Family Man Times Four: The Story of Jeff Kiddie, PGA
By Roger Graves
Jeff Kiddie, PGA(Russell Kirk/GOLFLINKS)
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 2023 issue of PGA Magazine.
PGA of America Head Professional Jeff Kiddie is the ultimate family man. He’s a dedicated, service-oriented individual who would give a family member the shirt off his back or make any number of personal sacrifices to help his family succeed.
That includes Kiddie’s immediate family, his family at venerable Aronimink Golf Club in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, his Philadelphia PGA Section family, and his national PGA of America family. Indeed, a family man times four.
Family has always been the highest of priorities for Kiddie, whether it is wife Tricia and children Andrew (21), Benjamin (19) and Gabrielle (17); or at 125-year-old Aronimink, where he hires, trains and manages a golf operations staff of 25; or at the Philadelphia PGA Section, where he has served in every office and on the board of directors for 14 of the past 16 years; or the PGA of America family, where he has served on the highly esteemed PGA Rules of Golf Committee since 2013 and is a regular PGA Annual Meeting attendee.
“Family has always been important to me; I like to treat everyone like family,” assures Kiddie, the 2023 PGA Golf Professional of the Year. “Outside of my wife and children, we are one big family at Aronimink, one big family at the Philadelphia Section and another closely-knit family on the national level with the PGA Rules Committee.”
A Keeper of the Flame
Kiddie understands the strength of the family unit, knowing a family working in unison can accomplish virtually anything, while an individual working independently might struggle to succeed. Of course, many families can benefit from a father figure and the 51-year-old Kiddie has embraced that leadership role while leading by example throughout his 24-year tenure as a PGA Professional.
The product of master mentors himself, Kiddie is now the keeper of the “family flame” at Aronimink and in the Philadelphia PGA Section, maintaining the business practices and traditions of PGA Professionals before him while shaping the future for tomorrow’s PGA Members.
“Jay Wright, Villanova’s former head basketball coach, said that he was the keeper of the flame for the Villanova basketball program," says Kiddie. It was a great program before he started coaching there and he felt it was his job to pass the flame to the next head coach, burning brighter than he received it.
“I think we should all feel the same way with our facilities, our Sections and the PGA of America. We are keepers of the flame.”
Growing Up Near Rochester
The articulate, affable Kiddie was born into a golf family and seemingly destined to be a PGA Professional. He grew up outside Rochester, New York, in a rural area and gravitated toward golf at a young age. His father, David Kiddie, was a golf professional in New York and then worked as a sales rep in the golf industry for Aureus and Izod. Jeff and his friends would ride their bikes to a nearby nine-hole golf course called Victor Hills, which is now a 63-hole facility.
“It was a great place for us to grow up because it kept us out of trouble,” says Kiddie, who played high school golf and soccer, and was an avid skier. “It was a family-owned and operated course, and as soon as we turned 14, the owner of the course, Mr. Jack Dianetti, told us that if we were going to spend as much time at the course as we were spending, that it was time we started working there. We started the next day.”
“I am always trying to be a positive example for our young PGA Professionals and I take great interest in creating the next generation of engaged golf professionals."
Jeff Kiddie, PGA
Dianetti considered Kiddie part of his Victor Hills family, and Jeff’s many jobs ranged from cleaning golf cars to selling hot dogs. When he turned 17, Kiddie landed a job in the bag room at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, New York, six miles southeast of Rochester. Ironically, Kiddie’s father had worked at Locust Hill as an assistant professional under PGA Professional Dennis Bradley.
“Locust Hill is actually where my parents met; my mom’s parents were members at Locust Hill when my dad worked under Dennis Bradley,” reveals Kiddie, who went on to play college golf at Division II Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. “I worked at Locust Hill all through college and it was my first Assistant Professional job.”
The Consummate PGA Professional
Today, Kiddie embraces all the traits of the quintessential PGA Professional. He is a master merchandiser and mentor, an insightful teacher and coach, a trusted tournament and event organizer, a well-schooled Rules official and arbiter, and a highly competent business leader.
The 2023 PGA Golf Professional of the Year is, himself, the product of many master mentors while now serving as a highly respected mentor himself to his “family” at Aronimink for the past 15 years, and to all fellow professionals in the Philadelphia PGA Section family.
Kiddie’s education as a PGA Professional began with the aforementioned Bradley, but truly took shape when he left Locust Hill to work for Metropolitan Section legend Jim Mrva, the 2010 PGA Golf Professional of the Year, at Monroe Golf Club in New York.
“Along with Craig Harmon, I’d say Jim was one of the two most respected PGA Professionals in upstate New York,” reflects Kiddie, who spent three years with Mrva. “I’ve been lucky to work for really good PGA Professionals at all of the stops in my career, but Jim was the biggest influence on my professional development. “One of my favorite memories with Jim was his retirement party. To see so many people so happy and grateful for all that Jim did for them was just awesome.”
Kiddie also has high praise for Charley Raudenbush, longtime PGA Professional at Pine Valley (New Jersey) Golf Club, and Locust Hill Country Club PGA Professional Steve Barber. “Charley taught me to be consistent, be humble and be loyal,” says Kiddie, who spent one year at Pine Valley before landing his first job as a PGA Head Professional in 2001 at Applebrook Golf Club in Malvern, Pennsylvania, where he also assumed the PGA General Manager position two years later.
“As for Steve, few people I have ever been around make people smile or laugh more. That trait makes people want to be around you.”
Kiddie Becomes Trusted Mentor
There are two memorable quotes that Kiddie lives by every day. The first is “Clients (members and customers) don’t come first. Employees come first. If you take good care of the employees, they will take good care of the clients.”
The second is “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you make them feel.”
