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2021 Indiana PGA Special Award Winners Named

March 16th, 2021

MERCHANDISER OF THE YEAR – PUBLIC, JOHN VAN VALER
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.

John Van Valer is our 2021 Merchandiser of the Year in the Public category at Stony Creek Golf Club.  Van Valer strives to cater to all types of golfers, while pricing at a level competitive with the numerous other golf shops and off-course retailers in the area.  With the safety procedures put in place due to COVID-19, Stony Creek was consistently changing their floorplan and therefore routinely updating their merchandise displays.

Van Valer’s philosophy is “to maximize the profitability of the merchandise operation through well designed buying plans that meet the needs of our customers as well as the business plan for the facility.”
 
MERCHANDISER OF THE YEAR – PRIVATE, PATRICK DODSON
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.

Patrick Dodson is our 2021 Merchandiser of the Year in the Private category at The Sagamore Club.  Dodson’s merchandising focus is on golf apparel for the spring/early summer and transitions to lifestyle apparel for fall through the end of the year.  The Sagamore Club also utilizes social media to introduce new apparel and products, and during the height of the pandemic they created a virtual golf shop for members.

Dodson’s philosophy is “to focus on merchandise selection and customer service.  Selection includes defining color stories and quantities, selecting vendors, and product placement.  Customer service begins with knowing our members and being attentive to their needs.”
 
MERCHANDISER OF THE YEAR – RESORT, ANDY FORTNER
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.

Andy Fortner is our 2021 Merchandiser of the Year in the Resort Category at The Pete Dye Course at French Lick.  Fortner spends 60% of his time working on some aspect of the merchandising area at the Dye Course.  He is also constantly trying to better educate himself with merchandising by reading PGA magazine, visiting other golf shops and talking with PGA Professionals about best practices.  The Dye Course’s clientele is ever-changing, so it is important to cater to several types of customers.

Fortner’s philosophy is “to put an emphasis on working on keeping a high margin, while also being in touch with our clientele to know what he/she will purchase.”
 
ASSISTANT OF THE YEAR, NATE HOLM
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.  Nate Holm of Crooked Stick Golf Club is our 2021 Assistant of the Year.

Holm’s work style is described as creative and engaging.  Since joining Crooked Stick in 2017, Holm has been involved in the day-to-day operation of the club, overseeing staff, golf shop merchandising, and tournament operation.  His engagement with the Crooked Stick staff and members is above and beyond, as he truly works to get to know people both on and off the golf course.  Holm believes that building these relationships creates the best environment for everyone involved, while also helping him perform at his highest level.

In 2020, Holm was heavily involved in two events held at Crook Stick – The Dye Junior National Invitational and the Western Amateur Championship.  He has also been involved with PGA Jr. League since its inception in 2013 and helped implement programming as the focal point of the junior program at Crooked Stick.  Holm is also involved with the Evans Scholar Program and First Tee-Indiana.

Holm said, “Working at Crooked Stick has made me much more aware of what can be done to make golf great every day.  Setting a great example to junior golfers, caddies, and staff and letting them know you’re here to grow the game goes a long way.
 
PLAYER DEVELOPMENT, MICHAEL ZEDRICK
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.  Michael Zedrick of Gray Eagle Golf Club & Academy is our 2021 Player Development Award winner.

Michael Zedrick has worked tirelessly to build a youth program at Gray Eagle that is not just for the “golfer” junior, but an all-inclusive student centric program.  He started the junior program at Gray Eagle in 2011 with a camp that had just eight participants.  Now, that same junior program has over 200 junior participants annually. 

Zedrick also added junior high and high school programs that have year round on-course training and simulator experience.  He also taught junior how to track their stats to help identify their on-course weaknesses and create individualized improvement plans.
In 2015, Zedrick joined Robins Golf Logistix (RGX), which is a program that revolutionizes golf coaching worldwide by guaranteeing results for golfers, higher productivity for golf professionals, and more enjoyment for both.  Since joining, Zedrick has been able to streamline his business for registration and record keeping, which has allowed him to see which programs are growing and which are not.  It has also allowed him to have more time for coaching, which has resulted in an increase in group revenue with no added employees or expenses.
 
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 of The Legends GC is our 2021 Youth Player Development Award recipient for the second consecutive year.

Crystal Morse is heavily involved in all things junior golf at The Legends GC.  She is a First Tee coach with 12-20 participants per class, a PGA Jr. League coach where she runs three separate leagues (6U, 13U and 17U) with up to 90 participants, and the co-head coach of Franklin High School’s Boys and Girls Golf Teams.  Alongside Ted Bishop, Morse also created a May Tournament Series that was open to all middle and high school golfers in the county, to provide them with more playing opportunities in light of COVID-19.  Additionally, she gives private lessons and runs the Morse Golf Academy at The Legends, where she instructed over 85 students consistently in 2020.

Morse is also always trying to further her education by using PGA.Coach to learn more about youth development and running effective player development programs.  She is also US Kids certified, TPI Junior Level 2 certified and uses Operation 36 Programming to plan and execute her junior programs.
 
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AWARD – TODD DEHAVEN
The Professional Development 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. Todd DeHaven of Indiana Golf is our 2021 Professional Development Award winner.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Todd DeHaven looked for ways to keep Indiana golfers engaged before tournament season began.  Alongside daughter, Paxton, DeHaven created a video series called RULES READY which focused on the New Rules of Golf, and how to apply them on-course.  These videos were very well-received and the DeHaven’s are continuing to produce them this spring.  In 2019, DeHaven also served a large role in hosting over 20 rules seminars geared towards educating Indiana golfers around the state on the New Rules of Golf.

