BILL ABRAMS HONORED AS ILLINOIS PGA GOLF PROFESSIONAL OF THE YEAR
GLENVIEW, Ill. - October 12, 2015 – Bill Abrams, PGA head golf professional at Balmoral Woods C.C. in Crete, Ill., has been named the 61st recipient of the Illinois PGA Golf Professional of the Year Award, the highest annual honor bestowed by the Illinois PGA on a PGA Professional.
“Being named the 61st Illinois PGA Professional of the Year is very humbling and overwhelming,” said Abrams. “To look at the previous winners of this award and to be selected to join this esteemed group is an honor I will cherish forever. I think about all the wonderful PGA Professionals who have influenced my career and I have a debt of gratitude to each of them. I am forever grateful for being recognized with this honor.”Abrams, 48, will be honored at the Illinois PGA Special Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 22 at Medinah (Ill.) Country Club. The awards program begins at 8:00 p.m., preceded by a 7:00 p.m. dinner reception. The evening’s program will feature all 2015 Illinois PGA Award winners:
Illinois PGA Golf Professional of the Year – Born in Towanda, Pa., Bill Abrams was introduced to the profession of golf at an early age having secured a job at Towanda C.C. doing “just about everything” at the facility. Golf however, was not Abrams’ first, or even second, sport. Standing 6’5” in height, basketball and baseball were his sports of choice. He became a four-year letter winner in high school in basketball and two years in baseball.
Following high school, Abrams attended Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa., where he played four years of basketball and golf. He led the team in total rebounds in the 1987-88 season and in field goal percentage the following year before his senior year was cut short by a devastating knee injury.
Following graduation, Abrams took a job in the insurance industry before deciding golf was his true passion. In 1991, he relocated to the Chicago area and after a couple interviews, became an apprentice at Lincolnshire C.C. in Crete, Ill., under then PGA head golf professional Jay Williams.
Abrams earned his membership in the PGA of America in 1993 and two years later was named the PGA head golf professional at Lincolnshire C.C. After four seasons, he decided he wanted to focus on player instruction and coaching and spoke with his long-time friend David Mortell at Balmoral Woods C.C. in Crete, Ill., about setting up an academy at the facility. Mortell liked the idea and Abrams was named the PGA head golf professional in addition to his duties with the academy.
A tireless promoter of golf, Abrams’ goal is to always enhance the player’s experience. Whether it is introducing new programs or improving old ones, Abrams is dedicated to making the game of golf better every day.
Over the past 20 years, Abrams has dedicated his career to improving and giving back to the game of golf. He served as president of the Central Illinois Chapter PGA (CIPGA) from 2008-2012. He was a member of the board of directors of both the CIPGA (2004- present) and Illinois PGA (2005-2012) and has served on many committees over the years.
Among Abrams’ many awards, he was honored with the Illinois PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award, the Illinois PGA Horton Smith Award, the CIPGA Teacher of the Year Award, the CIPGA Horton Smith Award and the CIPGA Professional of the Year Award twice (2005, 2012). He was named a USKids Golf Top 50 Master Teacher, PING Regional Fitter of Year and Titleist Top 100 Fitter.
Abrams and his wife, Kathleen, live in Orland Park, Ill., and are the parents of a daughter, Leigh, and sons, Charlie and Tommy.
Illinois PGA Assistant Golf Professional of the Year – Phil Yudys, PGA assistant golf professional at Glen Oak C.C. in Glen Ellyn, Ill., has been named the 2015 Illinois PGA Assistant Golf Professional of the Year.
Born in Winfield, Ill., Yudys didn’t stray too far from his birth place having grown up in Glen Ellyn. He competed in many sports as a child, notably baseball, which he describes as the sport he loved the most. That all changed at the age of 13 when he was introduced to golf and the life-long passion that has grown in him over the years. He credits his high school golf coach, who continued to work with Yudys and allowed him to practice with the team even after cutting him his senior year, for instilling the passion in him for the game of golf.
Yudys, 32, graduated from Illinois State University in 2005 with a degree in business administration and insurance. Following his graduation, Yudys worked for a financial firm for two years before deciding to follow his passion for golf.
