Grammy award-winning artist Vince Gill, whose passion for golf has evolved into being a key supporter of one of the nation's premier junior golf programs, has been named recipient of the 2003 PGA Distinguished Service Award.
Gill, 46, will be honored this week at The Eastman Theatre in Rochester, N.Y. The ceremony is in conjunction with the 85th PGA Championship.
The PGA Distinguished Service Award, inaugurated in 1988, honors outstanding Americans who display leadership and humanitarian qualities, including integrity, sportsmanship and enthusiasm for the game of golf. In 1993, Gill founded the Vinny Pro- Celebrity Golf Invitational, which serves as the primary fund-raiser for the Tennessee Golf Foundation. The event has generated nearly $3 million for junior golf, providing support and expanding junior golf programs as well as supporting an endowment fund to perpetuate the future of junior golf in Tennessee. In May 2001, the First Tee Facility at Nashville's Shelby Park was named The VinnyLinks in his honor. The chapter has attracted more than 200 juniors per year. Gill's support of the Tennessee Golf Foundation also resulted in some 1,300 junior golfers competing annually in 160 events on the Vince Gill Tennessee PGA Junior Tour. "Vince Gill's love of the game of golf is surpassed only by his love for people," says PGA of America President M.G. Orender. "The game of golf is but one beneficiary of Vince's genuine concern for the welfare of future generations. Through Vince's generosity and bond with many PGA Professionals throughout Tennessee, many boys and girls can experience the enjoyment of the game and grasp its character-building values." Born in Norman, Okla., Gill began playing golf at age 7, but not before he had first picked up a guitar, a signal for a career that would make him one of the most beloved and prolific country music stars in history. He has won a record 15 Grammy Awards and 18 Country Music Association Awards, including two Entertainer of the Year and four Song of the Year honors.
Gill began playing competitive golf at age 10 and was breaking 80 by the time he entered junior high school. He once considered a tour professional career, but committed himself to his other gift -- music. From 2000 -- 2002, Gill and his wife Christian and pop music star Amy Grant, hosted the annual LPGA event in Nashville. A resident of Nashville, Gill is considered one of the finest celebrity golfers in the country. Gill plays to a 1 handicap and in 2000 posted a career-best 18-hole round of 62 in a member-guest event at GreyStone Golf Club in Dickson, Tenn.
"It's amazing and humbling," says Gill of his being named the PGA Distinguished Service Award winner. "I have looked at the list of those who have won this award and I find it's scary. I don't see myself as an ambassador for the game of golf. I'm someone who loves it. What I have tried to do is help others share in the enjoyment of golf. "The work of the Tennessee Golf Foundation and the programs it benefits is not to turn out the next Tiger (Woods). Our goal is turn out people like the next Dick Horton (Tennessee PGA executive director) or the next club professional."
Past PGA Distinguished Service Award Recipients:
1988 Herb Graffis
1989 Bob Hope
1991 Gerald Ford
1992 Gene Sarazen
1993 Byron Nelson
1994 Arnold Palmer
1995 Patty Berg
1996 Frank Chirkinian
1997 George Bush
1998 Paul Runyan
1999 Bill Dickey
2000 Jack Nicklaus
2001 Mark McCormack
2002 Tim Finchem
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