PGA Past President Brian Whitcomb Honored as a Legend of the PGA at the 106th PGA Annual Meeting
Honorary PGA of America President Jim Richerson and Past PGA President Brian Whitcomb during the Legends of PGA Presentation 106th PGA Annual Meeting at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa on Thursday, November 3, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/PGA of America)
In a week where inspiration is easy to find at the 106th PGA Annual Meeting at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort in Phoenix, the honoring of PGA Past President Brian Whitcomb as a Legend of the PGA was front and center Thursday.
Elected in 2006 as the 35th PGA President, Whitcomb championed the growth of the PGA Professional through innovative means of communication that used the best of new and old media alike. He elevated the PGA Member by ensuring they were positioned as the recognized experts in the game and business of golf during a historic rebranding of the PGA.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Whitcomb, who has bravely endured Multiple Sclerosis for the past several years. “Despite a hard battle, I’m trying…It’s been an exciting week, and I will remember this week for the rest of my life.”
Whitcomb’s service as PGA President from 2007-08 may have placed his actions in the limelight, but his impact on the lives of PGA Professionals, golfers and communities across the country began much earlier.
“Brian has always been a man of action, principle and commitment to support his fellow PGA Members,” said former U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Paul Azinger in a tribute video. Whitcomb presented the Ryder Cup to Azinger after the United States defeated Europe at Valhalla Golf Club in 2008. “Sometimes, the measure of a person’s impact isn’t calculated in headlines or celebrity, but in the quiet, yet profound affect they have on the lives of others - that’s Brian Whitcomb. I’m glad I know him, I’m better for it, we all are.”
Whitcomb’s love for golf was kindled at the age of 10 by Vietnam Veteran and Pacific Northwest PGA Section Member Jim Wilkerson, PGA.
That passion for the game and Veterans who served our country was amplified when he was approached by now Lt. Col. Dan Rooney, PGA, founder of Folds of Honor. Rooney had the idea for the first Patriot Golf Day, asking golfers to donate a dollar or more above their greens fee on Labor Day Weekend to raise funds for educational scholarships for families of Veterans wounded and killed in the line of duty.
He shared his idea with Whitcomb, and they jointly announced the first Patriot Golf Day at the 2007 PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. In the first year, with the support of PGA Professionals nationwide, Patriot Golf Day raised over $1.3 million.
“It’s the purest mission I’ve ever seen,” said Whitcomb, who is still a member of the Folds of Honor Board of Directors.
Over the years, Folds of Honor has awarded more than 35,000 scholarships, and “Patriot Golf Days” has now moved to become a Memorial Day Weekend tradition that will expand to also support First Responders next year.
“Without Brian Whitcomb, Folds of Honor does not exist - the 35,000 lives that have been changed,” said Rooney, an F-16 Fighter Pilot and PGA Professional. “Next to my Dad, the number one most influential person in my life…He met me in my office over my garage. He listened to that idea for Patriot Golf Day, and told me, ‘I’m all in.’”
Originally from the Northwest, most of Whitcomb’s career took place in the Southwest PGA Section, where he served as its President and represented District 14 on the National Board.
A grassroots PGA Professional at heart, Whitcomb was as comfortable on the tractor as he was playing a round of golf. Owner of multiple golf courses, he designed, owned and operated his beloved Lost Tracks Golf Club in Bend, Oregon, beginning in 1996.
Whitcomb was also instrumental in the first redesign of PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida, where he would be seen driving a bulldozer, while working with Pete Dye and Tom Fazio in reimagining the “Ultimate Golf Experience.” PGA Golf Club would earn recognition among the “75 Best Golf Resorts.”
A PGA Member since 1984, Whitcomb began his career in 1978, at the Arizona Biltmore Country Club in Phoenix.
In 1981, he leased Paradise Valley Park Golf Course, also in Phoenix, and built an additional nine holes of golf. In 1989, he designed and built The 500 Club in Phoenix, which he operated with Tom Sneva, the winner of the 1983 Indianapolis 500. In 1992, he designed and built Club West in Phoenix, which he sold in 1998.
Whitcomb is widely credited with bringing in Town Halls into the PGA style of governance. When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in 2005 while he was PGA Vice President, he flew to the region and personally visited PGA Members to offer his assistance.
“There is no greater advocate for the PGA Professional than Brian Whitcomb,” said 42nd PGA President Jim Richerson.
Whitcomb also captained the victorious 2014 United States Junior Ryder Cup Team that featured the likes of future professional and amateur golf stars Sam Burns, Austin Connelly, Brad Dalke, Kristen Gillman, Andrea Lee, Hannah O’Sullivan, Davis Riley and Cameron Young.
Through it all, the PGA Member was always the foremost thought in Whitcomb’s mind.
“Today, we look backwards for a few minutes, but when this is over, we need to look to the future,” Whitcomb told the Delegates gathered for the 2022 PGA Annual Meeting. “I have all the confidence in the world of your leadership.”