Monday, January 23, 2017

Kleckner, Dengler head list of Philadelphia Section PGA's 2016 award winners

   The Philadelphia Section PGA recently handed out its awards for 2016 and Robert Kleckner of Linfield National Golf Club heads the list as he was named Golf Professional of the Year.
   Kleckner is all-in at Linfield as he is also the owner of the course. He has been generous in making Linfield National available as the home track for college and high school teams and in hosting a Junior Tour stop each year and staging Patriot Golf Days.
   He has also played the often overlooked role of mentoring many young assistant pros.
   The Philadelphia Section PGA has pros at some of the most prestigious courses in the country, but, obviously with a choice like Kleckner at a public-fee course like Linfield National as its top pro in 2016, it does not overlook the job all of its pros are doing, no matter what the address.
   “I am  truly humbled and honored to accept this award,” Kleckner told the Philadelphia Section website. “It is humbling because the Philadelphia Section has so many outstanding professionals who inspire me daily and I am honored to be a part of such a distinguished group of professionals.
   “There are so many people along my journey who have helped me become the PGA professional I am today. I love what I do and I believe that equates to success.”
   The Philadelphia Section also went to a public-fee course, Ed Oliver Golf Club in Wilmington, Del., in naming Rebecca Dengler its Teacher of the Year. It is the first time the Philadelphia Section has recognized Dengler as its top teacher, but she has previously received top teacher designations from the LPGA, Golf Digest and U.S. Kids Golf.
   “I am truly grateful for being selected as the 2016 Philadelphia PGA Teacher of the Year,” Dengler told the Philadelphia Section website. “As a member of the Philadelphia PGA, I am honored to be surrounded by fellow section staff and members who are working diligently to promote the game of golf.
   “My greatest appreciation goes to all the players that have shared with me their joy, love and struggles of the game. I believe these challenges make us all better at the game of life.”
   The pro shop at Aronimink Golf Club earned a pair of 2016 honors, including the Horton Smith Award that went to Aronimink head pro Jeff Kiddie.
   Kiddie serves as the secretary of the section’s executive committee and is the co-chairman of the Philadelphia PGA education committee. In addition to being a member of the section’s rules committee, he is a member of the PGA of America’s rules committee.
   His education committee put together a two-day education summit on a variety of subjects in November and he lends his rules expertise to PGA/USGA Rules of Golf workshops.
   Kiddie was named the Philadelphia Section’s Professional of the Year in 2012 and was recognized by the PGA of America as its Merchandiser of the Year for private courses in 2011.
   Aronimink assistant Bryan Kienke was named the section’s Assistant Professional of the Year. Kienke is a co-chairman of the Philadelphia Assistants’ Organization. He has also been involved in Gregg’s Wings, Inc., an organization that has raised nearly $340,000 for the Cancer Center for Kids at Winthorp University in Mineola, N.Y.
   The section’s Bill Strausbaugh Award went to Joe Hughes, the PGA general manager and head professional at the Penn State University Golf Clubs.
   The Penn State operation also produced the winner of the section’s Player Development Award, which went to Steve Wager. He has worked in a variety of programs aimed at developing golfers of all skill levels.
   The winner of the section’s Youth Player Development Award went to Steve Sieracki, the director of instruction at Indian Spring Golf Course.
   The section’s Merchandiser of the Year awards went to Bob Doria of Makefield Highlands Golf Club among public courses, Sara Muldoon of Hershey Country Club among resort courses and Tom Gilbert of Gulph Mills Golf Club among private courses.
   The section’s Salesperson of the Year award went to Mark Krahe of TaylorMade.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Grassel bests fellow Gators to win The Sally

   The Florida Gators will head into the spring portion of the women’s college golf scene ranked No. 8 in Division I by Golfstat.
   If you want to know why, look no further than last week’s South Atlantic Amateur Golf Championship, known simply as The Sally in women’s amateur golf circles. The Gators turned the venerable event, played at the Oceanside Country Club in Ormond Beach, Fla., into something of a University of Florida travel-squad qualifier.
   Kelly Grassel, a Florida senior from Chesterton, Ind., captured the title, firing a final round of 3-under 69 Saturday at Oceanside for an 8-under 280 total. That was one shot better than fellow Florida senior Maria Torres of Puerto Rico, who matched Grassel’s final-round 69 to finish a shot back at 7-under 281.
