PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- PGA Professional Greg Leicht, the general manager and director of golf at Vistal Golf Club in Phoenix, Ariz., has been named the recipient of the 2011 Conrad Rehling Award for his contributions to the growth of Special Olympics Golf. Leicht was honored May 29, at the Southwest PGA Spring Meeting in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Leicht ("Light"), is a 45-year-old native of Anderson, Ind., and was elected to PGA membership in 1998. He is in his 11th overall season at Vistal Golf Club and serves as secretary of the Southwest PGA Section. Leicht began training and coaching Special Olympics golfers in 2003. He also marks his ninth year as tournament director of the Arizona Special Olympics State Golf Championship. Leicht is head of the Arizona delegation to the Special Olympics National Invitational Tournament (NIT); co-founder and facilitator of the Unified Friendship Golf League; and chairperson for the Arizona Special Olympics Sports Program Committee.
"From the first practice I attended back in 2003, I have been hooked on Special Olympics," said Leicht. "The athletes demonstrate true sportsmanship and positive attitudes toward the game. The athletes express a genuine appreciation to anyone willing to help them. The athletes are not in competition with each other, only with themselves. The athletes only see the good in everyone else. They look at competition through a different set of glasses. I have said it before that I have received more than I could ever repay."
Encouraged to play golf at age six by his grandfather in Anderson, Ind., Leicht advanced his love of golf when the family moved to Arizona when he was 12. Leicht attended Arizona State University, and turned professional in 1994. He began his professional golf career at the TPC of Scottsdale, and would later serve at the Phoenician Golf Club in Scottsdale from 1997 through 2001. He joined Vistal Golf Club in September 2001. Leicht was recipient of the 2006 Southwest PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award and the 2009, '10 Section President's Plaque for contributions to player development.
"The Conrad Rehling Award is a very special award and I am humbled and honored to be associated with a program that he was instrumental in developing," said Leicht. "His program model, which was in place in 1988, well before I was in professional golf, has changed very little. That was because he did it right from the start."
Leicht's entire family is involved in Special Olympics Golf. His wife, Carol, serves as administrator at Arizona's Special Olympics State Golf Championship; and the couple's four daughters and Leicht's mother and father team to support all statewide Special Olympics events.
Currently, 49 U.S. Special Olympic Programs offer golf training and competition, with more than 19,000 athletes in North America. The program is offered in more than 50 countries worldwide.
"Greg Leicht has done an outstanding job in building the Special Olympics Golf program in Arizona," said Craig Pippert, Special Olympics North America Senior Manager of Sports Development. "We look forward to working with Greg and his team for the Special Olympics North America Regional Golf Invitational this summer in Litchfield Park, Ariz. It will continue a great tradition that has developed over the past 13 years."
About Special Olympics Golf
Special Olympics Golf, part of a worldwide sports program for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, offers five levels of competition for athletes with different ability levels. Ranging from individual skills competition to alternate-shot team play to individual stroke play, Special Olympics Golf allows athletes to grow in the game as they gain experience.
About the Conrad Rehling Award
The Conrad Rehling Award, first presented in 2005, honors the late PGA Master Professional who followed a successful collegiate coaching career at Florida and Alabama by transforming his retirement into inspiring PGA Professionals to give back to the physically challenged. Rehling died in April 2007 at age 87.
The founding father of the Special Olympics Golf movement in 1988, Rehling spearheaded The PGA of America's efforts to introduce golf to Special Olympics. The Association and its 27,000 men and women professionals have dedicated countless hours, services and funding to the growth of Special Olympics Golf.
Conrad Rehling Award Recipients
2005 - Jesse Weeks, Memphis, Tenn.
2006 - Steve Carson, Oklahoma City, Okla.
2007 - Jeff Beaudry, Sandy, Utah
2008 - Tom Addis III, Beaumont, Calif.
2009 - Frank Selva, Orange, Conn.
2010 - Dr. Eric Wilson, Port St. Lucie, Fla.
2011 - Greg Leicht, Gilbert, Ariz.
About The PGA of America
Since its founding in 1916, The PGA of America has maintained a twofold mission: to establish and elevate the standards of the profession and to grow interest and participation in the game of golf. By establishing and elevating the standards of the golf profession through world-class education, career services, marketing and research programs, The PGA enables its professionals to maximize their performance in their respective career paths and showcases them as experts in the game and in the multi-billion dollar golf industry. By creating and delivering world-class championships and innovative programs, The PGA of America elevates the public's interest in the game, the desire to play more golf, and ensures accessibility to the game for everyone, everywhere. As The PGA nears its centennial, the PGA brand represents the very best in golf.