In 2007, Yudys returned to Village Links of Glen Ellyn, where he worked throughout high school as an apprentice golf professional. After a year a Village Links, Yudys moved on to Glen Oak C.C., as the 2nd assistant golf professional. He earned his membership in the PGA of America in 2010 and, in 2013, was promoted to the PGA 1st assistant golf professional at Glen Oak, where he remains today.
The experience Yudys learned from his high school golf coach instilled the passion for working with junior golfers he has today. One of his goals is to bring a positive mindset to all juniors who play the game, making it fun so that they continue playing and develop their own passion for golf. Since becoming the junior coordinator at Glen Oak participation in the program has almost tripled.
In 2013, Yudys took on the role as assistant varsity golf coach at Glenbard South High School, his former school. Since arriving, the team has won conference, regional and sectional titles the past two seasons and finished sixth and second, respectively, in the Illinois High School Association State Championships.
Yudys volunteers his time with the Chicago District Golf Association’s “Sunshine Through Golf” program, which aims to bring the game to veterans, juniors, individuals with physical and mental challenges, and the economically disadvantaged. He was named US Kids Golf Top 50 Instructor honorable mention in 2013 and 2014.
Yudys lives in Wheaton, Ill., with his wife Laura, and are expecting their first child in January 2016.
Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year – Dan Kochevar, PGA teaching professional at Oak Brook (Ill.) G.C., has been named the 30th recipient of the Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year Award. Since 1986, the Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year Award has honored outstanding teachers of golf among the PGA of America membership.
Born in Chicago, Ill., Kochevar, 52, attended John Hersey High School in Arlington Heights, Ill., where he was a four-year varsity letterman in basketball and golf. He qualified for the state championship in golf all four years and finished fourth his senior year.
Kochevar attended Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., where he was a three year member of the golf team. He graduated in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Management and Public Finance.
Following graduation, Kochevar entered the PGA program and accepted a position at Green Acres C.C. in Northbrook, Ill. After a couple stops along the way at Bryn Mawr C.C. and Medinah C.C., Kochevar earned his membership in the PGA of America in 1988 and took a teaching position at the Golf Learning Center in Itasca, Ill., where he would remain for the next 12 years.
In 2003 Kochevar accepted a PGA teaching professional position at Oak Brook G.C. during the summer months, and in the winter, spent his days teaching at White Pines Golf Dome in Bensenville, Ill. He regularly instructs fellow Illinois PGA Professionals, top amateurs, PGA Tour players and beginners. He feels his greatest strength as a teacher is one-on-one with small groups.
Kochevar co-founded The Player’s Service, which is a year-round training program for amateurs and juniors that focuses on all aspects of player development including their swing, putting, fitness, equipment and tournament management. Their trademarked phrase, “Developing Golfers into Players,” is evident as the program has produced over 60 players in Division 1 men's and women's golf and numerous others in Division 2 and 3 since its inception.
His dedication to junior golf in Illinois is well-documented having served as president of the Illinois Junior Golf Association (IJGA). Still a director of the IJGA Board of Directors, he is the second longest serving member in the organization’s history. He continues to volunteer his time with the IJGA serving on the executive committee. He was instrumental in starting the nationally recognized Mid-American Junior Golf Tour; designed for exceptionally talented 12-18 year old golfers throughout the Midwest to display their skills in hopes of gaining national exposure to play collegiate golf.
He was named to the list of “Best Teachers in Illinois” by Golf Digest and was honored with the 2002 Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year and 2006 Illinois PGA Junior Golf Leader Awards.
Kochevar lives in Glen Ellyn, Ill., with his wife Anne, and are the parents of twins, a daughter, Brooke, and a son, Kyle. Both siblings play Division 1 golf, Brooke a senior at the University of Maryland and Kyle, a senior at the University of Virginia.
The Youth Player Development Award – Dennis Johnsen, PGA general manager at Pine Meadow G.C. in Mundelein, Ill., has been named the recipient of the 2015 Illinois PGA Youth Player Development Award. The Youth Player Development Award was established in 1988, recognizing the PGA Professional who is a leader in junior golf and who reflects the ideals of those who work with youth.
Born in St. Charles, Ill., Johnsen, 62, has been involved in youth player development going back to the early 1970’s. An outstanding amateur golfer, he was a member of the St. Charles High School golf team that took second in the state of Illinois in 1969. He attended Illinois State University, where he graduated in 1974 before starting his professional career at Pottawatomie G.C. in St. Charles as the general manager and head golf professional. Johnsen earned his membership in the PGA of America in 1976.
