Lower Gwynedd Township, Pa. (December 22, 2023) — The Philadelphia PGA Section has announced its 2023 award recipients, highlighted by Philadelphia PGA of America Golf Professional of the Year Dustin McCormick, the PGA head golf professional at Glen Brook Country Club in Stroudsburg, Pa. Nearly 150 award nominations were received for the 2023 Awards Class, of which the Philadelphia PGA Awards Committee chose 12 winners, including:
- Golf Professional of the Year: Dustin McCormick, PGA; Glen Brook Country Club, Stroudsburg, Pa.
- Teacher & Coach of the Year: Nick Iacono, PGA; Merion Golf Club, Ardmore, Pa.
- Bill Strausbaugh Award: Eric Kennedy, PGA; Overbrook Golf Club, Villanova, Pa.
- Professional Development Award: Dr. Brian Soulé, PGA; Penn State University, State College, Pa.
- Patriot Award: Mike Wood, PGA; Saucon Valley Country Club, Bethlehem, Pa.
- Player Development Award: Robert Munkittrick, PGA; DuPont Country Club, Wilmington, Del.
- Youth Player Development Award: Becky Dengler, PGA; Ed Oliver Golf Club, Wilmington, Del.
- Merchandiser of the Year – Private Category: Sam Ambrose, PGA; Chester Valley Golf Club, Malvern, Pa.
- Merchandiser of the Year – Public Category: Brian Short, PGA; Penn State Golf Courses, State College, Pa.
- Deacon Palmer Award: Fred Heller, PGA; Rolling Green Golf Club, Springfield, Pa.
- Justin Riegel PGA Assistant Golf Professional of the Year: Bridget McLaughlin, PGA; Tavistock Country Club, Haddonfield, N.J.
- Salesperson of the Year: Kevin McClellan; KM Golf Sales, Glenside, Pa.
Dustin McCormick, PGA, the PGA of America head golf professional at Glen Brook Country Club in Stroudsburg, Pa., has been named the 2023 Philadelphia PGA of America Golf Professional of the Year. This is the highest annual honor given to a Philadelphia PGA of America Golf Professional, awarded for qualities of leadership, strong moral character and a substantial record of service to the Philadelphia PGA Section and the game of golf.
A PGA of America Member since 2013, McCormick started his professional career in 2007 at Water Gap Country Club, before being hired to his current role at Glen Brook in 2014. When he took over the township-owned facility, he crafted a five-year business plan that provided him complete decision-making authority and would allow him to right the financially struggling business. Through market research, vendor changes, and prebooking, McCormick was able to generate a profit in his first year, all without having to cut one cent from payroll. In addition, he created a new membership platform to encourage local residents to not only join the club, but enlist their friends and family to become members too. These changes, along with McCormick’s revitalization project, helped increase the facility’s membership roster from 43 to 325.
Having been born and raised in Stroudsburg, McCormick has restored the pride the members and local golfers have in Glen Brook. The facility has been experiencing impressive success, now hosting nine golf leagues, 64 outings, and tens of thousands of rounds of golf annually. As part of the revitalization project, the club installed new golf car paths and tee boxes, while also felling over 400 trees as part of their tree management program. Additionally, the recent success has allowed for the installation of an indoor golf simulator / launch monitor, which transforms his golf shop into a golf haven during the winter months, keeping his members and customers engaged during the offseason.
McCormick is quick to say that his accomplishments have been helped along by many over the course of his career. He credits PGA of America Members Bill Lee, John Pillar, and Greg Wall, for guiding him and always providing valuable advice. Their mentorship ultimately encouraged him to negotiate with township supervisors to hire additional PGA of America Professionals to Glen Brook’s staff, boosting the club’s operations, as well as jumpstarting deserving PGA of America Golf Professionals’ careers. As part of this hiring process, McCormick welcomed two-time Philadelphia PGA Professional Champion Alex Knoll, who has worked to increase the reach of Glen Brook’s coaching program, which now has over 150 students, up from less than 25 in just a few years.
Another way McCormick has embraced his membership and the local community has been through his “Dinner With the Pro” initiative, in which he hosts regular dinners for about 20 people to answer any questions and discuss how to improve Glen Brook and its operation. Furthermore, he partnered with the club’s Monroe Lady Golfers League to help raise thousands of dollars for local women in need.
