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2020 Indiana Section PGA Special Award Winners

March 13th, 2020

GOLF PROESSIONAL OF THE YEAR, RYAN FORD

The PGA Golf Professional of the Year Award bestows special recognition on a PGA Golf Professional who has performed outstanding services as an overall PGA Professional. Winners must possess outstanding qualities of leadership, strong moral character and a substantial record of service to the Section and the game of golf.  Ryan Ford is our 2020 Indiana Section PGA Golf Professional of the Year.

Ford is graduate of Purdue University, where he participated on the men’s golf team for four years.  He began his professional career when he became a second assistant to Dave Carich at Prestwick CC.  He went on to become a first assistant at Hillcrest Country Club under head professional Kyle Bloom.  After spending one season with Bloom, Ford was offered the first assistant position at The Legends GC under head professional Ted Bishop.  While working at The Legends, Ford became a PGA member, and after four seasons he became head professional.

In 2010, Ford joined his family, specifically his father Denny, and became the Director of Golf at Pleasant Run GC and Sarah Shank GC.  He also served as the Director of Golf at Hillview CC from 2013 until October of 2018.  During that time, Ford was instrumental in placing two PGA members into the head professional position at Hillview CC, Elliot Elger and Paul Resner.  Ford also turned the tides at Hillview, after the club nearly went bankrupt, to now having a waitlist for membership.

Today, Ford continues to serve as the Director of Golf at Pleasant Run GC and Sarah Shank GC.  On a daily basis, Ford manages two golf courses, which includes 140 golf carts, two maintenance departments, two separate food and beverage operations, over 50 employees and 50 golf events/outings annually. 

In addition to his commitment as a Director of Golf, Ford is also very committed to the Indiana Section PGA.  He served as a PGA Board member from 2009 to 2014 and volunteered on several committees during his term.  He has also taken pride in mentoring his assistants and has seen six become head golf professionals in facilities across the United States.

Ford has also had a successful playing career.  He was named the 2005 and 2006 Indiana Club Car Player of the Year.  Ford continues to compete in Indiana Section PGA events and takes pride in continuing to do so, while also maintaining his daily responsibilities as Director of Golf at two facilities.
 
TEACHER OF THE YEAR, JEFF SMITH
The Teacher of the Year Award is presented to a PGA golf professional that has performed outstanding service as a golf instructor. Criteria to be considered are: overall performance as a golf professional at his/her facility, service to his/her Section and the Association, leadership ability, image and the ability of inspire fellow professionals and involvement in youth and adult game development programs. Jeff Smith is our 2020 Indiana Section PGA Teacher of the Year.
In the past 10 years, Smith has taught over 14,000 individual and semi-private lessons, conducted 86 junior clinics and camps and hosted 92 adults clinics. In 2009, Smith founded the Plane and Simple Golf School where he provided instruction at Otter Creek GC, Timbergate GC and most recently The Sagamore Club.  This school focuses on group and individual instruction, with an indoor studio completed with a putting area, simulator, high speed video camera and more.
Throughout his career, Smith has provided instruction to a player who recently won his first PGA Tour event, IHSAA State Champions, Indiana Amateur Champions, Indiana John K. David Players of the Year, and several collegiate players.
In addition to providing instruction, Smith also believes in sharing his knowledge with others through a national golf talk radio show he co-owns and co-hosts, Those Weekend Golf Guys.  He is also the content committee chairman for IKONIK golf and has recorded over 100 short, educational videos for their platform.
Smith has also been very involved with the Indiana Section PGA, serving on a committee that helped add golf to Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the state.  Additionally, he served as the Program Committee Chair for First Tee of Indiana – Columbus and helped with instruction.  Smith has also been a Horton Smith Award recipient (2004) and a Player Development Award recipient (2018).
 
DEACON PALMER AWARD, GARY GANT

The "Deacon Palmer Award" bestows special recognition on a PGA Golf Professional who personally displays outstanding integrity, character and leadership, in the effort to overcome a major obstacle in their life. This individual is an unsung hero/heroine at their facility and in their community, who serve to inspire, empower and assist others, both inside and outside of the game.
 
