(2019 Awards – Details Below)
Annually the Wisconsin PGA honors several golf professionals throughout the section for their great accomplishments on and off the course. Scroll down to nominate deserving professionals in our Section. The deadline to submit nominations is November 6, 2019.
After a professional is nominated it is his or her choice as to whether to submit materials for consideration. Materials are generally due by early December. The materials are then reviewed by a different sub-committee for each award. The WPGA Past President then takes their feedback and finalists are determined. Once the finalists have been selected, their materials are forwarded on to the finalist committee made up of the District Directors, Independent Directors and WPGA Executive Director. The finalist committee then votes on their top choice for each award. Once all the votes have been compiled, the winners are notified in February and the information is released to the general public a week or two later. The winners are then recognized for their accomplishment at the Spring Meeting awards ceremony.
Jim Buyze, the PGA head professional at Wild Ridge/Mill Run (Eau Claire) has been named the Wisconsin PGA Golf Professional of the Year. The WPGA’s highest honor goes to the professional that exhibits qualities of leadership, a substantial record of service and strong character at their position, in their community and within the PGA.
Buyze is a two-time WPGA Horton Smith Award winner (2000/2018), which shows his long-term commitment to the education of PGA members and associates. In his role as an adjunct faculty member for the PGA of America, he has the ability to assist and influence the associates coming into the business. Not only does he believe in educating other golf professionals, he also has bettered himself through PGA certified program. In the past five years he has completed certifications in Player Development and Golf Operations.
The Sterling, Illinois native also won the 1996 WPGA Merchandiser of the Year for resort courses, showing his versatility as a golf professional.
After graduating from Ferris State University in 1991, Buyze began as the head professional at Geneva National Golf Club. After two seasons at GN, he moved across town and spent five years as the head professional at Grand Geneva Resort & Spa. From there it was on to Eau Claire where he has served as the PGA head professional since 2005. Buyze is instrumental in the daily operations at the 36-hole facility. As with most daily fee facilities, revenue and round generation is at the top of the list of priorities. An integral part to creating that revenue stream is his coordination, oversight, and creation of the leagues and outings that fill the tee sheets daily.
Wild Ridge/Mill Run also understands that player development is a key part to generating rounds, and Buyze takes the lead with that as well. He has started numerous programs that serve the area, including bringing PGA Junior League to northwest Wisconsin. Also on that is list is a program that has the staff providing lessons at neighboring non-PGA facilities.
He was surprised when he got the news from WPGA Honorary President Rob Elliott.
“I was speechless when I got the call. It’s extremely humbling to even be mentioned in the same breath with the many outstanding golf professionals in our section,” Buyze told the Wisconsin PGA via email.
“To me this is a tribute to the people I work with as well as all the people that have given me opportunities, taken time to help me through my challenges, and shared their knowledge, experience and expertise. I don’t remember the last time an original idea of mine has accomplished as much as the ideas of the people that I have had the privilege of interacting with.”
Other Tidbit – Who is in Jim’s dream foursome?
Me, Michael Jordan, Bill Gates, and my son Nate
For the second time in five years, Travis Becker, the Director of Instruction at Ironworks Golf Academy and Beloit Club is the recipient of the WPGA Teacher of the Year. Becker is being recognized for his outstanding services as a golf teacher, innovator and coach.
Becker, a Holmen native and graduate of the Golf Academy of San Diego has been mentored by a couple of the best teachers in WPGA history, Dennis and Larry Tiziani. It was at Cherokee CC where Becker discovered his passion for teaching, coaching and club fitting. A move to Beloit and the creation of the Ironworks Golf Academy have allowed him to put his own touches on instruction and fitting.
The former top 100 club fitter for Titleist (2008 & 2009) teaches over 1,200 individual lessons per season. His eight different junior programs reached over 400 kids in 2018. Becker uses the best technology available to assist with his lessons and fittings. He has taught an impressive list of students whose accomplishments range from playing on a professional tour to improving their handicaps significantly.
When asked what the award means Becker stated, “The Wisconsin section has so many fantastic PGA Professionals, so I am truly humbled and honored to win this award. This is one of my greatest accomplishments in my career. Thank you to all my fellow professionals, students, and family. This award means more than words can say!”