McCormick’s service does not end at Glen Brook; he currently serves as the Philadelphia PGA Section’s tournament director, having completed a two-year term as the director of Section affairs, and a stint as the District 4 director. He has served as chair of the PGA REACH Philadelphia Committee, helping to ensure the 501(c)(3) charitable foundation’s mission to positively impact lives through the game of golf via three core pillars: Youth, Military, and Diversity & Inclusion, in addition to serving on the Awards and Teaching & Coaching committees.
This is McCormick’s second Section award; he was previously named the Section’s 2018 Merchandiser of the Year in the Public Category. McCormick lives in Stroudsburg with his bride, Cara, and three daughters, Adalyn, Maelyn, and Evelyn.
Nick Iacono, PGA, the lead golf instructor at Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa., has been named the 2023 Philadelphia PGA of America Teacher & Coach of the Year for his “outstanding services as a golf teacher, innovator and coach.” Since earning his PGA of America Membership in 2014, Iacono has worked to provide top-tier golf instruction at several prime facilities, including the Polo Club of Boca Raton, Elmwood Country Club, Ardsley Country Club, Chester Valley Golf Club, and now the famed Merion Golf Club. Iacono has worked with the club leadership, and their PGA of America Director of Instruction Joanna Coe, to improve the year-round Merion Performance Center, making it a one-stop instructional shop for their students. He has also helped to design and implement programming to facilitate the change of motor patterns, even during the offseason. Some of the educational offerings he offers include “Advanced Wedgeucation” to help students create more spin around the greens, Aimpoint green reading clinics, elite junior golf camps, as well as a staff education series and intern education (co-presented with John Dunigan, PGA) to help shape the next generation of PGA of America Golf Professionals.
While Iacono teaches golfers of all skill levels, several of his students have seen impressive competitive success, including 2023 PGA Professional Champion and 2023 PGA Championship competitor Braden Shattuck, PGA; 2023 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship competitor and two-time Philadelphia PGA Women’s Player of the Year Joanna Coe, PGA; 2023 Philadelphia PGA Silvercrest Cup Champion Dave Pagett, PGA; Philadelphia Assistants’ Organization Tour Champion Anthony Sebastianelli; and 2023 Metropolitan PGA Match Play Champion and 2023 Metropolitan PGA Silvercrest Cup Champion Mike Ballo, PGA.
Iacono’s passion is not limited to the boundaries of Merion, as he has become a certified PGA HOPE national trainer to teach his fellow PGA of America Golf Professionals how to safely and effectively teach U.S. military veterans. PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) is the flagship military program of PGA REACH and PGA REACH Philadelphia, the charitable foundation of the PGA of America and Philadelphia PGA Section. PGA HOPE introduces golf to veterans and active duty military to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. The program introduces the game of golf through a developmental four-to-five week curriculum, led by PGA of America Golf Professionals trained in adaptive golf and military cultural competency. All programs are funded by PGA REACH and supplemented by PGA Section foundations, so the cost of programming is free to all veterans. Additionally, he has presented at multiple golf instruction summits and symposiums, both within the Philadelphia PGA Section and nationally. Iacono has also been named to Golf Digest’s Best Young Teachers in America and Best in State Teacher lists, as well as Golf Magazine‘s Top 100 Teachers list.