In 1980, Johnsen was named the PGA director of golf and sports activities at Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles, where he served a 25-year term that ended in 2004 when he was named the PGA general manager/head golf professional at Pine Meadow G.C.
He continues to implement innovative programs at Pine Meadow including a junior tour, women’s golf league, family golf festival, and his most successful idea, the family golf tees program which has exceeded even Johnsen’s expectations in regards to participation and growth of the program.
An early supporter of the PGA Junior Golf League Golf, Pine Meadow, at the recommendation of Johnsen, was one of two local courses that implemented the program in 2012, which is designed for boys and girls, ages 13 and under and features team vs. team competitions in structured leagues that provide a scramble format as opposed to stroke-play competition. In only three years, the popular program has increased both locally and nationally with only three teams in Illinois at its inception to an estimated 185 teams this year. Johnsen is chairman of the sub-committee for the PGA Junior Golf League in Illinois.
Johnsen is very active in the PGA both locally and nationally having served on numerous committees over the years. He previously was elected an officer of the Illinois PGA, first as secretary (1999-2000), then as vice-president (2001-2002), and ultimately as president (2003-2004). From 2008 to 2012 he was a member of the PGA of America Growth of the Game Committee and currently a member of the PGA of America Junior Player Development Committee, a role he has served since 2012.
He is a four-time recipient of the Illinois PGA Resort Merchandiser of the Year award, two-time Illinois PGA President’s Plaque Award for player development, 2008 Illinois PGA Public Merchandiser of the Year Award, and was honored twice (1999, 2001) as the Illinois PGA Professional of the Year, the highest honor bestowed on a PGA professional. In 2010 Johnsen was named the PGA of America Merchandiser of the Year in the Public Category.
Johnsen and his wife, Jacqui, live in Grayslake, Ill., and are parents of a son, Patrick, and daughters, Kara and Jennifer. They also have four grandchildren.
The Bill Strausbaugh Award – Don Pieper, PGA general manager at the Merit Club in Libertyville, Ill., has been named the recipient of the 2015 Illinois PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award, presented to PGA members for distinguished efforts in mentoring other PGA Professionals and supporting them in both employment and community service.
Born in Morton Grove, Ill., Pieper was introduced to the golf business at the age of 11 when he became a caddy at the Glen View Club in Golf, Ill. Caddying through his grade school and high school years was the position that set him on a path to a long and distinguished career in golf.
Following high school in 1980, Pieper, 53, was awarded the Chick Evans Caddy Scholarship, which is a full tuition and housing college scholarship for golf caddies through the Evans Scholars Foundation and Western Golf Association. Pieper attended Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind., where he earned a teaching degree in secondary business education in December of 1984.
After graduation and teaching for one year at Notre Dame High School in Niles, Ill., Pieper returned to the golf business accepting a position as an assistant golf professional where it all began – the Glen View Club. It was there he would learn what it meant to be a PGA Professional from his mentor and role model Ed Oldfield, Sr.
Pieper earned his membership in the PGA of America in 1989 and after four seasons at the Glen View Club, he acquired his first PGA head golf professional position at Big Spring C.C. in Louisville, Ky. In 1992, he returned to Illinois accepting the head golf professional position at the Merit Club, and in 2001 became the PGA general manager, where he remains today.
Throughout his career, many of Pieper’s former assistants have achieved head golf professional positions at different facilities. It is his goal to not only mentor professionals by helping them advance their careers, but to develop juniors through education and golf, while always giving back to the community. He lives by the PGA creed – “trying to make golf a better game by making your golf game better, one person at a time.” To that end, though his relationship with Mr. Bert Getz, owner of the Merit Club, two Illinois PGA Foundation scholarships were established in Pieper’s name and the Merit Club’s original golf course superintendent, and Illinois Golf Hall of Fame member, Oscar Miles.
Pieper served on the Illinois PGA Board of Directors from 1996-2008 and was elected secretary (2001-2002), vice president (2003-2004) and president (2005-2006). He was the first Evans Scholarship recipient to hold the office of president of the Illinois PGA. He also served on the Illinois Junior Golf Association board from 1999-2007. Pieper currently serves as the President of the Illinois PGA Foundation.
