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Earlier this month the Section’s Special Awards Committee was once again faced with the challenging task of deciding who amongst all deserving nominees would be awarded a Philadelphia PGA special award. When all was said and done the Committee was able to arrive at the 11 individuals who they thought best deserved to be recognized for their accomplishments.
The Philadelphia PGA’s top honor, Golf Professional of the Year, was awarded to first-time award winner Robert Kleckner of Linfield National Golf Club. Kleckner was elected to PGA membership in 1995 and since that time has spent countless hours serving the game of golf. After serving as both an Assistant PGA Professional and Head Professional Kleckner also added golf course owner to his resume when he purchased Linfield National Golf Club in Linfield, Pa.
In addition to fulfilling all of the traditional duties of a PGA Professional, Kleckner has also gone above and beyond to further the game of golf as well as his community at large. Kleckner has made Linfield National available to both high school and collegiate golf teams in addition to hosting an annual Philadelphia Junior Tour event helping to foster the game at the youth level. Kleckner has also facilitated multiple Patriot Golf Days in addition to several local charity events which shows his commitment to service. Finally, Kleckner has mentored many Assistant PGA Professionals showing his dedication to the profession.
“I am truly humbled and honored to accept this award, said Kleckner on his honor. 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 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. Throughout all of these years as a PGA Professional, I remind myself of a quote that I once heard, ‘The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today.’ – H. Jackson Brown, Jr. I would like to extend my gratitude to the Philadelphia Section for their commitment to ensuring the growth of the game.”
The Philadelphia PGA Teacher of the Year also went to another first time award winner in Rebecca Dengler from Ed Oliver Golf Club in Wilmington, Del. Throughout her career Dengler has continuously sought educational seminars which has allowed her to secure a wealth of knowledge. Dengler has also worked extensively with fellow PGA and LPGA Professionals and teachers allowing her to become well versed in a variety of teaching philosophies. As an instructor, Dengler’s teaching methods have been featured in various publications. Although this is Dengler’s first Philadelphia PGA award she has been awarded top teacher designations by the LPGA, Golf Digest and US Kids.
“I am truly grateful for being selected as the 2016 Philadelphia PGA Teacher of the Year, said Dengler. 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. ”
Bryan Kienke of Aronimink Golf Club was awarded the Philadelphia PGA Assistant Professional of the Year. Kienke has taken on leadership roles as an Assistant PGA Professional first as the Philadelphia Assistants’ Organization’s (PAO) tournament chairman and currently as its Co-Chair. During this time Kienke has helped to increase both participation and sponsorship dollars allowing the organization to flourish under his lead. Kienke has also been instrumental in the charity organization Gregg’s Wings Inc., which has raised nearly $340,000 for the Cancer Center for Kids at Winthrop University. While at Aronimink, Kienke has also worked in merchandising and teaching to help round out his industry knowledge helping him to position himself as one of the top Assistant PGA Professionals in the Philadelphia Section.
The 2016 Horton Smith Award was presented to Jeff Kiddie from Aronimink Golf Club. Kiddie has served both the organization and his fellow Professionals in a variety of leadership roles throughout his career. Currently, Kiddie is a member of the Section’s Executive Committee serving as Secretary. Kiddie is also the co-chair of the Philadelphia PGA Education Committee and a member of the Rules Committee. As co-chair of the Education Committee, Kiddie worked to organize a two-day education summit covering a variety of topics held in November of 2016. In addition to being a member of the Philadelphia PGA Rules Committee, Kiddie is also a member of the PGA of America Rules Committee. As a member of this Committee, Kiddie has served as coordinator for several PGA/USGA Rules of Golf Workshops. Previously, Kiddie has been awarded the Philadelphia PGA Merchandiser of the Year – Private (2007, 2010) and Golf Professional of the Year (2012) as well as the National Merchandiser of the Year – Private (2011).
The Bill Strausbaugh Award for 2016 was presented to Joe Hughes. Hughes serves as the PGA General Manager and Head Professional of the Penn State University Golf Clubs. Since becoming a PGA Professional Hughes has dedicated time in service to both the Philadelphia PGA and Penn State University. Hughes was a member of the Penn State University PGM Alumni Board serving as the organization’s President in 2010-2011. While in that role, Hughes created the Penn State PGA/PGM Mentoring Program which is still flourishing today. Hughes also served the Philadelphia PGA’s Central Counties Chapter from 2007-2011 and currently serves the Section as a whole as District IV Director. Hughes serves the University and future PGA Professionals as an instructor in the PGM Program. Previously Hughes was honored as Philadelphia PGA Merchandiser of the Year – Public (2010).
The Philadelphia PGA Player Development Award was given to another first-time award winner, Steve Wager of Penn State University Golf Club. Wager has worked on a variety of programming aimed at developing golfers of all skill levels. Wager brings to the game to non-traditional events such as community, health and science fairs. These events help to expose the game to individuals who may have not otherwise experienced the game. At the facility itself, Wager has created multiple levels of the Get Golf Ready program allowing individuals to progress nicely from one level to the next. Wager has also worked to create exciting junior programs including the PGA Sports Academy and US Kids Learning Programs. Wager has also worked to foster the growth of PGA Junior League Golf in Centre County culminating in a Regional Championship appearance this past season.