Eric Kennedy, PGA, the PGA of America head golf professional at Overbrook Golf Club in Villanova, Pa., is the recipient of the 2023 Philadelphia PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award, an honor he also received in 2014. The award recognizes a PGA of America Golf Professional who demonstrates exceptional character, integrity and leadership, by way of teaching and mentoring other PGA Professionals. Kennedy was also named the Section’s Golf Professional of the Year in 2015. A PGA of America Member for nearly 19 years, Kennedy says his goal as a mentor is to identify each person’s strength’s and weaknesses, and determine how this may affect the person’s ability to reach their goals. In the 18 years serving as a PGA of America head golf professional, he has seen four of his former assistant golf professionals earn head golf professional positions of their own. He says that if young PGA of America Golf Professionals are unsure of which career path they should take, it is his responsibility to help clarify their goals and ensure that they emphasize the required skill set. Kennedy has said that he has developed a unique skillset to recognize and recruit passionate PGA of America Golf Professionals throughout the country, and has implemented it while at Overbrook to improve the club’s overall operations. Furthermore, he believes that a person’s character and integrity can be measured by their reputation, and that his reputation is being someone who genuinely cares about others and is always available; helping others achieve their goals is the measure of a person with good character. In addition to helping his staff achieve their goals and move onto bigger positions, Kennedy has been involved with Section governance both here in the Philadelphia PGA Section and the Carolinas PGA Section. While in the Carolinas, he served the Section’s Hilton Head Chapter in all capacities, and helped create sizable charitable fundraisers for local communities. Here in the Philadelphia Section, Kennedy currently serves as Section secretary, after previously serving as District 6 director and director of tournaments. He has also volunteered his time with “Inside Golf,” a local golf television show that airs on NBC Sports Philadelphia, to promote the industry-wide player development program Get Golf Ready and is currently working on a new project to highlight local PGA of America Golf Professionals and their careers.
Brian Soulé, PhD, PGA, the Section’s 2023 Professional Development Award recipient, is an associate teaching professor, director of world campus programs for Penn State University’s Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management, and assistant director for the university’s PGA Golf Management program. Soulé says that an integral part of his job is to develop, deliver, and advance education programs both at Penn State and with the PGA of America. In his 14 years of service at the university, he has mentored over 250 future PGA of America Golf Professionals. In addition to his official duties, Soulé has been organizing an annual PGA Golf Management Intern Conference since 2011. The conference is held in the northeast each summer with the goal of providing education, networking, and professional growth opportunities to PGA of America Students enrolled in any of the 17 PGA of America-accredited programs. Since its inception, the event has grown to host over 400 students and industry professionals. Furthermore, Soulé has volunteered his time to serve on several national and university-specific PGA of America committees, helping to create an international internship framework, refine program curriculum, and improve the way the PGA of America’s education is delivered.
Mike Wood, PGA, is the PGA of America director of golf at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa., and the recipient of the Section’s 2023 Patriot Award. The award bestows special recognition on a PGA of America Golf Professional who personifies patriotism through the game of golf and demonstrates an unwavering commitment and dedication to the men and women who have valiantly served and protected our country. He was named the Section’s 2022 Golf Professional of the Year, and has worked at Saucon Valley since 2003 and has served in his current role since 2021. The club has a long history of supporting Patriot Golf Day, and since 2007, has raised over $20,000 to provide scholarships to the spouses and children of America’s fallen or disabled military. Saucon Valley also recently hosted the Folds of Honor’s Eastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey Chapter’s Wingman Open, which featured a field of 292 players. Over the course of the past two years, the event has raised over $500,000, making it the largest single-day Folds of Honor fundraiser on the east coast. Wood was also instrumental in opening one of PGA HOPE Philadelphia’s newest chapters in 2023. The new program hosted over 60 veterans between their spring and fall sessions, and has plans to grow in the coming years. As part of PGA HOPE, Wood led a team of veterans to victory in the Section’s inaugural HOPE Cup at Riverton Country Club in New Jersey. As a result of their victory, the team will represent the Section at the 2024 PGA of America Secretary’s Cup during PGA Championship week in Louisville, Kentucky. Wood has also worked closely to host other events that assist veterans, such as the National Amputee Golf Association’s First Swing and Learn to Golf clinics, and the Eastern Amputee Golf Association’s Adaptive Golf Championship.
