April 1, 2016

Celebrating the PGA Centennial

To help commemorate the PGA of America’s 100th year, Golf Range Magazine has asked 100 influential PGA Professionals and golf industry experts to share their most memorable range experiences. This collection of short stories emphasizes the important role that the practice range has played in the lives of people who rely on golf for their livelihood. Over the next 100 years, the range will continue to be a pivotal part of the industry and the lives of the people who call golf their passion.

“The 2003 U.S. Senior Open at Inverness Club, where I was the head golf professional at the time, was the last time Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player all played in the same major championship. On Wednesday afternoon, all three players were hitting balls on the practice range with quite a crowd watching. What made this afternoon even more interesting was the presence of Toledo native and golfing great, Frank Stranahan – who arguably had the greatest amateur record behind Bobby Jones (he was runner-up in the British Open and Masters in the same year, won the Canadian, Mexican, and British Amateur in the same year, and won the L.A. Open). Mr. Stranahan came into the golf shop that afternoon and we visited for a few minutes before I asked him if we wanted to go to the range to say hello to some of the players. We went out there and to my amazement, Mr. Nicklaus, Palmer and Player all stopped hitting balls and walked over at the same time and warmly greeted Mr. Stranahan, all with me standing five feet away. I was lucky to witness a small piece of golf history and have a cherished practice range moment!” – David Graf, PGA Master Professional, Golf Performance Institute of Toledo (Ohio)

“No one in my family played golf. We had a swim membership at a muni facility with a driving range and nine holes. I liked a girl in my class who was on the girl’s golf team. She was always on the range, so I borrowed a club to meet her socially. Ended up not caring for the girl, but falling in love with golf from hitting that eight iron on that range.” –Rich Smith, PGA, Executive Director/CEO, North Florida PGA Section

“In late July of 1990, my father asked me if I wanted to go hit some balls at the golf course at Fort Belvoir (Virginia). The golf course was our place to hang out and spend time together. It was on the range he told me that he would be deployed for Operation Desert Shield. He knew that a 12-year-old boy would want to be somewhere he felt happy and safe when he finds out his dad is going to war. “ – Keith Soriano, PGA, Player Development & Operations Director, Colorado PGA Section

“One of my fondest memories is growing up shagging my own balls on the driving range at Caveland Country Club, Rowletts, Kentucky. This is where I fell in love with the game of golf!” – Grant Sturgeon, PGA assistant professional, Winged Foot Golf Club, Mamaroneck, New York

“During my childhood, my brother, Greg, and I would hit balls in the late afternoon at Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, California, where we grew up. We’d often times stay out there until dark. We were almost always competing in some fashion, whether it was around accuracy, distance or a combination of the two. Remembering those days ‘on the range’ brings back a flood of great memories.” – Steve Mona, CEO, World Golf Foundation

“OTHER THAN COLLEGE, I’ve made more friends on the practice range and the golf course than anywhere else in my life.” – Michael C. Jones, PGA assistant professional, Miramar Memorial Golf Course, San Diego, California

“I remember the first 21 Golf Ball Salute we conducted in conjunction with Patriot Golf Day at Treetops. Duane Bucklin, father of the fallen Corporal Brock Bucklin, was on hand to yell out… ‘READY, AIM, FIRE’… and 21 veterans from all different branches fired drives onto the range at once.” – Kevin McKinley, PGA director of golf, Tree Tops Resort, Gaylord, Michigan

“At 16 years old, I was the ‘range picking specialist’ at Antelope Hills Golf Course in Prescott, Arizona. What really made my job special was our vehicle. It was a 1970s powder blue Volkswagen bug with chicken wire for the windows! Oh, the hours I logged into that fine machine!” – Eric Eshleman, PGA director of golf, The Country Club of Birmingham (Alabama)