Pieper was honored in 2003 as the Illinois PGA Professional of the Year, the highest honor bestowed on a PGA Professional.
Pieper and his wife, Mary, live in Gurnee, Ill., and are the parents of sons, Ken, Jim, Don and Tim.
The Horton Smith Award – Nick Papadakes, PGA head golf professional at Onwentsia Club in Lake Forest, Ill., has been named the recipient of the 2015 Illinois PGA Horton Smith Award. The award is given annually for outstanding and continuing contribution to developing and improving educational opportunities for fellow golf professionals.
Born in Emmetsburg, Iowa, Papadakes got his start in the golf business as a cart boy at Sawgrass C.C. in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. After attending the University of Iowa in Iowa City, he earned the assistant golf professional title at Sawgrass in 1997, where he remained for five seasons before returning to the Midwest to accept an assistant golf professional position at Conway Farms G.C. in Lake Forest, Ill.
During his time at Conway Farms, Papadakes, 43, earned his membership into the PGA of America (2003) and introduced several new programs at the club that became very successful and are still prevalent today. After six seasons, Papadakes accepted the PGA head golf professional position at Old Elm Club in Lake Forest, serving eight seasons until this past January when he was offered the same position at historic Onwentsia Club in Lake Forest.
Two of Papadakes’ passions are educating and mentoring of the PGA Professional. Since getting involved with the governance of the Illinois PGA in 2010 after being elected to the board of directors, Papadakes has made both of those passions his mission. He was appointed chairman of the Illinois PGA Education Committee in 2010 and, during his tenure, the educational opportunities for the membership have been at the highest level. Papadakes and the Education Committee have conducted over 50 seminars and three teaching and coaching summits, where attendance averaged almost 200 members.
A perennial contributor to education, Papadakes regularly attends programs offered at the PGA Merchandise Show in the winter. In 2012, he organized a round table discussion with 40 of the education chairpersons from each PGA Section in the country, where best practices and innovative programming were shared. The round table was a huge success and will be a regular addition to national programming every two years.
Papadakes feels that mentoring and the education of his members, staff and his fellow PGA Professionals are some of the most important duties he performs as a PGA Professional. He continues to create innovative programming that helps young professionals succeed in their careers and in life by being positive role models in the community.
This is the second time Papadakes has been honored by the Illinois PGA for his contributions to education. In 2012 he was presented the Illinois PGA Horton Smith Award, the same year he was a member of the Illinois PGA Ryder Cup Committee, serving as the captain of both the United States and Europe practice ranges.
Papadakes and his wife, Jennifer, live in Wadsworth, Ill., and are the parents of a son, Niko, and a daughter, Morgan.
The Player Development Award – Hans Larson, PGA head golf professional at Westmoreland C.C. in Wilmette, Ill., has been named the recipient of the 2015 Illinois PGA Player Development Award. The Illinois PGA Player Development Award recognizes a PGA Professional for extraordinary and exemplary contributions and achievements in the area of player development.
Born in Danbury, Conn., and raised in Pennsylvania, Larson attended State College Area High School in State College, Pa., where he was a four-year letter winner on the basketball and golf teams. Following high school, Larson entered the Professional Golf Management program at The Pennsylvania State University in University Park, Pa., where he earned his degree in 1997.
Following college, Larson, 42, accepted an apprentice position, eventually a PGA assistant golf professional position, at Butler National G.C. in Oak Brook, Ill., where he worked four seasons before earning his first PGA head golf professional position at Fox Run G.C. in Eureka, Mo. In 2004, Larson would return to Illinois as the PGA head golf professional at Westmoreland, where he presently remains.
Larson takes great pride in player development initiatives at his club and the Illinois PGA. Having served on numerous committees over the years, Larson was elected to the Illinois PGA Board of Directors in 2012 and the following year appointed chairman of the Player Development Committee.