Robert Munkittrick, PGA, the director of tournaments and director of women’s Operation 36 at DuPont Country Club in Wilmington, Del., is the recipient of the Section’s 2023 Player Development Award. This honor bestows special recognition to a PGA of America Member who has displayed extraordinary and exemplary contributions and achievements in the area of player development. A PGA of America Member since 1992, Munkittrick says that his player development goal is to create and implement programs that enable individuals to enjoy learning, and that build camaraderie, and foster a lifelong love of the game of golf. Over the course of his career, he has earned PGA of America Certification in Teaching & Coaching, and has been certified by TPI, SuperSpeed Golf, and Golf Genius. He has also served on the Indiana PGA Section’s Board of Directors, as chair of that Section’s Education Committee, and as a member of their Member Relations Committee. Operation 36 also named him a Top 50 Coach in 2022. As the director of tournaments at DuPont, Munkittrick is responsible for 34 club-wide member events, 39 weekly league and special league events, 42 corporate events and charity outings, and six indoor golf leagues. As the director of the facility’s women’s Operation 36, he builds, markets, administers, and instructs three semester-long programs for women. Each program consists of eight weeks of one-hour classes and four nine-hole play day challenges. In the three years since its inception, Munkittrick has shepherded more than 350 women through the program. In fact, the program has been so successful that Operation 36 now uses DuPont as a national case study to help other golf facilities replicate their success. Munkittrick was also the head golf coach at Sanford High School for seven seasons, prior to moving into his current assistant golf coach role. Before working at DuPont, Munkittrick led the youth golf camps at Hartefeld National, and implemented Get Golf Ready, PGA Junior Camps, and Operation 36 at the facility.
Becky Dengler, PGA, is a dual PGA of America and LPGA Member, a LPGA Master Professional and golf instructor at Ed Oliver Golf Club in Wilmington, Del., and the Section’s 2023 Youth Player Development Award recipient. The award is given annually to a PGA of America Golf Professional who has made extraordinary and exemplary contributions and achievements in the area of youth player development. Dengler has also served as the program coordinator, coach and consultant for the Urban Youth Golf Program of Delaware since its inception in 1994, then under the LPGA, now the First Tee of Delaware. As a result, she has also earned her certification as a First Tee coach, and has served as a national trainer for the First Tee’s national office. She also works with the First Tee’s mentoring program to train youth golfers to help them achieve their goals. While working with the First Tee, she helped increase the percentage of girls active in the program, and strongly increased their school-based programming to reach more inner-city schools. Through the Urban Youth Golf Program, she created the Barbara Dengler Scholarship in honor of her late mother. Over $100,000 has been awarded to deserving high school seniors to assist them with financial aid at the college level. Dengler has worked in multiple roles while hosting LPGA / USGA Girls Golf programs, and ran clinics in conjunction with what is now known as the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Additionally, Dengler works with Women Golfers Give Back to offer six Players Program sites around the Philadelphia PGA Section. The program provides coaching for young female golfers beyond the introductory level.
Sam Ambrose, PGA, the PGA of America head golf professional at Chester Valley Golf Club in Malvern, Pa., has been named the Section’s 2023 Merchandiser of Year for the Private Category. The award recognizes PGA of America Golf Professionals working at a private golf facility who have excelled in business and merchandising in the promotion of golf. Ambrose, a PGA of America Member since 2011, personally spends 40 percent of his workdays in merchandising the golf shop he owns. His merchandising philosophy is centered around exceptional customer service. While he says Chester Valley’s merchandising approach is strong, they are aways improving, and willing to tweak, expand, or adjust in an effort to stay ahead of the curve. In a way to improve service and customer trust, the Chester Valley golf shop staff has started to reach out to club members in advance of their significant others’ birthdays to see if they can offer any assistance. Also in 2023, the club celebrated its centennial, and worked with renowned artist and Philadelphia native Lee Wybranski to create a centennial logo. The Pennsylvania Railroad Lantern logo that was used pays homage to the club’s inception, founded by railroad executives. The logo was included on 100 percent of the merchandise offered in the golf shop, and was well-received by the members.
Brian Short, PGA, the PGA of America head golf professional at Penn State Golf Courses in State College, Pa., has been named the Section’s 2023 Merchandiser of Year for the Public Category. The award recognizes PGA of America Golf Professionals working at a public golf facility who have excelled in business and merchandising in the promotion of golf. Short was elected to PGA of America Membership in 2010, while working as an assistant golf professional at Penn State; he took over as head golf professional in 2017. While he has many different responsibilities across the facility, he spends a minimum of three to four hours per day on the merchandising operation. In addition to the brick and mortar shop, he also runs an online golf shop so customers may stock up on gear while not at the course. He has added an extensive amount of SKUs to the online shop requiring a fair amount of backend web work. Another way his shop has remained successful is by offering multiple logo options for sale; the shop sells merchandise with the golf course logo, as well as the Penn State Athletics’s Nittany Lion logo. His professional staff strives for excellence by providing a quality product, for a fair price, within a comfortable family atmosphere. Additionally, Short changes the physical shop’s layout once per month to keep everything fresh. Outside of the shop, he has offered his expertise to fellow PGA of America Golf Professionals via PGA Magazine‘s PGA of America Golf Professionals’ Best Practices Series.
