Michael Little looked relieved as he signed his scorecard following the final round of the Philadelphia Section PGA Professional Championship at the Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Wissahickon Course in September.
He had grinded out a final round of 1-over-par 71 over the A.W. Tillinghast classic to finish in a tie for sixth at 1-under 211. The top-12 finish earned him a trip to the PGA Professional Championship next June at the Sunriver Resort in Sunriver, Ore.
Little’s showing at the Cricket Club was typical of the kind of consistency he showed throughout the year on the Philadelphia Section circuit. That consistency was rewarded when Little received the Section’s Omega Player of the Year Award at the Fall Meeting on Halloween Day at White Manor Country Club in Willistown Township.
The award goes to the player who accumulates the most points during designated tournaments throughout the season. Little claimed victories at the Delaware Valley Open and at Shawnee, but was a fixture on leaderboards at most of the other events.
Little also earned a trip to the National Car Rental Assistant PGA Professional Championship last month at the PGA Golf Club’s Wanamaker Course in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He made two cuts there and finished in a tie for 46th just before returning home to pick up his Omega Player of the Year award.
The Philadelphia Section has to have one of the most competitive senior circuits in the country and there was evidence of that in the final Omega points standings. Two of the Section’s seniors, Applebrook Golf Club head pro Dave McNabb and Radnor Valley Country Club head pro George Forster, finished second and third, respectively, behind Little.
McNabb won the biggest prize offered by any PGA Section in the country when he captured the Haverford Trust Philadelphia PGA Classic and the whopping $100,000 check that goes with it in May.
Neither McNabb nor Forster, however, were able to claim the Omega Robert “Skee” Riegel Senior Player of the Year award. That went, for the seventh consecutive year, to Stu Ingraham, the head of instruction at the M Golf Range in Newtown Square.
Ingraham highlighted his senior campaign by capturing the Philadelphia Senior PGA Professional Championship at St. Davids Golf Club. He was also the runnerup to Gulph Mills Golf Club assistant pro Jordan Gibbs in the Section Championship at the Cricket Club.
Forster and McNabb finished 2-3, respectively, in the Omega “Skee” Riegel Senior standings, reversing their order in the Omega Player of the Year standings. McNabb also captured the Section’s DeBaufre Scoring Average title at 70.90.
Ingraham, Forster and McNabb will be heading a nine-man Philadelphia Section contingent at this week’s Senior PGA Professional Championship at the PGA Golf Club’s Wanamaker and Ryder courses in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The top 35 finishers will qualify for the Senior PGA Championship next spring.
Ingraham earned a trip to the Senior PGA Championship last spring at the Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich. and made the cut. Forster was also in the field for the Senior PGA Championship, the 11th PGA Tour Champions major he has teed it up in.
The Howard “Ike” Turner Most Improved Player Award went to Gibbs, who put on quite a show in dominating the Section championship at the Cricket Club. The Princeton, N.J. native and former Rutgers standout opened up with a 5-under 67 at the Militia Hill Course and added a 68 and a brilliant final-round 66 at the Wissahickon Course for an 11-under 201 total.
The Philadelphia Section also added Ted Sheftic and Bob Thatcher to its Hall of Fame roster.
Sheftic has been a teaching pro in the York area for many years. Many rising talents travel to work with Sheftic. Brynn Walker, the two-time PIAA Class AAA champion at Radnor who is a freshman at North Carolina, is one of Sheftic’s many students. Sheftic’s son Mark is the head of instruction at Merion Golf Club and one of the top players in the Philadelphia Section.
Thatcher is the former Aronimink Golf Club head pro who owned and operated the Olde Masters Golf Club in Newtown Square for many years, among his many golf interests. Thatcher played in dozens of PGA Tour Champions events in the 1990s and was one of the Philadelphia Section’s top players for many years.
The Philadelphia Section’s newest award, the Ben Witter Courage Award, went posthumously to the award’s namesake. Witter, who became a renowned trick-shot artist while battling cancer for decades, died a year ago at age 51. He was the owner of Ben’s POWER GOLF Learning Center in Lebanon.
The Fall Meeting wrapped up with a keynote address from Derek Sprague, president of the PGA of America.