Proud and excited for a friend
The PGA of America
I got some news this weekend -- and it's so exciting I wanted to share it (maybe a bit early, but I don't care). However, before I do, please allow me to provide some background.
One of the first tasks I ever had when I came to PGA.com in the fall of 2006 was cutting images and pasting bios of new officers. It's the less glamorous side of working in golf - but it's the painstaking type of duty that makes a website work. (Hey, we can't do reviews of Pebble Beach every week...can we?)
A few months later I found myself at Demo Day in Orlando, leading up to the 2007 PGA Merchandise Show. I was the new guy, had no idea what I was doing nor knew anyone amid the thousands of people there -- but determined to make an impression nonetheless. Armed with a giant audio recorder (laughable when compared to today's smaller digital recorders) I noticed a large, silver haired man ambling by with a big smile. He knew everyone. Laughing, shaking hands, posing for photos -- he was obviously someone of note. I wanted to record something with him. Not knowing that the proper protocol was to arrange interviews with the PR & Communications department of the PGA, I just walked up to him and asked in my very elegant way -- "Hey, aren't you Allen Wronowski?"
It indeed was the new Secretary of the PGA of America and our first encounter was a clumsy new web producer trying not to look stupid in front of the man just elected to one day be president of the largest working organization in sports. That meeting was the first of many. But it never felt awkward again.
Allen quickly became renowned in the golf community for his thoughtful answers to difficult golf questions, his always-present PGA pins he gave out liberally, the big bear hugs he greeted virtually everyone with and perhaps the biggest smile in golf. He's always been a special friend to me -- but there are at least a thousand other people who say that about him. And it's all 100% sincere.
There are far too many Allen stories to recount -- but here's a guy who, as president, was 'regular guy' enough to drive me around in his cart at the Ryder Cup ("If anyone asks, I don't know you or how you got in this cart,") but was composed enough to speak in front of tens of thousands (millions on TV) a few minutes later welcoming the world to the greatest event in golf. He's the same guy at Hillendale Country Club and its members (his home course since 1979) as he is at the PGA Championship amid Tiger, Phil and Rory.
If you follow Allen on Twitter (and if you don't, you should: @AllenWronowski), you may have seen his announcement that he's been told he'll be inducted into the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame (March 2013). I'm so NOT surprised, no one deserves it more. But I know I share the excitement of the entire golf world.
I'll allow the official announcements and bio info to tell his story more when they come out -- they'll do a better job of it. This post is just from my perspective.
I used to kid Allen that everytime he went to give a speech to a PGM program or a PGA Section meeting, I'd notice dozens of new Facebook or Twitter profile pictures changed to that person's photo with him. I bet he's posed for more photos than Justin Bieber. (Sings better too). But every person I've ever met thinks as highly of him as I do. No kidding.
So seven years later, I'm still the guy at the website and Allen has gone from newly-elected secretary to vice president to president to now enjoying a less stressful role as honorary president. And he's about to become a Hall-of-Famer. However, I still have the ability to post things about him on this website.
So while I still have the platform, I want to speak on behalf of thousands of golf professionals and milliions of golfers in saying to my friend..."Congratulations Allen! Proud of your legacy -- even prouder to call you friend!" And I never told anyone about riding around with you at the Ryder Cup. Until now.