   And who did Grassel and Torres have to overtake with their strong final-round finishes? That would be teammate Sam Wagner, a sophomore from Windermere, Fla. Wagner took a one-shot lead into the final round after posting a 54-hole total of 6-under 210 that included a sparkling 5-under 67 in the second round.
   Wagner carded a final round of 1-over 73 to finish in a three-way tie for third at 5-under 283. Wagner has been around forever, qualifying for the 2008 U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship at age 11. Brynn Walker, then a junior at Radnor, had the misfortune of running into Wagner in the opening round of the 2014 U.S. Girls’ Junior, falling to Wagner, by then a veteran junior campaigner, 7 and 5.
   Central Florida’s Ashley Holder, a senior from Orlando, Fla., got a piece of third place along with Wagner with a blazing 6-under 66 in the final round.
   The third member of that trio tied for third at 5-under 283 falls into the pre-teen phenom class that Wagner once belonged in. That would be Alexa Pano, who won the American Junior Golf Association’s PDQ / Philadelphia Runner Junior at the Saucon Valley Country Club’s Weyhill Course late last summer by five shots. The Lake Worth, Fla. resident was 11 days removed from her 12th birthday when she shot 5-under for 54 holes at Saucon Valley.
   Pano matched par in the final round with a 72 to finish in the tie for third at The Sally. She fired an impressive 3-under 69 in the third round at Oceanside.
   A week earlier the second leg of the Orange Blossom Tour, the Harder Hall Women’s Invitational, was contested at Harder Hall Country Club in Sebring, Fla.
   Texas Christian’s Emma Martin, a junior from Odessa, Fla., was an impressive five-shot winner of the Harder Hall with a 72-hole total of 2-under 286. Martin had a final round of 2-over 74. She took control of the tournament with a 3-under 69 in the third round.
   A teen phenom from England, 14-year-old Annabell Fuller, was the runnerup with a 3-over 291 total. She had a 1-over 73 in the final round.
   Ohio State’s Jessica Porvasnik, a senior from Hinckley, Ohio who reached the round of 16 in the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club last summer, finished eighth at 10-over 298. Porvasnik, who was defending her 2016 Harder Hall victory, was in the hunt for a repeat, but fell back with an 80 in the final round.
   Penn State sophomore Lauren Waller, who lost in a playoff to Radnor’s Walker in the 2014 PIAA Class AAA Tournament as a senior at Canon-McMillan, finished in a tie for 10th at 302. Meghan Stasi, the four-time U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur champion and eight-time Philadelphia Women’s Amateur champion, finished tied for 19th at 307. Stasi, a South Jersey native, lives in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla. area.
   The chairwoman of the Harder Hall is western Pennsylvania’s Carol Semple Thompson, who was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2008. She’s been Pennsylvania Women’s Amateur champion, I’m pretty sure 22 times. It might be more, but it’s a lot regardless. Among her many amateur victories are three straight Harder Hall wins from 1990 to 1992.
   The Orange Blossom Tour opened the week before Christmas with Yujeong Son of South Korea taking the title in the Women’s Dixie Amateur at the Woodlands Country Club in Tamarac, Fla. Son reached the semifinals of the U.S. Girls’ Junior at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, N.J. last summer before falling to eventual champion and fellow South Korean Eun Jeong Seong.
   While Son is a native South Korean, she lives in Norman, Okla. and has won the Oklahoma Women’s Amateur Championship the last three years running.
   The Orange Blossom Tour continues this week with the Ione D. Jones/Doherty Championship at Coral Ridge Country Club.
   The  Orange Blossom Tour concludes with the Women’s International Four-Ball Championship Feb. 14 and 15 at The Wanderers Club in Wellington, Fla.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Find the latest Tri-State Golfer at Philadelphia Golf and Travel Show

   Got a chance to run out to the opening day of the Philadelphia Golf and Travel Show Friday at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks, just off Route 422 a little west of King of Prussia.
   My first order of business was the pick up some copies of the latest issue of Tri-State Golfer, which I had a little bit of a hand in.