The Philadelphia PGA Youth Player Development Award was presented to Steve Sieracki, Director of Instruction at Indian Spring Golf Course. Despite only receiving his PGA membership in 2015, Sieracki has quickly established himself as one of the top junior instructors. At his facility, Sieracki has implemented a variety of programs that has helped transition junior golfers from beginner to elite level through a dedicated coaching program, Operation 36. This program has resulted in tremendous success for the junior golfers graduating the program. Sieracki also works with new junior golfers by conducting several junior camps and serving as captain for PGA Junior League Golf teams. This dedication has helped Sieracki be recognized as one of the top 40 instructors under 40. This is Sieracki’s first Philadelphia PGA award.
“I am honored to be recognized and acknowledged for something I am so passionate about and love doing, said Sieracki. Promoting the dedication and player development of junior golf is something I will always strive to achieve.”
Rounding out the list of professional award winners Bob Doria, Sara Muldoon, and Tom Gilbert were award the Merchandiser of the Year awards in the Public, Resort, and Private categories respectively. Doria and Muldoon are no strangers to this award. Doria of Makefield Highlands Golf Club was previously honored as the Merchandiser of the Year – Public in both 2007 and 2013 while Muldoon of Hershey Country Club was presented with her first Merchandiser of the Year – Resort in 2015. The award is a first for Gilbert who has worked to create a variety of member events including a Christmas shopping experience each December. During the 2016 season, Gilbert worked to recognize the club’s Centennial Celebration while maintaining the same consistent level of merchandising his members had been accustomed.
The final Philadelphia PGA special award was presented to our Salesperson of the Year, Mark Krahe of TaylorMade. In his brief time in the Philadelphia PGA Krahe has proven his dedication to the Professionals of the Section by conducting TaylorMade specific education events on both a large and small scale. These events help to foster a strong connection between Krahe, the PGA Professional and the TaylorMade brand.
Editor’s Note: PGA Professionals in order in above photo are Stu Ingraham, Jerry Tucker and Bob Joyce.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Jerry Tucker showed Thursday why he’s considered a short-game guru.
Tucker, who has run a short-game school in Palm City, practiced what he teaches. Leading by one, Tucker’s hopes for a victory took a hit when his approach to the 18th hole on the Wanamaker Course bounced into a pampas bush.
“We thought he was going to take an unplayable,” said Roy Vucinich, one of Tucker’s playing partners who was looking at a 15-foot birdie putt that might enable him to win the PGA’s Quarter Century Championship.
Tucker considered taking an unplayable, then thought about hitting it left-handed. He finally took a stance facing away from the hole and hit a backhand shot that trickled down the hill and within 5 feet. Tucker made the putt for the victory – and a heckuva memory.
“That’s got to be my best up-and-down ever,” Tucker said. “When you do that on the last hole to win a tournament on a shot you probably should have taken an unplayable … I can’t remember a better one.
“I was just hoping for a bogey. I actually teach that shot. I knew if I took an unplayable, the best would be to get into a playoff. I couldn’t try left-handed, because I’m not that ambiguous, as Norm Crosby would say. I knew if I got it out, I had gravity on my side.”
Tucker’s unlikely par save enabled him to win the Quarter Century Championship for the fourth time. He shot a 71 to finish at 9-under 135 in the 65 and older division. Vucinich (68-136) was a shot ahead of Jim Sheerin (71-137).
Stu Ingraham (71) of Broomall, Pa., parred the second hole of a playoff to beat Mike San Filippo (68) and win the 50-to-64 division of the Quarter Century Championship. They finished at 9-under 135 on the Ryder Course.
Ingraham had a three-shot lead with two holes left, but he bogeyed the par-5 17th and San Filippo finished with a pair of birdies.
“I’ve played in 26 national championships and 10 majors, but I’ve never come to the Winter Series,” Ingraham said. “I made the decision to come this year. It turned out to be quite the investment (he made $3,350).”
San Filippo had won two Quarter Century titles, but his hopes for a third ended with a three-putt on the second playoff hole.
“I just hit a bad putt, but what are you going to do?” San Filippo said. “The best news is next year I get to play in the older division.”
Sonny Skinner (68-136) finished alone in third. Kirk Stauffer (69) was fourth.
Bob Joyce of Palm Beach Gardens won the Half Century Championship (must be a PGA member for at least 50 years) with a 2-over 74 on the Wanamaker Course. Joyce won by two shots over Port St. Lucie residents Bob Zimmerman (71-153) and Lynn Rosely (76-153).
Tucker, Ingraham and Joyce walked away with trophies, but everyone was talking about Tucker’s great escape afterward.
“When you see something like that, you applaud him,” Vucinich said. “It was unbelievable the way that came down there, better than a putt.”
The PGA Winter Championships are presented by Golf Advisor.com and PrimeSport.
Click here for Thursday’s final-round results from the PGA Quarter Century Championship (50-64) on the 6,599-yard Ryder Course at PGA Golf Club.
Click here for Thursday’s final-round results from the PGA Quarter Century Championship (65 and older) on the 6,072-yard Wanamaker Course at PGA Golf Club.