This is the third WPGA special award for the Sun Prairie resident. Previously he won the Teacher of the Year award in 2015 and also was named Assistant Golf Professional of the Year in 2009.
Other Tidbit – Who is in Travis’ dream foursome?
Me, my grandpa, my dad and my son.
Madison native John Bailey is being honored as the 17th Wisconsin Section Assistant Professional of the Year. The Maple Bluff assistant professional is the third individual to win the honor from a Madison area club.
Bailey’s journey to his PGA membership started at a young age when he began working for Rob Muranyi, PGA at Monona Golf Course. He would stay on board at the facility for the next thirteen years and learn a lot about the business from Muranyi. It was also during this timeframe he would get a chance to win a state high school golf championship and play college golf. Much like many young golfers the job helped Bailey hone his own game, but also taught him that golf can be a career.
After finishing up his education at Edgewood College in 2009 it was on to the PGA PGM program. His completion of the program and election to membership would come in June of 2014 during a short stint at Odana Hills GC. Just six weeks later he would be brought on board at Maple Bluff CC.
During the past five years Bailey has become a key player in the golf operation at the club and this past season saw him continue to take on more responsibilities. Included in his role is the management of the outside golf staff and bag room, oversight of the caddie program, conducting private lessons and numerous adult clinics, managing the club’s two PGA Junior League teams and helping conduct nearly 100 combined events and outings during the year.
The TPI Certified instructor also sits on the Wisconsin Assistant Professionals Golf Association committee, has volunteered for First Tee of Southwest Wisconsin numerous times and also helped conduct other growth of the game clinics in the community.
“I am very honored to be the recipient of the 2019 Assistant Professional of the Year. I know how many great assistant professionals there are in our section, so to win this award is very humbling,” Bailey said in a written statement. “I share it with my parents who have supported me in everything I have ever done, the many assistants I have had the pleasure of working with and the great people I have worked for and have learned from.”
Other Tidbit – My favorite thing to do outside of golf is: I enjoy bowling during the winter months and love spending time with family and friends.
Kari Tomash, PGA Teaching Professional at Cedar Rapids CC is the recipient of the 2019 WPGA Youth Player Development Award. This honor recognizes a PGA Professional who displayed extraordinary contributions in the area of youth player development.
Tomash, a 13-year PGA member, spent the past 7 years at Butte des Morts Country Club before recently moving to Cedar Rapids. Previously she spent time at various private clubs around the country including Ozaukee CC, Daniel Island Club, Winchester CC, Tedesco CC and Rolling Green CC. It was the varied experience that provided her with the background and training to excel in the junior space.
During her time at Butte des Morts, she created programs that led to a 300% increase in participation with over 200 juniors engaged in one of her programs. Tomash is a certified coach with The First Tee of Northeast Wisconsin and has implemented the Core Values of The First Tee seamlessly into her programming. She has assisted with programs at the YMCA , the Boys & Girls Club and the LPGA’s Girl’s Golf clinics. In 2018, she implemented Operation36 at BDM and saw incredible results of seeing young students progress to longer yardages throughout the season.
Tomash was the driving force to expanding and creating a more dynamic PGA Junior League in the Fox Valley area. She reached out to area facilities in the early stages and encouraged them to participate based on the merits of the program. BDM now fields two teams each season and Tomash has served as an All-Star captain for the area. Drive, Chip & Putt is another area of focus for Tomash’s juniors. She conducts practice sessions for her students to better prepare them for the local qualifiers. The results are proof that practice works. Two of her students made the regionals at Whistling Straits in 2018.
When asked about her feelings toward winning the award, Tomash wrote, “Receiving the Youth Player Development Award for the Wisconsin PGA is extremely special to me. There are many things I love about being a PGA Golf Professional but being able to coach young athletes and be a part of their golf journey is the greatest honor I could have. Being called “Coach Kari” has all the feels as being called “Mom”.”
Other Tidbit – Who is in Kari’s dream foursome?
Me, my dad, my son and Dave Matthews at Augusta.