In addition to local initiatives, the Committee is heavily involved with national programs that are very successful in the Illinois PGA – “Get Golf Ready,” “PGA Junior League,” and the “Drive, Chip & Putt Championship.” During his tenure, the Committee has developed over 25 different programs within the Illinois PGA. They are constantly communicating new programming and initiatives to the Illinois PGA membership and hosting conferences and break-out sessions at annual meetings. At the 2015 Chicago Golf Show, Larson directed a revamping of the Illinois PGA’s presence which led to the creation of the inaugural “Illinois PGA Village,” a tremendous success for the membership, public in attendance and presenters.
At his facility, Larson offers many player development programs including summer camp golf programs, annual spring trips, “Family Golf,” “Guys Night Out,” “Ladies Night Out,” “Night Golf,” “Nine and Dine,” and implemented an eight week afterschool golf program for elementary school students. He extensively tracks every round at Westmoreland to identify, by player category, who is using the facility. All of the programs have annual continued growth and incorporate fun into all golf activities.
In addition to his governance service in the Illinois PGA, Larson has served on the Illinois PGA Foundation Board of Directors since 2012 and was appointed Secretary of the Foundation in 2013, a role he continues to serve.
Larson has contributed numerous articles to PGA Magazine on merchandising and promotion of the golf shop. He has attended educational opportunities at Penn State to mentor and educate PGM students on the role of the PGA Professional. As a result, in 2010, he was awarded the Penn State PGM Alumni Association’s Golf Professional of the Year Award. Larson was previously honored as the 2011 Illinois PGA Horton Smith Award, 2006 Illinois PGA Private Merchandiser of the Year and 2001 the Gateway PGA Private Merchandiser of the Year.
Larson and his wife, Stacy, live in Mount Prospect, Ill., and are parents of a daughter, Genevieve.
PGA Merchandiser of the Year (Private Facilities) – Alex Mendez, PGA head golf professional at Butterfield C.C. in Oak Brook, Ill., has been named the recipient of the 2015 Illinois PGA Merchandiser of the Year Award for Private Facilities.
Born in Chicago, Ill, Mendez grew up in Park Ridge, Ill., where his introduction to golf came as a caddy at Park Ridge (Ill.) Country Club. It was during his years caddying that he developed his love and passion for the game that continued to grow during his high school years at Maine South in Park Ridge and later, at Winona State University in Winona, Minn.
Following his time at Winona State, Mendez, 45, knew golf was his future and accepted an assistant golf professional position from then Professional John Cleland at Butterfield. Cleland became a mentor to Mendez, teaching him everything about the golf business. In the winter, Mendez worked as an Instructor at the John Jacobs School of Golf in Arizona for two seasons before earning his membership in the PGA of America in 1999. In 2004 when Cleland retired, Mendez was offered the PGA head golf professional position at Butterflied C.C., and remains there today.
Mendez’s merchandising philosophy at Butterfield is to provide outstanding service for each and every member to the best of his ability and provide quality merchandise. His demo fitting days are some of the most successful merchandising techniques he provides to the Butterfield membership. He offers a wide variety of vendors for soft goods, and for hard goods he provides a specific day for every manufacturer with appointments available to the members for fittings. Mendez and his professional staff make it a priority to accommodate any request whether it is special order in the golf shop, a private lesson, or a golf club fitting.
Mendez and his wife, Annie, live in Downers Grove, Ill., and are the parents of daughters, Abby and Ava.
PGA Merchandiser of the Year (Public Facilities) – Rick Walrath, PGA general manager at Deerpath G.C. in Lake Forest, Ill., has been named the recipient of the 2015 Illinois PGA Merchandiser of the Year Award for Public Facilities.
For Walrath, 46, the phrase “better late than never,” could be said about his career in golf. It wasn’t until his mid-thirties that he accepted his first position in the golf industry.
Born and raised in Sterling, Ill., Walrath was introduced to the game as a youngster but never had any thoughts about making it his career. He earned a degree in 1992 from Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill., and following graduation, pursued a career in retail building materials for 11 years. That all changed after one year in Arizona at Western Skies Golf Club. He fell in love with the game and the business of golf and decided it was the career he wanted for his future.
Following his one year in Arizona, Walrath accepted an apprentice assistant golf professional position at Crystal Lake (Ill.) Country Club. During his time at Crystal Lake he earned his PGA membership in 2007 and the following year was offered the PGA head golf professional position at Wynstone Golf Club in North Barrington, Ill. After two seasons at Wynstone, Walrath would add the third state on his resume after accepting the PGA general manager position at Riverside Golf Club in Menominee, Mich., where he stayed for two seasons before returning to Illinois in his current position at Deerpath.
