Left to right: Father, Mother, Son, Don "Chip" Essig IV
In 1996, Don "Chip” Essig IV was asked to host the Indiana State Special Olympics Tournament. Since becoming involved with the program in ‘96, the Indiana State Special Olympics has grown from 50 to over 450 participants each year. Last night, Essig was recognized as the 2013 Conrad Rehling Award Recpient by the PGA of America for his remarkable impact on the Special Olympics Program.
The Conrad Rehling Award, first presented in 2005, honors the late PGA Master Professional who followed a successful collegiate coaching career at Florida and Alabama by transforming his retirement into inspiring PGA Professionals to give back to the physically challenged. The founding father of the Special Olympics Golf movement in 1988, Rehling spearheaded The PGA of America’s efforts to introduce golf to Special Olympics. The Association and its more than 28,000 men and women professionals have dedicated countless hours, services and funding to the growth of Special Olympics Golf, including Indiana’s own Chip Essig.
"This award is really an Indiana Section Award,” Essig said. "Had any Golf Professional in the state received that phone call asking to get involved with the Special Olympics Program, I know they would have done the same thing I did. Our Professionals are out there hosting events on different course, giving clinics, and playing in tournaments with Special Olympics participants. This award is theirs, and I am really proud of the Indiana Section PGA.”
Essig has dedicated his life to the game of the golf by serving as a PGA Professional and teacher of the game, mastering the rules of golf, and volunteering his time to help children learn the game his father taught him. As the co-owner of Essig Golf LCC, a golf course management company, Essig oversees two facilities in the Indianapolis area—Hickory Stick Golf Club in Greenwood, and Heartland Crossing Golf Links in Camby where he serves as the PGA Director of Golf and Club Owner. He is also the co-owner of Essig Golf Performance Academy, where he has given golf lessons for many years. Essig has been a part of the IGF and IGA-PGA Board, and from 2006 to 2008 he served as the Indiana Section President.
Since he was 12 years-old, Essig has taken a strong interest in learning the rules of golf, and as an adult has gained such an in-depth understanding of the rules, that he is now considered an expert. In 1998, he was appointed to the PGA Rules Committee, leading him to serve at every PGA Championship since 2001, a Senior PGA Championship, a Masters Championship, three U.S. Senior Open Championships and this year’s Ryder Cup. Essig also works as a PGA/USGA Rules of Golf Workshop Instructor.
In 2003, Essig took his involvement with the Special Olympics Program to a new level, as he was asked to travel to Ireland to coach the United States Special Olympics Team in the Special Olympic World Games.
"Going to Ireland was a neat experience,” Essig said. "For the kids, it was most of their first times out of the country and it was my first time overseas. The bonds formed among coaches and participants is something I will cherish forever.”
Today, the PGA of America is striving to grow the game of golf. These Growth of the Game initiatives have been have been a constant within the family-operated core of public courses. In an effort to attract younger golfers to a course that had primarily senior players, the Essigs began one of the first facilities in Indiana to offer free golf to juniors when accompanied by an adult. The campaign attracted many families who had never before played the course. The Essigs later partnered with a public school and a local charity to benefit inner-city youth. Several students in the program went on to receive college golf scholarships, and one is today a college head golf coach.
In 2011, Essig was nationally recognized for his dedication to the game of golf, and was named the National Golf Professional of the Year by the PGA of America, one of only three professionals from the Indiana Section to ever receive this honor. Additionally, Essig was the recipient of the 2011 Indiana Section Golf Professional of the Year Award and the 2002 Indiana PGA Horton Smith Award.
In 2012, Essig joined father Don Essig III in the Indiana Golf Hall of Fame as the 92nd inductee.
Essig and his wife, Stefanie, live in Westfield, Ind., and are the parents of a daughter Cameron Nicole, 9, and a son Travis Ryan, 7.