The Horton Smith Award is designed to recognize individual PGA professionals for their outstanding and continuing contributions in developing and improving educational opportunities for Wisconsin PGA professionals. Vince Pulizzano of Westmoor CC is the 2019 winner. Pulizzano has been a member of the WPGA education committee for the past three years.
The Chicago native is another in a long-line of successful PGA professionals to graduate from Ferris State University (2004). Pulizzano spent five years as an assistant to Jeff Mory at Conway Farms before becoming the head professional at the esteemed Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone, New Jersey. From there it was on to Wisconsin and Westmoor CC as the new head PGA professional in 2014. Pulizzano proved to be on the fast track as he secured the position at Westmoor CC as a seasoned 32-year-old.
As a member of the education committee Pulizzano has strived to bring interesting and topical seminars to the WPGA professionals. Seminars such as Social Media – be careful what you tweet for and Harassment in the Workplace, have enticed members to attend relevant seminars different than the normal teaching and merchandising workshops. He also led the way for the section to offer fast track certification in Golf Operations and in the process earned his first PGA certification.
The father of two credits his own mentors for his passion for education, the care of the development of his staff and all fellow PGA professionals and associates around the country.
“I’ve been fortunate to work with/for golf professionals who made it a point to put their staff ahead of their goals. These selfless acts of education, guidance and mentoring have been ingrained into my being and are a part of what I do every day. Our team at Westmoor means the world to me and providing guidance and education to them is paramount to my position. This trickles down to fellow Professionals across the country and locally who I always make time for. Educating our fellow Wisconsin PGA Professionals is something I care deeply about,” said Pulizzano when asked about his thoughts on the importance of education.
Pulizzano is also a past winner of the WPGA Merchandiser of the Year award for private facilities.
Other Tidbit – Vince’s favorite thing to do outside of golf is: Be a Dad… I spend too much time at work in the summer so I take advantage of family time as much as possible.
Oconomowoc Golf Club Head PGA Professional Chuck Wood has done it again. The Nashotah resident has earned his second WPGA Player Development award in the past five years. Wood is the third individual to win the award multiple times since it was introduced in 2006. He also has been recognized as the Section’s private merchandiser of the year in 2003 and the teacher of the year in 2016.
The thirty-four year member of the PGA of America presented another impressive case on why he is a proven leader in player development in the game of golf. He truly has a one track mind on how to continue to grow the game, make his home club a better place to enjoy the game and helping his members get better at the game.
Noteworthy ideas and accomplishments that have come to fruition in the recent years has been Wood’s continued commitment to golf in schools, becoming a PGA certified professional in player development plus instruction, and creating a Golfnasium in the dining area of the club during the winter months. The Golfnasium offers multiple simulators, extensive teaching devices and putting mats. He also was able to see finish line of an detailed six year plan to get his membership to “Tee it Forward”. The plan included extensive member education, statistical research and the addition of new tee boxes on the course.
The Lawrence University graduate was also excited to see his second student accomplish the goal of qualifying for the National Drive, Chip and Putt finals at Augusta National. This coming spring he will accompany Sarah Balding to the event and play the important role of caddie as she competes.
“I am extremely proud to be recognized with the Player Development Award honor and very happy to say that I have been the point person for a number of successful growth of the game initiatives,” Wood stated. “The award also reflects the efforts of many who have supported the programs: an engaged membership, a golf operations staff that understands that their work is not a job but a commitment, as well as school phy ed teachers and golf coaches who recognize the core values of the game. Their support is crucial to any growth of the game initiatives.”
Other Tidbit – My favorite thing to do outside of golf is: Attend any blues band concert: Bryan Lee, Danny Miller Band, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy… to name a few.
The Bill Strausbaugh Award is presented each year to the PGA member who has shown outstanding integrity, commitment to mentoring PGA professionals and has made a significant impact on the careers of PGA professionals.
Over the course of the past 42 years as a PGA member Rich Tock has personified exactly what the Bill Strausbaugh is awarded for. He has left a lasting impression on the individuals that have worked for and with him, while conducting himself in the utmost professional manner. All you have to do is take a journey around the annual PGA Merchandise Show and his name pops up. He truly is a PGA ambassador.