This award was first given in 2014 to Arnold Palmer in honor of his father, who the Award is named after.  Gary Gant is our 2020 Deacon Palmer Award recipient.

Within the last five years, Gant was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.  While fighting for his life, Gant continued to be the best golf professional he could be, and served as an inspiration to so many people.

Gant served on the Indiana Section PGA Board for four years, taught high school golf team members and led them to top-five finishes in the IHSAA state tournament, ran two high school invitational championships annually, held city junior championships and ran five IHSAA sectional championships, all while recovering  from chemotherapy from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  While going through Chemotherapy, Gant went to work every day, conducted outings, gave lessons, and performed all daily duties of a typical head golf professional. 

His motto was, “Tell me what I have, tell me what I have to do, and I will win!”
 
BILLS STRAUSBAUGH AWARD, DAVE HARNER

The Bill Strausbaugh Award bestows special recognition on a PGA Golf Professional who personally displays outstanding integrity, character and leadership through a commitment to mentoring and making significant impacts on the careers of fellow PGA Professionals.  Dave Harner is our 2020 Bill Strausbaugh Award recipient.

Harner has been a long-time Director of Golf at French Lick Resort for more than 35 years.  Throughout his career, he has seen the resort go from a struggling facility to a thriving, decorated golf destination. Some of French Lick’s accolades include: Indiana’s #1 and #2 rated public golf courses, host site to the Senior PGA Championship, two courses in the Top 100 Resort Courses in America and more.

In 2012, Harner was named the Indiana Section PGA Golf Professional of the Year, but finds this award to be even more special.
“All awards are great, but this award is a career-long accumulations of things in golf and how you’ve helped others achieve along the way,” Harner said. 

Specifically, Harner prides himself on mentoring assistants through the PGA program.  Several relationships began with locals in French Lick, who might not come from golf backgrounds.  Harner cultivated those relationships, introduced them to golf, and has seen them thrive in the business with him as a mentor.
 
HORTON SMITH AWARD, PATRICK WHITE

The Horton Smith Award is designed to recognize PGA professionals for their outstanding contributions to developing and improving educational opportunities for PGA members and associates. The guidelines for this award focus on contributions to educational programs and seminars both locally and for the Indiana Section. Patrick White is our 2020 Horton Smith Award recipient. 

White is the head golf professional at Woodland CC in Carmel, as well as the Education Chair for the Indiana Section PGA.  Over the past year, White has helped orchestrate the Indiana PGA Fall Coaching and Teaching Summit at French Lick Resort, the 2020 Spring Business Meeting and hosted PGA Career Night at Woodland CC.

White is always looking for ways to further his education and encourage others to become involved.  He has attended the PGA Magazine Merchandiser of the Year Conference, the PGA Magazine Ambassador Conference, the Golf Business Retreat at Victoria National and more.  White has also visited Penn State, his alma mater, on numerous occasions to speak to PGM Students at their monthly student society meetings.  His goal in doing so is to help students take the necessary steps to ensure employment after college and be prepared for any challenges they may face.

White’s motto is to, “lead by example, always offer a lending hand, be a sounding board to other professionals, and always realize faith and family are there even after the worst days.”
 
PLAYER DEVELOPMENT AWARD, STACEY RICE-DORMAN

The Player Development Award is designed to recognize a PGA Professional for extraordinary and exemplary contributions and achievements in the area of player development. This award considers the PGA Professionals impact on his/her facility and the game as a whole.
 
The following guidelines are used in selecting the award recipient; quality, quantity and diversity of player development programs, increase in rounds/revenues and player retention and use of Section and national player development initiatives.  Stacey Rice-Dorman is our 2020 Player Development Award recipient.

Rice-Dorman is the Director of Player Development at the Indiana Golf Office.  There, she informs all members of the golf programs being offered at the state level and presents the value each program will bring to golf facilities.  The two programs that have been Rice-Dorman’s main focus over the last year were PGA Junior League Golf and PGA HOPE. 

