102nd PGA Annual Meeting marks historic leadership transfer as Suzy Whaley elected president

By Bob Denney
Published on
102nd PGA Annual Meeting marks historic leadership transfer as Suzy Whaley elected president

The standing ovation cascading throughout the Indian Wells Renaissance Resort came in waves, as Suzy Whaley, the first woman elected president of the PGA of America, made her way to the stage on Nov. 9.

Whaley, a PGA/LPGA member, whose career is a series of milestones in Association history, was elected a day before her 52nd birthday. She is the PGA Director of Instruction at Suzy Whaley Golf in Cromwell, Connecticut; and the PGA Director of Instruction at The Country Club of Mirasol in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Delegates at the 102nd PGA Annual Meeting also elected Jim Richerson as PGA Vice President. He is also the Vice President of Operations for Troon®, in Scottsdale, Arizona. John Lindert of Grand Ledge, Michigan, the PGA Director of Golf at The Country Club of Lansing (Michigan), was elected PGA Secretary. Also, Paul Levy, President and CEO of PKL Golf Management and Club Services, in Indian Wells, California — who served as the 40th PGA President —assumes the role of PGA Honorary President. He succeeds Derek Sprague, PGA, who completed his two-year term.

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As Whaley found her seat, outgoing PGA Honorary President Derek Sprague — who was overseeing the officer election — looked at the 41st PGA President and his voice slightly cracked. “There aren’t enough describe this week. So, I will use one that we all came to know: ‘Amazeable.’ ”

It could be a novel way to describe Whaley’s meteoric rise within the PGA and golf industry. But its origin was traced for attendees at the PGA National Awards ceremony. PGA Player Development Award recipient Marvol Barnard of Green Valley, Arizona, said her nephew, Cody Putzier, then a precocious age 6, had difficulty with “amazing.” So, he latched upon “Amazeable.”

Meanwhile, Whaley recalled her “journey to this moment,” which began with her mother, who opened the door to golf for her; and then led to her first coach, PGA Hall of Famer Joe Tesori of Syracuse, New York, who presented opportunities for women in golf.

Then, there were trailblazers like Sue Fiscoe, the first woman PGA Member to attain PGA Section presidency (Northern California); Mary Bea Porter King, the 2011 PGA First Lady of Golf; Alice Dye, the first woman member of the PGA Board of Directors; and PGA Hall of Famer Renee Powell, PGA/LPGA, of East Canton, Ohio, the first African-American female PGA Member, who is also in the first class of women honorary members of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club in St. Andrews, Scotland.

“Renee encouraged me, but more than that, challenged me to sit at a table where no one else looked like me,” said Whaley. “We had a conversation about the importance of giving back to the PGA, and again, she looked at me and said, ‘You need to do this; you can do this. Let’s go!’

“It’s a turning point in our history that affords all of us a chance to play and lead. Now, I’m here for you and for the long haul,” added Whaley. “Together, I know that we can all get clubs in people’s hands. We must come together and focus on what we have in common — a love of golf and a shared obligation for what is best for the PGA of America.

“Thank you for putting your trust in me. I’m ready, and as Renee would say, ‘Let’s go!’ ”

As Whaley’s march to history played out, PGA Delegates were presented a vision for teaching golf’s next generation, as Development Consultant Dr. Stephen Norris addressed the “Future of Coaching.”

“Evolving to fit the changing world of consumers leads to success,” said Norris, who worked with Team Canada’s Olympic Hockey program. “Communication allows groups to find solutions. With the collective experience of your 29,000 PGA Professionals and the Association, you should be able to solve every golf issue. It just requires effective communication and the opportunity for all your diverse minds to share your experiences.”

Will Robins, a PGA Certified Professional of Granite Bay, California, then outlined “Coaching Success,” which emanates from his WRGolf Coaching program. He is also the CEO of Robins Golf Logistix, overseeing 80 coaches across 12 countries. “If the PGA wants to successfully lead the golf industry for the next 100 years, we must be willing to change, to adapt, to stay relevant…You have to transform the industry, if you want to continue to lead it.”

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Diversity and Inclusion expert Tara Jaye Frank challenged delegates to learn how we can all think about inclusion — relative to our everyday lives and work. “In order to grow the game, you need to include people who have traditionally not been well represented… As demographics continue to shift, that will be required to get clubs in people’s hands.”