The 34th recipient of the honor has been on board at Erin Hills since 2010 and was able to be an integral part of the 2017 U.S. Open and 2011 U.S. Amateur. He also spent 21 years as the head PGA professional at Ozaukee CC and 11 years in the same role at South Hills G&CC.
The Mequon resident has been recognized with honors for his work in several areas of the game including teaching, playing and association participation. From the Wisconsin PGA alone he has been awarded the Golf Professional of the Year in 1989 and 2008, Teacher of the Year in 1990, Merchandiser of the Year (Private) in 1995 and recently the 2016 Horton Smith award. He also has won numerous WPGA events and is a 6-time WPGA Senior Player of the Year.
In addition to his awards he also helped created the Wisconsin Assistant Professionals Association and was the Section president in 1987 and 1988.
“PGA Professionals do not give their time or mentor interns, assistant professionals, or head professionals to win awards. I am honored and humbled by my peers voting me as the Bill Strausbaugh Award winner. I will continue to mentor PGA Professionals, Assistant Professionals, and all those wishing to enter into this wonderful business,” Tock said in about the honor.
“I still love going to work and having the opportunity to work for Mr. Andy Ziegler. Thank you for all those that have touched my life with this game of golf. And thank you to my father who exposed me to this game at age 10, god bless his sole. But most important, thank you to my lovely bride of 38 years, Barb Tock who has had to live without me around on weekends for all those years.”
Other Tidbit – My favorite thing to do outside of golf is: Travel with Barb and spend time with my daughter, Alison.
(Dennis Tiziani, Robbie Burns & Jeff Unger – Accepting the award on Bob’s behalf)
The second ever recipient of the Patriot Award in the Wisconsin Section, PGA is Bob Burns of Bob Burns Golf in Appleton. The PGA Master Professional is a 41 year member of the PGA of America. Burns was also honored by the WPGA back in 2007 as the Teacher of the Year.
The Patriot Award goes to a PGA Professional who embodies patriotism and shows dedication to the men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces.
For Burns the honor is not in recognition of what he has done over the past year but a proud representation of what he has spent more than 25 years doing. His emphasis on helping veterans really kicked into high gear after the Gulf War and was reinforced once again after a visit to speak to the 8th Congressional Congress on disabilities in 2007. Visiting with disabled veterans at Walter Reed Hospital during this trip to Washington D.C. was a life changing event.
The impressive work he has done has ranged from developing numerous devices and clubs to help veterans with disabilities play the game, contributing to multiple fundraising and wounded warrior events on a yearly basis, and organizing several golf outreach programs with the help of the Wisconsin National Guard Association. Last but not least he gives his own time to teach the game to these veterans.
“The award consideration materials that Bob submitted are very impressive to say the least,” WPGA Special Awards Chairperson Rob Elliott said about the honoree.
For these efforts Burns was honored as a 2014 Patrick Henry Award recipient by the National Guard Association of the United States. The Patrick Henry Award was created in 1989 and is designed to provide recognition to local officials and civic leaders, who in a position of great responsibility distinguished themselves with outstanding and exceptional service to the Armed Forces of the United States, the National Guard or NGAUS
Other Tidbit – Bob’s golf-specific superstition: I always keep my 1966 “Ben Hogan Special” Sand Wedge in my golf bag. I got it when I was a senior in high school. I still like to give short game lessons with it.
Winning the Merchandiser of the Year is not an easy task. Winning twice in a row against the highly competitive private club market has never been done before. Now, Skip Simonds of Milwaukee Country Club has done just that.
How does one accomplish such a feat? Let’s start with increasing sales and margins in a year where rounds were down by over 10%. Simonds and his team have increased their focus on fitting over the past few seasons and the results are paying off with satisfied members. Those members are then spending more time in the golf shop and making more purchases from the shop. The focus at MCC has long been to provide the best service and selection possible while keeping with the tradition of the club.
Simonds credits much of his success to a couple of items. One is the mentorship and training he received from WPGA legend Manual de la Torre as an assistant for Manuel. The other main influences were Tom Gees and Tim Skogen during Simond’s forays to the desert at Ranch las Palmas resort.
