Today's PGA Professionals share a common foundation that stretches all the way back to Scotland and Allan Robertson, the first golf professional. And the growth of the game directly relates to the love of the sport, particularly as the PGA of America celebrates its centennial in 2016.
PGA Professional Billy Dettlaff and longtime writer and editor John Steinbreder shared their talents in the production of recently-published "The Official PGA of America Centennial Book," and shared some of their experiences in putting it together Wednesday during a panel discussion at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.
Dettlaff's family has been involved in professional golf for more than a century. His father won a match in 1921 to earn his first job at a public course in Oshkosh, Wis., then became a PGA Professional two years later.
It's those experiences handed down through the family that intrigued Dettlaff enough to research more about the PGA of America and how the profession has evolved since the formation of the organization in the spring of 1916.
"Part of this exercise was to search out the foundations of the game and understand what it was like when my dad was a professional," Dettlaff said. "I don't believe the game could exist without the PGA Professional at the heart of the game.
"It goes back to Allan Robertson, the first recognized golf professional in St. Andrews, Scotland -- a fifth-generation feathery ballmaker who was a great player in his own right, considered the king of the game. He was the genesis of where we are today."
If there's an overriding theme to the book, it's how PGA Professionals have spread the sport through mentoring. For 1983 PGA Champion Hal Sutton, that meant more than just the game itself.
"I played at a little nine-hole golf course in Shreveport and a guy named Ed Peck was the professional there," Sutton said. "He actually finished second in the Armed Services to Orville Moody. So he was a good player. He mentored me as much about life as he did about my golf swing.
"I'd get there from school at 3 o'clock, and he knew I loved to drink Dr Pepper. So he'd have one sitting there on the table and ask, 'Tell me how your day went, pal.' And we'd talk about that for a few minutes and then we'd talk about what was going on in my golf game. He had an interest in my life, not just my golf game. And I think that's what a lot of PGA Professionals do."
What Dettlaff and Steinbreder learned during the compilation of biographies from more than 100 prominent PGA Professionals is how much institutional knowledge is being lost in the passage of time. Dettlaff used an African proverb.
"Any time an old man dies, it's like a library burning down," he said. "And what I hope the book will do is inspire people to study our history and to reach out to some of the older professionals and listen to their stories."