DeHaven also worked hard to grow the Indiana Golf volunteer base through word of mouth and strategic communication.  He also provided interested volunteers with educational opportunities so that they were up to date on the New Rules of Golf and would feel more comfortable officiating in IGA, PGA and IWGA events.
 
BILL STRAUSBAUGH AWARD – TED BISHOP
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.  Ted Bishop of The Legends GC is our 2021 Bill Strausbaugh Award recipient.

Ted Bishop has mentored many outstanding assistant and head professionals throughout the last 30 years while working at The Legends GC.  A few to mention include: Tracy Chapman, who is now with FitGolf, Jeff Marsh, the head golf coach for the IPFW men’s and women’s teams, Kyle Cramer, the Head Golf Professional at Valhalla GC in Louisville, Ryan Ford, the 2020 Indiana PGA Golf Professional of the Year, and Bill Pollert, the 2021 Indiana PGA Golf Professional of the Year.

Bishop has also spent his career promoting golf at all levels.  The Legends has been the host site to the IHSAA Boys and Girls State Championships for 15 years (2000-2015), and Bishop has served as a boys and girls high school golf coach for the past 35 years.  He is also a two-time recipient of the Sagamore of the Wabash Award winner, a former Indiana PGA Section Officer, and the President of the Indiana PGA (1997-1998).
 
DEACON PALMER AWARD – Gene Kaufman
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.  Gene Kaufman of Etna Acres GC is our 2021 Deacon Palmer Award recipient.

For the past five years, Gene Kaufman has struggled with a hemoglobin/blood issue.  On a regular basis, Kaufman has had to receive blood transfusions, and well as chemotherapy treatment.  In 1959, Kaufman and family turned their family farm into Etna Acres GC, where he has spent 60 years working as a PGA member.  Now, 84 years-old, Kaufman continues to be the face of Etna Acres, and serves as the Director of Sales and Promotion.

This past summer, Kaufman oversaw a renovation at Etna Acres.  Etna Acres has also been the home of the Southwood Knights golf teams since the school was founded in the mid- 60s. During the golf season, Southwood golfers pay nothing to play or practice and the facility, and student memberships for the full year are only $100.  Etna Acres also hosts annual Indiana Junior Golf Tour events.

While battling physical and emotional obstacles, Gene has continued to stand by his motto, “Treat people right and they will return”.  And they have. For sixty years, golfers have been journeying to the middle of nowhere, Indiana to play golf and to see Kaufman. 
 
TEACHER OF THE YEAR – Jason Carbone
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. Jason Carbone of Woodland CC is our 2021 Indiana Section PGA Teacher of the Year.

Jason Carbone spent last spring revamping the junior program at Woodland to make it safe and engaging.  He lowered the student to teacher ratio to 5:1, had more kids than ever involved, and the program was extremely well-received by parents.  During the summer, Woodland’s Teaching Academy Philosophy is “Scoring Practice,” and in the winter the philosophy becomes “Technique Practice.”  Carbone believes in talking having strong communication with junior players encouraging them to talk through their strengths, weaknesses, and goals and to use the winter to take their game to an entirely new level.

Carbone has instructed numerous junior golfers who have become very successful, including: Ryan Armour, who now players on the PGA Tour and finished 49th in the FedEx Cup standing in 2018, Kelly Sim, a three-time New Jersey High School State Champion and Madeline Jin, the NJSGA Women’s Public Links Champion to name a few.

In addition to juniors, Carbone also teaches men, women, and senior golfers through nine different programs Woodland offers.  Carbone has also contributed to several issues of Golf Magazine, various podcasts, and Golf.com Instruction.

Carbone’s favorite moments as an instructor are when other teachers reach out to come and observe. To serve as a mentor to over 50 fellow instructors who have come out to observe his work means as much as anything he's accomplished.
 
GOLF PROFESSIONAL OF THE YEAR – Bill Pollert
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.  Bill Pollert of Highland G&CC is our 2021 Indiana Section PGA Golf Professional of the Year.

Bill Pollert has served as the Head Golf Professional at Highland G&CC for the past 10 years, and as a Head Golf Professional for the past 15 years.  While serving in this role, Pollert has strived to constantly improve and become a leader not only at his club, but within his Section.  Pollert was instrumental in the vision, development and creation of the Highland Golf Academy, a 9,300 sq. ft. facility located on Highland’s practice area.  The Academy has been the key component in the club's overall marketing and membership campaign which has seen the club grow by over 100 families and move to a waiting list for golf membership in the past three years at the club.

Pollert has also always managed the golf shop while serving as Head Golf Professional and has seen merchandising sales grow 60% in the past three years. In 2020, he gave 625 golf lessons – in addition to club fittings, group clinics etc.  Pollert has also mentored seven past Assistant Golf Professionals into Head Golf Professional positions.

Pollert also strongly believes in player development and to date has hosted six different PGA HOPE clinics as well as four First Tee-Indiana clinics. In addition, each winter Bill and his professional staff run the Washington Township Junior Golf Development program, with 15- 20 kids participate once a week for 16 weeks in the Golf Academy.

Pollert has also served on the Indiana PGA Board of Directors since 2011, and just completed his two year term as President of the Indiana Section PGA.  Through his leadership ability, he has earned the trust and faith of his membership, his fellow PGA Professionals, and golfers throughout the Indianapolis community.