The second item is the staff at Milwaukee Country Club. “I take a lot of pride in what I do as a PGA golf professional and receiving this recognition is very gratifying,” Simonds said. “I am very fortunate to work with an outstanding and talented group of assistant professionals and interns. Our success is a team effort and I’m very proud and happy for the young men and women who work with me at Milwaukee Country Club.”
Mike Bastian, the long-time Polo representative offered “It comes as no surprise that Skip has won merchandiser of the year again. From his beautifully curated shop, to the attention to detail with each crafted display…Ralph Lauren himself would be impressed by the shop that Skip has created.”
Other Tidbit – Skip’s golf-specific superstition:
I only keep one tee in my right pocket when playing golf.
Our only first-time winner in the Merchandiser of the Year category is Matt Boesch, head PGA professional at Hawk’s View Golf Course in Lake Geneva. The Pasco, Washington native has been in his current role at Hawk’s View since 2011 and was on board as assistant professional prior to that. He is a graduate of Ferris State University and is also a PGA certified professional in general management.
The shopping experience at Hawk’s View is one that has been created through years of mentorship by PGA Professional, Chuck Dammeir. Boesch has taken what he has learned from his predecessor and added his own touches to develop one of the best golf shops in the state. At Hawk’s View, ladies golf and ladies apparel is not a side show. Almost 40% of the soft goods sold in the shop are to women. Boesch truly understands to grow the game and the business, the course and the golf shop must be engaging to everyone.
“When I learned I won the award, my first call was to Chuck Dammeir to thank him for everything he taught me, especially in the merchandising aspect of the operation,” Boesch said via email. “It’s a special feeling for me for Chuck to be proud of my accomplishments, as I always tried to absorb everything he taught me along the way as an apprentice and his assistant.”
Boesch has also been recognized as a Callaway Certified Master Club Fitter and is able to utilize the on-site simulators to increase equipment sales during the off-season winter months. The use of the simulators has helped the club create an overall 10% growth in golf shop sales while almost 1/3 of club sales occur in the winter.
Del Kolasinski, Callaway Golf sales representative offered this take on the Hawk’s View operation,
“Matt’s golf shop is a great example of a retail space that provides an engaging experience. He makes sure to provide his customer base with the products they want, with service that is beyond their expectation. Through training and marketing he is able to grow his business year after year. The time, energy, and focus he dedicates to the business are a direct relationship to the results he achieves.” Kolasinski wrote via email. “Matt also works hard on hiring and developing the right people. His leadership is displayed in how enthusiastic and knowledgeable his team is, and that is something you can feel every time you enter the property. This award is well deserved, congratulations Matt.”
Other Tidbit – Who is in Matt’s dream foursome?:
Me, Tiger Woods, John Daly & Charles Barkley
The Wild Rock Golf Club merchandising operation is being recognized as this year’s resort recipient for the fourth time overall. The honor is Stein’s second WPGA merchandising award, with the other one coming in 2009.
The Madison native is the fourth 2019 award winner to have graduated from Ferris State University. He was elected to PGA membership in 2000 and has been in his current role as general manager at Wild Rock since 2014.
“Being recognized by your peers for an award like this is amazing,” Stein wrote about the accolade. “Then to win and join the other professionals that have set the bar so high is truly an honor.”
In a year where poor weather got the best of the golf industry in Wisconsin, the club was able to increase their total shop sales by seven percent over the previous year. It was an accomplishment that was not taken lightly and attributed to a total team effort. That effort stems from Stein creating and incorporating an environment where the rest of his professional staff is very involved in the buying and decision making process.
In addition to the collaborative process, Stein credits successful techniques such as bundling items together as a package, running promotions that incorporate merchandise along with golf, lunch and an item such as a ticket to the American Family Insurance Championship, and finally getting creative with out-of-box items from non-golf brands.
“Pat Stein is a pure example of professionalism in his chosen career. His organizational skills show an attention to detail that is demanded in the performance of his job. He takes the knowledge of his customer base and applies his buying plan towards the correct mix of product that he knows he needs to meet budget…and usually exceeds,”. Dave Denoyer of Under Armour conveyed via email. “His drive and determination to achieve the tasks at hand offer up proven results and allow him to showcase his merchandising talents.”