Delegates overwhelmingly approved the one Resolution put forth, modifying the deadline to submit resolutions from July 1 to Sept. 1. A task force discussion on the future makeup of PGA governance was held. Conversations on the subject will continue.

Emotion-filled PGA National Awards Ceremony
PGA Golf Professional of the Year Dan Pasternak, the PGA General Manager at Essex Fells (New Jersey) Country Club was honored as the first member of the New Jersey PGA Section to receive the Association’s highest annual honor. “I’m a big believer in the PGA. I believe there’s a lot of opportunity in the business, and people looking to get in this industry should not limit themselves.”

PGA Teacher of the Year James Sieckmann currently instructs 14 PGA Tour, LPGA Tour and Tour players, led by Stewart Cink, Anirban Lahiri and In-Kyung Kim. “The most important investment you can make is in yourself — gaining knowledge through self-study, mentorship, cultivating relationships, seeking and being exposed to new ideas and other perspectives,” said Sieckmann. “These are all the elixir of growth.”

Eight award recipients were celebrated during an emotion-filled PGA National Awards ceremonies. Patriot Award recipient Ken Juhn of Terrace Hill Golf Center in Temple Terrace, Florida, is battling Stage 4 cancer, yet continues to serve Veterans with physical/cognitive challenges through PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere). “With PGA HOPE, we have an opportunity to express the value of the game and its importance as a rehab tool. We need more programs to help the men and women coming out of battle.”

Monty Elam, PGA Director of Golf at Whiteford Valley Golf Club in Ottawa Lake, Michigan, was presented the Deacon PalmerAward for overcoming a hardship. Elam was blinded during routine eye surgery. A procedure later restored partial sight in one eye. When asked what motivated him to continue in golf, Elam said, “Being told that I couldn’t do it…People inspire me every day.” 

PGA Members honored during the PGA of America National Awards:

  • PGA Golf Professional of the Year: Dan Pasternak, PGA, Essex Fells (New Jersey) C.C.
  • PGA Teacher of the Year: James Sieckmann, PGA, The Golf Academy at Shadow Ridge C.C.-Omaha, Nebraska
  • PGA Youth Player Development Award: Cameron Milton, PGA, Polson (Montana) Bay G.C.
  • Bill Strausbaugh Award: Cameron Doan, PGA, Preston Trail G.C.- Dallas
  • Horton Smith Award: Joseph Hallett, PGA, Vanderbilt Legends Club – Franklin, Tennessee
  • PGA Player Development Award: Marvol Barnard, PGA/LPGA, Haven G.C.- Green Valley, Arizona
  • Patriot Award: Ken Juhn, PGA, Terrace Hill Golf Center- Temple Terrace, Florida
  • Deacon Palmer Award: Monty Elam, PGA, Whiteford Valley G.C.- Ottawa Lake, Michigan

The Colorado PGA Section was presented its first Herb Graffis Award, on Nov. 8, which capped off a year in which its Members — led by Section President Ty Thompson — collaborated with state golf organizations to benefit youth, military Veterans, and diversity and inclusion.  Colorado’s Golf in Schools program, a joint effort with the Colorado Open Golf Foundation, introduces the game to more than 10,000 kids each year. Additionally, Colorado oversees a PGA Jr. League that features more than 132 teams and involving more than 2,000 boys and girls.

For bios and information on the award winners, click here.

Incoming PGA District Directors:

  • District 3: John Bridgeman, PGA Director of Golf, Brentwood (Tenn.) C.C.
                      (Alabama-NW Florida, Gulf States, Tennessee)
  • District 6: Terry Russell, PGA Teaching Professional, Cantigny Golf Academy, Wheaton, Ill.
                       (Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin)
  • District 7: Nathan Charnes, PGA General Manager, WingHaven C.C., O’Fallon, Mo.
                      (Gateway, Midwest, South Central)
  • District 11: Bill Troyanoski, PGA Master Professional, PGA General Manager,
                       Half Moon Bay (Calif.) Golf Links
                      (Aloha, Northern California, Southern California)

New directors recently sworn-in:

  • District 12: Tony Martinez, PGA Director of Golf, Keeton Park GC, Dallas
                        (Northern Texas, Southern Texas, Sun Country)
  • Independent: Andrea B. Smith, Chief Administrative Officer, Bank of America, Charlotte

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