Sure, it’s great to watch the best players in the game on our TV sets. But the future of golf is in the hands of the guy or gal in your pro shop, the person who promotes the game, who teaches the game, who sells you equipment and the latest cool golf duds, who runs all those club tournaments.
That’s why it matters when the Philadelphia Section PGA picks its top professionals for 2017 because they have been judged the best at doing what matters the most in the game of golf, building it from the bottom up.
The Philadelphia Section PGA’s Golf Professional of the Year is that kind of guy. Robert Hennefer is the director of golf at Indian Spring Country Club in Marlton, N.J. He took over managing the course for Evesham Township in 2014 and he has done such a good job, the township appointed him to oversee its new Recreation and Open Space Initiative.
He has served on several of the section’s committees and is currently the director of tournaments. Hennefer has been a mentor not just in his own pro shop, but to fledgling PGA professionals throughout the section.
Inspired by his brother Brad, Hennefer works with youngsters with Down syndrome. He was recognized by Special Olympics for that work with its highest honor, the Conrad Rehling Award in 2016.
“I am extremely honored, excited and humbled to be recognized as the Golf Professional of the Year,” Hennefer told the Philadelphia Section PGA’s website. “There are many great PGA professionals in the Philadelphia Section and I am truly honored to be recognized among them.
“I am grateful for the great team at Indian Spring that I am lucky enough to work with every day as well as for my wife Diana who has supported me throughout my career. This for me is an award I will cherish forever, but it is also special for our facility to be recognized and that is what I am really excited about.”
Hennefer has previously been recognized by the section with its Player Development Award in 2012 and as Merchandiser of the Year – Public Course in 2015.
The section’s Teacher of the Year, for the third time, is White Manor Country Club’s John Dunigan, who also was the Teacher of the Year in 2008 and 2015.
I paid Dunigan a visit at the Aronimink Golf Club range when I was writing a golf column for the Delaware County Daily Times. He is all about teaching the game. He is best known for developing talented young players, but I’ve met players of all sorts who swear by the guy.
Dunigan was named a Golf Digest Top 50 Teacher in 2017. He was a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher in 2016, a Golf Range Magazine Top 50 Teacher in 2015 and 2016 and U.S. Kids Golf Top 50 Instructor in 2013 and 2014.
“We have such a large number of great teachers in our section that being named Philadelphia Section Teacher of the Year is a major career achievement,” Dunigan told the Philadelphia Section PGA website. “To receive this award for a third time leaves me speechless – and if you know me, that’s saying quite a lot.
“I would like to thank Concert Golf and the fine folks at White Manor Country Club for giving me the opportunity to be part of a great team and make myself truly at home at their wonderful facility.”
The Commonwealth National Golf Club pro shop produced a pair of 2017 honorees.
The Assistant Golf Professional of the year is Commonwealth National’s Dan Mrozinski. A member of the section’s Junior Golf Committee, Mrozinski has implemented several of PGA of America’s initiatives at Commonwealth National, including PGA Junior League Golf.
Mrozinski’s boss, Patrick Shine, the director of golf at Commonwealth National, was named Merchandiser of the Year – Private Course.
The Horton Smith Award went to Eric Handley of Penn State. In addition to being the director of Penn State’s Teaching and Research Center, he is also an assistant professor in Penn State’s PGA Golf Management program.
A regular at the PGA of America’s Merchandise Show, Handley was the keynote speaker at the show’s Teaching and Coaching Summit in 2017.
Gulph Mills Golf Club head pro Tom Gilbert was named the winner of the PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award, which recognizes an individual for their continuous effort to mentor their fellow PGA professionals. Gilbert was the section’s Merchandiser of the Year – Private Course in 2016.
Gerry Davis of Flourtown Country Club received the Player Development Award and Overbrook Golf Club assistant pro Dave Zimmaro received the Youth Player Development Award.
Zimmaro has been active in promoting Drive, Chip and Putt, PGA Junior League Golf and the Philadelphia Section PGA Junior Tour. He is also involved in a golf-in-schools program and the Mid-Atlantic Blind Golfers Association.
Zimmaro learned sign language so he could work with students at the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. He has also worked with the Department of Justice on the Students for Juvenile Justice initiative. SJJ is a rehabilitative program giving juveniles a chance to learn the game of golf.
John Carpineta of Bensalem Township Country Club received the Patriots Award, which goes to a pro who personifies patriotism through the game of golf and demonstrates unwavering commitment to the men and women who have served our nation’s military.
A veteran himself, Carpineta has helped develop the Philadelphia Section PGA’s HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) program. He is also active in the Eastern Amputee Golf Association, the Wounded Warriors Program, VA First Swing Clinic and the Patriot Golf Day events.
Carpineta won the section’s Player Development Award in 2015.
Jim Ravina, an independent sales representative, was named the Salesperson of the Year. Ravina has supported the section while representing multiple brands for nearly 30 years. He was also cited as Salesperson of the Year in 2014.
And just in case you think some of the guys working in the section’s pro shops can’t play a little, exactly half of the PGA Tournament Series six events held at various PGA Golf Club courses in November and December were won by players from the Philadelphia Section.
The second and final events in the series were won by Zac Oakley, an assistant pro at the Heritage Shores Club in Bridgeville, Del.
The first of Oakley’s wins came at the Dye Course when he fired a final round of 6-under 66 that included eagles at the first and fifth holes and gave him an 8-under 136 total. He got to celebrate that win with his dad Pete, who stunned the golf world with his victory in the 2004 Senior British Open – although the Philadelphia Section PGA pros who knew all too well what a competitor he was weren’t all that surprised.
Zac Oakley then capped the series with a victory at the Ryder Course by firing a 5-under 67 for a 12-under 132 total.
The fifth event in the series was claimed by the Philadelphia Section PGA’s 2017 Omega Player of the Year Brett Melton of Radley Run Country Club.
Melton matched par with a 72 at the Wanamaker Course for a 4-under 140 total.
Oakley was the runnerup for the series behind Danny Balin, the teaching pro at Westchester Country Club in New York who topped the money list at $12,705. Oakley earned just less than $12 grand. Melton was fifth on the money list, pocketing $8,476.