Other Tidbit – Pat’s golf-specific superstition: I mark my golf ball with three red dots. One mark for each one of my family members and red for my love of the Wisconsin Badgers
A first class playing resume became that much more impressive after another award winning season by Madison native Jim Schuman. After becoming the first WPGA member on record to claim both the OMEGA WPGA player of the year and senior player of the year honors in the same season in 2017, the 55 year old performed the feat once again.
On paper the results will show a similar result and margin from year to year, but the road to the titles for Schuman were definitely different.
In 2017 he used some unforgettable wins to get the job done in the member race, while 2018 was highlighted by a great run of consistency and a very important national finish.
The PGA director of instruction at Blue Mound Golf & Country Club once again got his year off to a nice start. Over the course of the first month of the season he produced top two finishes in the first two stroke play competitions, advanced through the first three rounds of the WPGA Match Play, and carded a top six finish at the Hornung’s Classic. Next up for Schuman was a trip to the PGA Professional Championship. Over the course of the four days he was the lone representative from the Wisconsin Section to make both cuts and in the end he was able to finish in a tie for 38th. His great play on the national level helped him jump out to almost a 200 point lead in the member point race.
“To earn those points nationally was such a key,” Schuman said about the member race.
Over the course of the next few months the two-time Wisconsin State Open champion would hold on to that lead and post another top two finish at the Prestwick Golf Group Classic, a top 15 finish at the Wisconsin State Open, and navigated his way through two more rounds of the WPGA Match Play.
However that lead would be just about cut in half as David Roesch was able to defeat Schuman in the finals of the WPGA Match Play in early September. The win by Roesch would put him within striking distance as the duo headed to the final point event of the season, the WPGA Professional Championship.
With the member player of the year race on the line the two players would find themselves paired together during the final round and each with a shot to win the championship. Over the course of the 18 holes they would battle it out along with several others for the win. In the end each player came up just short, as Joe Leonard would close strong and grab the win, leaving Roesch in second place and Schuman in third.
“So many things go on during an event, you’re definitely cognizant of the situation and thinking about how it affects the player of the year race,” Schuman said during a phone interview.
With only a small amount of ground gained by Roesch, the final tally in the member race was Schuman with 1215 points to Roesch’s 1137.5.
On the senior side of things Schuman was able to run the table by earning victories at all three of the Wisconsin PGA’s major senior championships, the WPGA Senior Match Play, Wisconsin Senior PGA Professional Championship and Wisconsin State Senior Open. His play was so good at the Wisconsin State Senior Open that he was the only player in the sixty-eight player field to finish under par, giving him a seven shot win.
He also was able to be the low senior professional at six other events that were eligible for senior points. The highlight of that great run came at the local U.S. Senior Open qualifier as he claimed the medalist spot for the second straight season and another trip to the nation’s top senior event.
“By far winning our senior events on the local level tops my national finishes last year,” Schuman said. “To win these awards two years in a row in two different ways is very special”
Schuman has now earned WPGA player of the year honors five times (he also did it in 2001, ’02, ’11 and last year). The WPGA senior player of the year honor is his fourth straight.
With his PGA membership in sight WPGA associate Mick Smith put together quite the season en route to the 2018 OMEGA WAGPA Player of the Year award. The native Australian earned over 1000 points and his margin over second place finisher Andy Hansen was more than 250 points.
He became just the fourth player in the past 25 years to win both the WPGA assistant professional match play and stroke play titles in the same season. The win at the National Car Rental WAGPA Stroke Play Championship came in a dominant fashion as he posted a 7-under-par 137 at the Pines Course at Lake Arrowhead GC. The score was good enough to win by five shots over his nearest pursuers. Nice finishes at the WAGPA Stroke Play, Prestwick Golf Group Classic, WSGA/WPGA Summer Showdown and the Wisconsin State Open also helped along the way.
“It was a great year, I’m very happy to have won both championships,” Smith said. “The wins definitely help for the future as I move into the PGA member only events.”
For Smith the honor marks the second time that he’s captured an Assistant Player of the Year award, with his other accolade coming in the Illinois Section in 2014.
“In Illinois I recall it being a very consistent year as I finished in the top 5 in a lot of events,” Smith said. “This past season winning was such a big part of the year.”