   I have a college spotlight story on the Temple golf program. When Brian Quinn isn’t running his BQ Golf Academy, with locations in Conshohocken and Florida, or giving lessons to some of the best amateur players in the Philadelphia area, he is the Owls’ head coach.
   From 2011 to 2015, the Philadelphia Open champion wore Cherry and White as Andrew Mason went back-to-back in 2011 and 2012, 2010 PIAA champion Brandon Matthews took the title in 2013 and 2015 and Matthew Teesdale, now an assistant to Quinn at Temple, won it in 2014. The Philadelphia Open is a tough field with the top Golf Association of Philadelphia players and Philadelphia Section PGA pros teeing it up each summer.
   Quinn’s young roster features a couple of Central League standouts of recent vintage, redshirt freshman Erik Reisner, a two-time Central champion at Harriton, and sophomore Sam Soeth, who starred at Marple Newtown. I talked to Reisner and Quinn about the Owls’ strong start in the fall portion of the 2016-2017 season and their prospects for the spring portion of the schedule that lies ahead and my report appears in the latest Tri-State Golfer.
   I also have a cover story on the big plans Brian Lutz has for Landis Creek Golf Club, the old Limerick Golf Club, in 2017. Brian and his wife Jean have a thriving operation between the golf course, the Creekside Sports Bar & Grille and their banquet and catering operation at the Loft.
   Brian Lutz and his head pro Jason Hilz want the game to be fun and that’s always their focus, whether it’s their annual Bratweiler Memorial, their 8-Inch Cup event or programs designed to get youngsters started playing the game.
   I also paid another visit to Andrew DeCordre and Anthony Guidici, the general manager and director of instruction, respectively, at GolfUSA just up the road from Landis Creek on Ridge Pike in Limerick. Their passion for the game is evident in their one-stop golf shop for equipment, club fitting and instruction.
   Joe Burkhardt, my boss at Tri-State Golfer, is situated in the 400 row at the Golf Show between the Gilbertsville Golf Club and Spring Hollow Golf Club tables and he’s armed with plenty of issues of his latest edition.
   Also stopped by for a visit with an old colleague, Tony Leodora, whose wide-ranging little golf media empire includes his TL Golf Services, his GolfTalk Live radio program and The Traveling Golfer TV program that appears on Comcast SportsNet and The Comcast Network.
   Leodora and I go back to his days as the sports editor at the Times Herald in Norristown while I was the sports editor of The Mercury in Pottstown. His TL Golf Services helped Llanerch Country Club stage a 50th anniversary celebration of the PGA Championship at the underrated Havertown layout in 2008. Tony also contributed to what was probably the highlight of my 20 years at the Delaware County Daily Times, a special section previewing the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion.
   Leodora and his producer, Eddie Caizzo, were preparing to tape this week’s GolfTalk Live program, which was scheduled to air Saturday morning at its home base, WNTP 990-AM. It also airs at other stations in South Jersey and you can pick it up any time on GolfTalk Live’s website,
   Among this week’s featured guests is Geoffrey Surrette, the executive director of the Philadelphia Section PGA. Some of the Philadelphia Section pros will be presenting mini-seminars and lessons at the Golf Show all weekend.
   The GolfTalk Live booth will be featuring prizes all weekend, so it’s certainly worth a stop.
   While I was there Friday, the latest edition of The Traveling Golfer was playing. The show airs on Comcast SportsNet Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. and on The Comcast Network Monday at 6 p.m. and Thursday at 6 p.m. If you’re more digitally inclined, a visit to can link you to The Traveling Golfer, where you can find Leodora’s latest golf travels. His trip to the Gulf Coast and Biloxi, Miss. will air throughout January.
   If you’ve been a regular at the Golf Show and it feels a little early to you that’s because it is. It moved up from its traditional mid-February dates. But there’s never really a bad time to get a little winter golf fix and there’s a lot going on, everything from equipment to representatives from some of the top golf destinations ready to sign you up for that preseason junket.
   The show continues Saturday and Sunday. And just a reminder, the NFL moved that early Steelers-Chiefs game Sunday back to prime time from its original 1 p.m. start because of an ice storm that’s hitting the middle of the country (lucky them). So no early NFL playoff game coincides nicely with the final hours of the Golf Show.