Mark Krizic, of Ridge Country Club, Honored with 2016 Player Development Award
By Tim Cronin
Ridge Country Club, shoehorned into a corner of Chicago’s South Side – that corner being 103rd and California – has no range.
That only made Mark Krizic, this year’s Player Development Award recipient, more determined to find a way to make his members better golfers.
Since his arrival in 2005, Ridge has added a wealth of programs designed to make players better and make it more fun to play. In turn, that retains members.
“In the almost 14 years as a PGA golf professional, I have witnessed the decline in golf,” Krizic said. “I have also experienced the social and developmental importance of golf. Since I have taken over at Ridge, my staff and I have worked extremely hard creating programs that spark the golfing interest in our members.
“We try to focus these programs around having fun and playing something other than the traditional 18 holes. We want to create an experience for the members so that they are inclined to tell their family and friends.”
Among his innovations:
• The Sundowners, a Tuesday night men’s league with 80 players and dinner following;
• Couples events of nine and 18 holes in various formats including alternate shot and scrambles;
• “Hit & Giggle,” an enormously popular 6-hole instructional league for women and includes a clinic to start;
• Free Lesson Month, in which he gives 10-minute lessons each Saturday in May.
There’s also the season-long Ridge Cup, a father-son or daughter tournament on Father’s Day, a parent-junior clinic and more, including the Ridge-Crystal Tree Ryder Cup, where 11 players from each club meet in a weekend competition at both clubs.
“Before Mark took over Ridge was essentially only a golf course,” club president Rich Lusk wrote in support of Krizic’s nomination. “There were no women’s clinics or junior after school programs. Mark is a big reason why our membership has grown throughout the years because he has added so many different programs to help members meet each other and share their experiences with outside friends. These programs have added incredibly value to a membership at Ridge.”
Not having a range means outdoor clinics are short-game clinics. But one can still hit the long ball there. Today, the pro shop boasts a golf simulator that allows him to give lessons and do club fittings. Between the simulator, the short-game range and the putting green, youngsters – and oldsters – can keep their game in shape.
This has also boosted the junior golf program at the club, which was essentially nonexistent before he arrived.
“Simply put, junior golf paved the way for my entire life, and for that I see the importance and owe much in return,” said Krizic, who caddied at Olympia Fields Country Club as a 12-year-old. “If I hadn’t been introduced to the game as a youth, I’m not sure where I would be today. Teaching golf and inspiring people to love the game as much as I do is what I live for. I have experienced and understand all of the benefits of golf and I want to be a motivator and counselor for golfers. Although teaching the golfing fundamentals and rules are important, I believe personal growth is most important. I want all of my juniors to learn the critical attributes that are associated with golf, honesty and integrity.”
Today, the scope of junior golf programs at Ridge ranges from the After School Program in April and September, a PGA Sports Academy from June through August, a Junior Masters program for advanced players, PGA Junior League teams, and the Ridge Junior Club Championship, with four age groups.
Family tees were installed on the course in 2012. Family Golf Night and Junior Night Out are big hits. From a total of 10 juniors in 2005, there are 150 today.
“He gets a genuine sense of excitement from seeing the members and the kids improve,” Ridge member Katherine Hayes wrote. “His positive morale is contagious and the members at the club enjoy having him run our golf programs.”