Fred Heller, PGA, is the first assistant golf professional at Rolling Green Golf Club in Springfield, Pa., and the Section’s 2023 Deacon Palmer Award recipient. The award bestows special recognition to a PGA of America Golf Professional who personally displays outstanding integrity, character and leadership, in the effort to overcome a major obstacle in their life. This individual is an unsung hero/heroine at their facility and in their community, who serves to inspire, empower and assist others, both inside and outside of the game. In 2006, Heller was diagnosed with cancer and had his knee and seven and a half inches of his tibia removed. In 2018, the cancer returned and he had his right leg amputated above his knee following an infection. Heller said experiencing this challenging situation completely changed his outlook on life; every day, he simply wants to smile and make everyone around him smile and appreciate life, given it can change in an instant. Since his amputation, Heller works to teach at as many disabled golf clinics as possible each year, including the Good Shepherd Learn to Golf Clinic, Drexel University classes, the National Amputee Golf Association’s clinics, and the Golf Association of Philadelphia’s new adaptive golf programming. He recently started coaching a youth golfer who also lost his leg to amputation, and has since made his high school golf team. Heller also says that many Rolling Green members have told him that he is an inspiration when they see him play golf, which only motivates to promote the game of golf more.
Bridget McLaughlin, PGA, is the first assistant golf professional at Tavistock (New Jersey) Country Club, and the Section’s 2023 Justin Riegel Assistant Golf Professional of the Year. The award recognizes PGA of America Golf Professionals who have excelled in business and merchandising in the promotion of golf, and is named for the late Justin Riegel, a past Section Assistant Golf Professional of the Year. McLaughlin says that growing up learning to play the game of golf from her parents and working as a PGA of America assistant golf professional has taught her how to be adaptable in an industry that is ever-changing. It is her responsibility to stay organized and flexible when changes are needed to be made to the operation. She says that working at both Tavistock and St. Davids Golf Club in Wayne, Pa., allowed her to learn all aspects of a successful golf operation, and learn to adjust her involvement based on the clubs’ needs. McLaughlin prioritizes service over profit; she says it is more important to create trusting relationships with members so that they know I will always do what is best for them. She also says that being an approachable manager is very important so that staff members feel they have opportunities to ask questions or present ideas in a safe space. Outside of Tavistock, McLaughlin volunteers for the Section’s Women’s Committee to help create networking and education opportunties for the Section’s women members. Recently, she ran a leadership summit for the J. Wood Platt Caddie Scholarship Trust. The session was designed for women to provide a welcoming and fun atmosphere while being introduced to the game of golf. Included in the discussions were the barriers women and minority groups frequently face during their entry into the game, and what can be done to make the sport less intimidating. McLaughlin has also served as head coach for Eastern University’s women’s golf team, and helped to run clinics for the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, and Operation 36 programs.
Kevin McClellan, the founder and owner of KM Golf Sales in Glenside, Pa., is the Section’s 2023 Salesperson of the Year, an award he previously won in 1998, 2018, and 2020. This award recognizes a sales representative who contributes to the Section and is involved with sponsoring Section events. They are also respected among their fellow Section clubs and have implemented new ideas to assist growing the game of golf. McClellan, a golf industry veteran of 33 years, currently represents Cutter & Buck, Ahead, Heritage Creations, Dynamic Brands, and Temercraft. He says his philosophy has always been straightforward and simple: work hard, be honest, communicate well, and treat each customer like a business partner. McClellan says he has been fortunate to work with some of the industry’s best buyers, merchandisers, designers, logo developers, and business minds, and that sharing that knowledge helps each of his customers become more educated and successful in their own business ventures.
About the Philadelphia PGA Section
The Philadelphia PGA Section, covering eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and Delaware, is one of 41 geographical managing entities of the PGA of America. This Section manages nearly 900 PGA Members and Associates who are employed at over 590 golf facilities in our region.
Contact: Matt Frey, PGA, Communications Director, Philadelphia PGA Section, email@example.com