Shortly after arriving at Deerpath, Walrath saw the golf shop needed a complete makeover. He was able to acquire tables, counters and shelves with solid wood models from another facility that no longer used them. Combined with fresh paint and inviting merchandise techniques, the entire look of the golf shop was transformed to a state-of-the-art golf shop with high quality merchandise that better served the golfing community. The year following the changes saw a 30% increase in merchandise sales.
His merchandising philosophy is to “buy what you believe in and believe in what you sell.” He feels one must believe in all the products you sell to provide the right product for each customer. He instills his merchandising techniques in his entire staff including: customer service, location of each specific piece of merchandise, using the displays to showcase apparel, negotiating techniques, the appearance of the fixtures and entire golf shop and equipment fitting. He credits the success of program development at the club with increasing rounds and marketing efforts in the shop. New and expanded lines of merchandise in the golf shop have led to an annual 20% increase in sales over the previous years.
Walrath and his wife, Colleen, live in Lake in the Hills, Ill., and are the parents of daughters, Delaney & Gabrielle.
The Bill Heald Career Achievement Award – Brian Morrison, PGA director of golf at Olympia Fields (Ill.) C.C., has been named the recipient of the 2015 Illinois PGA Bill Heald Career Achievement Award. This honor is presented annually for a career of service to employers, mentoring, community service, playing ability, teaching, junior golf, education, and going above and beyond the duties of a PGA Professional who has not been previously honored as the Illinois PGA Golf Professional of the Year.
Born and raised in Kirkwood, Mo., Morrison grew up caddying in his hometown at Greenbriar Hills C.C. He began his professional career as an assistant at Oakland Hills C.C. in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., in 1975 after graduating from the University of Arizona in Tucson with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Radio & TV Production.
Following his time at Oakland Hills, Morrison, 62, earned his PGA membership in December of 1980, and two years later accepted his first PGA head golf professional job at Canoe Brook C.C. in Summit, N.J., where he served for seven years. He then moved on to Westchester C.C. in Harrison, N.Y., serving as the director of golf for one season. After that short stint, he moved on to Baltimore C.C. in Timonium, Md., as the head golf professional for seven seasons. The Landings Club in Savannah, Ga., was Brian’s next stop for a couple years before moving on to his current position at Olympia Fields.
Morrison’s knowledge and passion for the PGA was acquired early on working for PGA Professionals Frank Fogerty and Al Mengert, who learned from the legendary Claude Harmon at Winged Foot Golf Club. They shared the same philosophy and ideals as Bill Heald – the namesake of the award. They instilled a work ethic and mindset in Morrison that if you wanted to be a great PGA Professional you had to have an unquenchable thirst for improving yourself every year that you served in the PGA of America.
In his 15th year at Olympia Fields, Morrison is dedicated to mentoring his assistants and volunteering his time to help fellow Professionals in the Illinois PGA. Throughout his tenure, 29 of Morrison’s former assistants are either head golf professionals or directors of instruction at different facilities. He believes that producing quality assistants who would go on to lead their own golf programs in a professional, moral, and mentoring environment would be his way of contributing to the game in the present and future, who in turn, can spread their influence over young players and aspiring professionals.
Morrison has served on many committees in the Illinois PGA and was instrumental in securing Olympia Fields for the Illinois PGA Championship in 2010, 2013 and next season in 2016. Under Morrison, Olympia Fields hosted the 2003 U.S. Open Championship, 2011 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, 2012 PGA Junior Ryder Cup and the 2015 U.S. Amateur Championship.
A highly respected merchandiser, Morrison’s golf shop has been in Golf World’s Top 25 Private Golf Shops in America for the last 13 years. He was honored with the 1985 New Jersey Private Merchandiser of the Year award, three-time Central Illinois Chapter PGA Private Merchandiser of the Year award, 2003 & 2008 Illinois PGA Private Merchandiser of the Year award, 2013 Illinois PGA Bill Strausbaugh award and in 2009, the PGA of America Private Merchandiser of the Year award.
Morrison and his wife, Catherine, live in Flossmoor, Ill., and are the parents of daughters, Caitlin and Madeline, and a son, Derek.