PGA Jr. League is a game-changing opportunity for boys and girls to learn and play golf. The program brings family and friends together around fun, team golf experiences with expert coaching from PGA and LPGA Professionals. Rice-Dorman works with the PGA and the Regional League Manager to assist with promotion and recruitment. She assists the RLM with team registrations and league formations, pre-seasons league coordination, in-season league service and support and post-season coordination. Over the past two years Rice-Dorman has overseen the administration and tournament operations for the Indiana PGA Jr. League Section Championship. Since 2013, PGA Jr. League Golf in Indiana has grown by more than 1,000 participants.

PGA HOPE provides golf programs as a therapeutic form of rehabilitation to veterans in Indiana. Rice-Dorman’s role is to coordinate with the local VA’s to implement the program. She has developed curriculum and organizes seasonal programs. She also handles recruiting and scheduling PGA Professionals to assist with the program and provides national opportunities to PGA HOPE graduates.   Since 2016, PGA HOPE has grown from just two Indianapolis area locations to 13 locations.

Rice-Dorman works hard to inspire all Indiana Section PGA members to participate in these Player Development programs and continue to grow the game of golf.  In 2014, she was the recipient of the Youth Player Development Award.
 
YOUTH PLAYER DEVELOPMENT AWARD, CRYSTAL MORSE

The Youth Player Development Award is designed to recognize a PGA Professional who is a leader in junior golf, reflects the qualities and ideals of those who work with our nation’s youth, and provides opportunities and experiences for junior golfers to learn and play golf.
 
The following criteria are used in the selection of the Youth Player Development Award winner: contributions to junior golf programs and events in the Indiana Section, involvement in the promotion and development of junior golf at his/her facility and also within the community and an overall integrity as an individual and acceptance by junior golfers as a person of outstanding character. Crystal Morse is our 2020 Youth Player Development Award recipient.

Morse is the head golf professional at The Legends GC.  There, she strives to be a leader, role model and mentor for youth in her community.  Her main areas of focus include First Tee, PGA Jr. League, running leagues and junior tournaments at The Legends, and giving lessons.

Morse became a First Tee coach in 2019 and started incorporating First Tee clinics in her junior programs.  The idea behind this was to teach First Tee’s nine core values so that players not only learn how to golf, but also how to develop confidence and build self-esteem.

Morse also runs a PGA Jr. League at The Legends, where her All-Star team went on to win the South Qualifier and finish third in the state for the second consecutive year.  She also started a 6U League that she hopes will start kids young, and held them feed into her 13U program when they reach that age.

Morse also strongly believes in PGA.Coach, which she uses to expand her knowledge of youth development and running effective player development programs.  She is also the girl’s assistant coach at Whiteland Middle School and High School, organized the Johnson County Summer League, introduced The Legends to the Junior Club Lease Program where juniors can lease clubs for the golf season without large out-of-pocket expenses, organized three junior tournaments and continued to give private lessons to 55 students annually.  Through all of her junior programming, Morse impacted the lives of approximately 300 kids in 2019.
 
ASSISTANT OF THE YEAR, EDGAR LEANO

The Indiana PGA Assistant of the Year Award was established in 2001 and is designed to recognize an individual assistant golf professional for his/her dedication to the game and commitment to the profession. Criteria that are considered are: commitment to customer service and leadership ability.  Edgar Leano is our 2020 Assistant of the Year.

Leano is the assistant golf professional at Sycamore Hills Golf Club.  His love for the game began when he was 14 years-old, and he has been playing ever since  He attended the University of Idaho, where he studied Professional Golf Management, and received his PGA Class A status.  Now Leano is celebrating his 10th year as a PGA Professional.

At Sycamore Hills, Leano is directly responsible for managing the day to day golf operations at a top 100 facility, enhancing the member and guest experience, managing the soft and hard goods merchandise programs, executing the member, couples and corporate tournament schedule, managing the outside service operation and managing successful junior golf and caddie programs.
Leano is also a PGA Junior League Captain, has been a mentor to numerous junior golfers through his work with the Junior Golf Program at Sycamore Hills, helped host a PGA Women’s Initiative event at Sycamore Hills in 2019 and more.  He also finds time to participate in Indiana Section PGA events, competing in over 20 events last year.

