Learning From PGA Legends: How Jack Druga, PGA, Became the Ultimate Mentor
By Roger Graves
This article originally appeared in the Feb. 2023 issue of PGA Magazine.
PGA Life Member Jack Druga remembers the first time he met Bill Strausbaugh, who devoted his career to supporting and assisting PGA Professionals. Druga was only 24 when he encountered “Coach,” the name Strausbaugh earned by mentoring hundreds of PGA Members until his death in 1999.
“I met Coach Strausbaugh while working at PGA National Resort in 1983,” recalls Druga, the former longtime PGA Head Professional at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club in Southampton, New York. “I was assigned to assist Coach and Jim Flick during a PGA Teaching Seminar. After the seminar, he invited me to join him for dinner and we remained friends until the day he died.”
From the day he met Strausbaugh, Druga knew he had found the PGA Professional he needed to emulate. He saw that Strausbaugh was a natural leader who knew how to make everyone he met feel important. And he never hesitated to help a fellow PGA Professional.
“Coach had an amazing ability to remember names and faces of everyone he met,” recalls Druga. “It was impressive how many PGA Professionals sought him out. He was an inspiration.”
Druga, now 64, has followed in Strausbaugh’s footsteps and, fittingly, is the 2023 recipient of the Bill Strausbaugh Award, which honors a PGA Professional who displays outstanding integrity, character and leadership through a commitment to mentoring and making significant impacts on the careers of PGA Professionals.
Druga, currently VP and PGA Ambassador for the Western Golf Association’s Evans Scholars Foundation after serving as the PGA Head Professional at storied Shinnecock Hills for 15 years, is himself a modern-day Strausbaugh. Druga has always taken time to counsel other PGA Professionals, and prepare them for job interviews and daily issues.
A three-time high school state golf champion while growing up in Pittsburgh and a collegiate standout at Florida International University in Miami, Druga moved to the Metropolitan PGA Section in 1988 when he became the PGA Head Professional at The Creek Club in Locust Valley, New York. Still a highly competent player, Druga qualified for the 1990 U.S. Open and won several events within the Metropolitan Section. He accepted the PGA Head Professional at Shinnecock Hills in 2007, oversaw the 2018 U.S. Open Championship, and retired in 2021.
Druga was the beneficiary of many master mentors himself while developing his own strong mentoring philosophy. Lew Worsham taught Druga how to treat everyone equally at Oakmont Country Club, while Bob Ford (Oakmont and Seminole Golf Club) led by example and always encouraged staff to set career goals. Mike Reynolds at PGA National and the Loxahatchee Club taught Druga to pay attention to even the smallest of details, and Strausbaugh at Columbia Country Club instilled many virtues.
“My philosophy is simple: Be honest, upfront and realistic with your staff on how to reach their potential and achieve their career goals,” says Druga.
“Give each interaction your utmost attention and respect because each is a reflection on your ability to coach and mentor.”
Jack Druga, PGA
Druga takes tremendous pride in mentoring and has established a nice tradition to mark his success stories. Each time one of his former assistants earns a job elsewhere, he asks them to send him a bag tag from their new course. His mentoring “tree” made out of the bag tags continues to grow annually.
“Since I know what Coach Strausbaugh represents, there could be no greater way for me to be recognized for my PGA Professional career than to win the national Bill Strausbaugh Award,” admits Druga. “I have kept his framed picture over my desk in the golf shop since 1995.
“Coach liked to call the Bill Strausbaugh Award an ‘effort award’ because he knew it took an extra effort to help your fellow professionals improve their skills and achieve their goals.”