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Bill Heald Career Achievement Award Given to Rick Groessl of Park Ridge Country Club

By Tim Cronin

Fittingly, the recipient of this year’s Bill Heald Career Achievement Award was given a boost of confidence when he was hired as head professional at Park Ridge Country Club in the fall of 1990, replacing Ken Weiler.

“In his own way, he said, ‘I do not know how in hell you did it! You are following a legend. Work hard every day. Take care of your members.’ Then he paused and said, ‘You are going to do a great job,’” recalled Rick Groessl.

Heald proved not only a motivator but a seer. Groessl, in his 26th year at Park Ridge, is the Illinois Section’s Bill Heald Career Achievement Award recipient for 2006.

Groessl was taken by the game the first time he teed it up at Buffalo Grove Golf Course, four blocks from his house, where he scored 47 for nine holes. Almost instantly, he was asking Carmen Molinaro, then the head professional, for a job. He got one, and a love affair with the game was underway. It took him to the Glen View Club, then to Arizona, and eventually to Oak Park Country Club under Steve Dunning, whom he met when Dunning was teaching at Glen View.

To longtime Park Ridge member Rich Peterson, the 59-year-old Groessl’s ability to adapt to changing times in the golf business is a key reason he’s been so successful.

“What had served us well in the past was not necessarily the formula for a successful golf program in the future,” Peterson wrote in endorsing Groessl’s nomination. “Rick identified that trend and methodically added features to the various golf programs that reflected the changing demographics of our club. Member event formats were tweaked. Some events were cancelled and other events took their place.

“Regardless of age or sex, his golf program has something for everyone.”

That’s exactly how Groessl plans it, from the kids on up.

“Our junior golf program has grown from 25 participants to over 100 participants in the last seven seasons,” Groessl detailed. “We help to retain and strengthen the core with expansive golf programs for the men, ladies, and couples. We are also committed to creating environments for families to enjoy this game together.”

That’s brought the number of rounds at Park Ridge to over 19,000 last year, a large amount for an 18-hole private club.

He communicates through his column in the club’s weekly newsletter, along with personal contact in the shop and on the range. The former features his column on what’s going on and what’s coming up. The latter is one-on-one, and likely more lasting.

“A constant on the range with all members, young and old, Rich is one of the best teachers around,” wrote Park Ridge vice president Kevin Buggy. “He quickly adapts to your game and expresses easy ways to make improvements. His teachings go beyond the golf swing.

“We are fortunate to have a professional excellent at what he does in the golf shop and on the range.”

Groessl was apologetic for not spending more time on Section matters, calling himself “greedy. Greedy in that 100 percent of my attention has been devoted to the fine clubs (with which) I have been associated,” he said, then invoking Heald’s advice: “Work hard every day. Take care of your members.”

He has. He does.

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