The Illinois PGA Distinguished Service Award – Juan Espejo, PGA golf administrator at Maryville Academy in Des Plaines, Ill., has been named the recipient of the Illinois PGA Distinguished Service Award.
The Illinois PGA Distinguished Service Award honors individuals who display leadership and humanitarian qualities, including integrity, sportsmanship and enthusiasm for the game of golf. Espejo is the inaugural recipient and embodies the criteria of the award and a PGA Professional.
Born in Philadelphia, Pa., Espejo grew up in Galesburg, Ill., and was a four-sport letter winner at Galesburg High School in golf, football, wrestling, and track. Following high school, Espejo attended Monmouth (Ill.) College as a member of the golf and soccer teams before transferring to Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Marketing.
After graduating college, Espejo, 57, played golf as an amateur and worked for Professional Marketers Inc. and Kraft Foods, before pursuing a second career as a PGA Professional. He always knew golf, and specifically player development, were the future he wanted for his career, and he began his PGA apprenticeship under PGA head golf professional Pat Kenny at Crystal Tree C.C. in Orland Park, Ill.
Over a four year period, Espejo would work and learn from notable Illinois PGA Professionals Ed Provow at Springbrook G.C., Mike Harrigan at Medinah C.C., and Ed Posh at Village Links of Glen Ellyn. During the apprenticeship the Illinois PGA had an outreach program in the inner city which allowed him the opportunity to become the lead instructor in the Jackson Park G.C. junior golf and caddy program. In 1994, Espejo took the knowledge and skills he acquired along the way to the Maryville Golf Academy, where he was named the director of instruction for the Illinois PGA Foundation. After four years at Maryville, Espejo would earn his membership in the PGA of America in 1998.
Assigned to promote the game inside the walls of an 1883 orphanage, Espejo initiated a golf and caddy program that had a per year participation rate of 200 of 277 on campus youth. The caddy program at Maryville has approximately 35 youths per year working at notable golf facilities in the Chicagoland area. Espejo encouraged fellow Professionals to volunteer their expertise in the training and playing with the caddies at the respective clubs.
In 2004, Maryville went through a restructure that lead Espejo to the diversification of the outreach portfolio to encompass other groups of deserving children and adults into playing golf and working in the industry as caddies, facility management, club repair technicians in the Maryville Club Repair Shoppe, fitness and wellness through golf for the Maryville Girls Homes. It also included an outreach player development mission that includes the Chicago Park District elementary schools, Special Olympics, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Christ the King Jesuit College Prep School and the Salvation Army Kroc Center.
Espejo trained 85 Chicago Daniel Murphy scholars per year for nine years in golf and caddy skills who went on to caddy at over seventeen facilities in the Illinois PGA. He provided a 10-week series of golf lessons utilizing Winnetka G.C. and Oak Meadows G.C., which included playing nine holes weekly and had 100% participation with the 85 caddies.
Since joining the Illinois PGA, Espejo has been very involved by serving on numerous committees and volunteering his time and expertise in youth and player development initiatives. He was appointed a member of the national PGA of America Youth Player Development Committee, chaired by former PGA of America President Alan Wronowski. He was also appointed national chairman of the special needs/adaptive golf sub-committee.
Espejo has been honored with many awards over this career including the 1998 and 1999 Illinois PGA Junior Golf Leader Award, the 2000 Golf Digest Earl Woods Trophy for Junior Development Award, and in 2009 the National Jefferson Award for Public Service, which was established to encourage and honor individuals for their achievements and contributions through public and community service.
Espejo and his wife, Loren Ann, live in the Edgewater neighborhood in Chicago, Ill.
The Illinois PGA
The Illinois Section of the PGA of America is a professional organization serving the men and women golf professionals in northern and central Illinois who are the recognized experts in growing, teaching and managing the game of golf. The Illinois PGA is responsible for the administration of competitive golf tournaments, educational opportunities, support programs and growth of the game initiatives. With over 815 members and apprentices, the Illinois PGA is the 12th largest of the 41 regional entities or Sections that comprise the PGA of America. For more information about the Illinois PGA, please visit www.ipga.com and join us on social media at www.facebook.com/illinoispga and www.twitter.com/illinoispga.
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