Leano also works to offer caddie opportunities for many underprivileged juniors in Fort Wayne.  Born in Colombia, his parents started out very poor and worked multiple jobs to become very successful.

“I see myself in many of the kids who are caddies at Sycamore Hills,” said Leano.  “My proudest moments are seeing very deserving caddies win the Evans Scholarship because I understand how this will change their lives forever.”
 
MERCHANDISER OF THE YEAR – PUBLIC, JAKE PEACOCK

The Merchandiser of the Year Awards recognizes those PGA professionals who have demonstrated superior skills as merchandisers in the promotion of golf. The award is given for excellence in golf shop operations in three categories: Private, Resort and Public/Municipal/Military/Semi-Private. The following criteria are applied to all awards: PGA Member in good standing, credit rating with the industry, overall credit rating and community involvement. The candidates are judged in the following areas: merchandising ability and techniques, inventory levels and turn rate, shop display and attention to detail.

Jake Peacock is our 2020 Merchandiser of the Year in the Public category at Prairie View Golf Club.  Peacock spends more than 50% of his time devoted to merchandise operations.  He changes displays weekly and highlight IHSAA merchandise during the months of June and October for state finals weeks.  At Prairie View, they strive every day to give members and guests a positive and memorable experience.  They want golfers to have a great experience on the course, which will make them more likely to buy merchandise after their round – as something to remember playing at Prairie View.

Peacock’s philosophy is, “to create a retail operation that is focused on the overall facility experience.”
 
MERCHANDISER OF THE YEAR – PRIVATE, NICHOLAS HAUDEK

The Merchandiser of the Year Awards recognizes those PGA professionals who have demonstrated superior skills as merchandisers in the promotion of golf. The award is given for excellence in golf shop operations in three categories: Private, Resort and Public/Municipal/Military/Semi-Private. The following criteria are applied to all awards: PGA Member in good standing, credit rating with the industry, overall credit rating and community involvement. The candidates are judged in the following areas: merchandising ability and techniques, inventory levels and turn rate, shop display and attention to detail.

Nicholas Haudek is our 2020 Merchandiser of the Year in the Private category at Evansville Country Club.  Haudek changes displays every 10 days, and more often during the spring when everyone is getting excited about the golf season beginning.  His strategy to often display highly sought after merchandise items in lower traffic areas in the shop, to get people to areas they might not regularly visit.  If an item is not performing, he will move it to a higher traffic area. 

“There is a stigma that we only carry golf items, but we are now capturing swim, tennis, and social members,” said Haudek.  “Members are starting to think of us first and I think that is the key to maximizing the success of the golf shop.”

MERCHANDISER OF THE YEAR – RESORT, RYAN STEELE

The Merchandiser of the Year Awards recognizes those PGA professionals who have demonstrated superior skills as merchandisers in the promotion of golf. The award is given for excellence in golf shop operations in three categories: Private, Resort and Public/Municipal/Military/Semi-Private. The following criteria are applied to all awards: PGA Member in good standing, credit rating with the industry, overall credit rating and community involvement. The candidates are judged in the following areas: merchandising ability and techniques, inventory levels and turn rate, shop display and attention to detail.

Ryan Steele is our 2020 Merchandiser of the Year in the Resort Category at Swan Lake Resort (for the second consecutive year).  Steele changes merchandise displays approximately 20-25 times annually.  To stay ahead of the game, Steele continually evaluates the performance of each product and vendor in each category in hopes of quickly adapting to guest purchasing habits and desires.  He also pays close attention to what other facilities are doing and even looks outside the golf industry to learn from companies that are succeeding in merchandising.

His philosophy is, “To provide a diverse selection of merchandise with outstanding guest service at a price offering value to the guests and appropriate profitability to the facility.”