Recognizing how so many PGA Professionals touched his life and helped shape his career, Kiddie pays it forward by serving as a trusted mentor himself to members of his Aronimink and Philadelphia PGA Section families.
“Mentoring has always been important to me because I had people who cared so much for me and my development,” emphasizes Kiddie. “Because I had such a positive experience as I was growing up in the business, I feel strongly that I need to do the same for others.”
A “family tree” of assistant professionals who have worked under Kiddie at Aronimink have “graduated” to PGA Head Professional positions themselves, including Rob Agresti, Chartwell G. & C.C. in Severna Park, Maryland; Bryan Kienke, Cohasset G.C. in Cohasset, Massachusetts; Carson Solien, Oak Park C.C. in River Grove, Illinois; Sam Ambrose, Chester Valley G.C., in Malvern, Pennsylvania; Ron Pine, Cedarbrook C.C. in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania; and Michael Congdon, The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, Minnesota, who is now an executive with Summit Brands.
Aronimink alumni John Dunigan (PGA Director of Instruction at Applebrook G.C. in Malvern, Pennsylvania), James Brod (PGA Director of Instruction at Oakmont C.C. in Oakmont, Pennsylvania) and Matt McFarlane (Vice President of Sales at Summit Brands) have also advanced to prominent positions in the golf industry.
Serves on Rules Committee
Dedicated to being a well-rounded PGA Professional, Kiddie attended a Rules of Golf workshop while serving as the PGA Head Professional at Applebrook Golf Club.
“I thought I would do pretty well because I had played the game my entire life and I thought I was well-versed in the Rules,” admits Kiddie. “But I ended up with a score of 56 on the Rules Test, which was an eye opener.”
Never accepting mediocrity in any endeavor, Kiddie studied The Rules of Golf and case studies for several years. His score on the Rules Test improved by leaps and bounds, and soon he had advanced to the expert level. After demonstrating his Rules knowledge at the Section level, Kiddie became a member of the PGA Rules Committee in 2013 and has served as a Rules Official at four PGA Championships, two KPMG Women’s PGA Championships and the Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in 2021.
“The relationships I have formed with fellow PGA Rules Committee members have been priceless,” assures Kiddie, who conducts Rules workshops at Aronimink and for the Philadelphia Section annually.
“One of my favorite experiences was in 2020 when we hosted the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Aronimink. It was such a unique experience to work an event at the same club I get to pull into every day.”
A Jeff of All Trades
At Aronimink Golf Club, Kiddie is capable of carrying out any job if the situation dictates. Occasionally, he is the golf equivalent of Patrick Mahomes or Jalen Hurts, stepping to the line of scrimmage, adjusting to circumstances around him and quickly devising a play or long-term game plan to turn trouble into triumph.
A prime example of Kiddie’s versatility and ability to adapt to any challenging situation came in November of 2021. Just as Aronimink was taking on a $35 million capital-improvement campaign in preparation to host the 2026 PGA Championship and to ensure a fruitful second century, it lost its general manager and COO. Kiddie stepped into the huddle with the board of directors, called seven months of successful plays and guided the club to victory without missing a beat.
“While the club was searching for a new general manager/COO, I added that role to my existing duties from late 2021 to the beginning of June 2022,” notes Kiddie. “It came at a pivotal time in the club’s history as we are taking on a $35 million capital project. I was heavily involved in the planning phases through the winter months. With 14 years of experience at the club, I thought I had a thorough understanding of the club’s operations, but serving in that capacity gave me a deeper understanding of the entire operation.”
Kiddie demonstrated similar leadership and adaptability skills when the coronavirus pandemic swept across the United States.
He was serving as President of the Philadelphia PGA Section when the pandemic hit and huddled with Philadelphia Section Executive Director Geoffrey Surrette, PGA, to help keep the Section office operating remotely, and to stay in communication with Philadelphia Section members while golf’s posture and place amid the pandemic was shaped.
“Like all other businesses, we had to make difficult decisions with our Section staff and our day-to-day business due to COVID,” admits Kiddie. “Geoff and our Executive Committee did an amazing job leading us through these uncharted waters. I am so proud of how well our Section made it through these difficult times.”
Adds Surrette: “The Section was fortunate to have a forward-thinking President who was looking out for every Section member when the pandemic struck. Leadership skills are magnified in challenging times or times of crisis, and COVID certainly showed that Jeff Kiddie is a conscientious leader.”
Now that the pandemic appears to be mostly behind us, Kiddie says many lessons were learned by adapting to the restrictions – and the ultimate boom in golf demand – wrought by the pandemic.
“What we learned most from the pandemic is that we needed to adapt and adapt quickly,” admits Kiddie. “It was difficult to have all golf courses closed for six weeks.
“The other thing that I really learned during COVID is the value of a strong network. I have never relied more heavily on my network. Geoff Surrette and I were in constant communication to devise strategies on how we would keep the Section office operating, and how we would notify Section members as different edicts and restrictions came down regarding COVID-19.”
When Jeff Kiddie was notified that he had been selected as the 2023 PGA Golf Professional of the Year, he was humbled.
“It honestly feels a little weird to hear or say that I’ve won this award,” admits Kiddie. “I know so many awesome PGA Professionals who I think are more deserving of this award than I might be. However, I am very proud of the recognition and I will do my best to live up to what this award represents.
“I’ve had tremendous role models to emulate and I thank them for the opportunities and guidance they provided. I’m also thankful for the friendships I have in the industry.
“Finally, I am lucky to have a supportive family, and to work at a great club that provides me with the opportunity to be the kind of PGA Professional that I’ve always wanted to be.”
As expected, Kiddie thanked his family – his maternal family, his Aronimink family, his Philadelphia PGA Section family and his PGA of America family. Indeed, a family man times four.