Elkton, Md. – President's Plaque
- PGA Merchandisers of the Year – Mark Mongell of Alpharetta, Ga. (Private Facilities), Dennis Johnsen of Grayslake, Ill. (Public Facilities), Tom Davidson of - - Hayden Lake, Idaho (Resort Facilities)