By Jim Nugent
They have been described as the backbone of American golf.
They are instructors, small businessmen, tournament administrators, rules officials, employers, mentors, and knowledgeable golf equipment ambassadors. Many are talented merchandisers, overseers of golf car fleets and unlicensed psychologists called upon to counsel struggling amateur golfers. Some of these men and women are all of the above and more.
Of course I am referring to PGA of America golf professionals.
For all they accomplish in their respective operations – which is substantial in and of itself – many of these individuals also play the game at a remarkably high level both nationally and locally. To recognize their competitive achievements, Global Golf Post is proud to salute the best on-course performance among PGA golf professionals by naming our eighth annual PGA of America All-Pro Team.
Here’s our criteria to be considered: the professional had to be classified A-1 (head golf professional at a golf course), A-4 (director of golf) or A-13 (general manager). We limited the pool of candidates to these classes because we want to recognize the pros who perform a wide variety of leadership tasks while continuing to perform in tournaments.
We looked at finishes in several key tournaments in 2022, including the PGA Championship, the Senior PGA Championship, the PGA Professional Championship, Senior PGA Professional Championship, U.S. Open, U.S. Senior Open and PGA Tournament Series. We then considered performance in section events, utilizing player-of-the-year points as proxy for sustained excellence.
This year, we narrowed our selection to 30 PGA professionals who posted outstanding results. They are to be applauded for their strong play and respected for competing at a high level while balancing all of the duties that come with their jobs.
As we have done in previous years, we also identified one exemplary professional who embodies the spirit of our All-Pro effort. This pro joins an esteemed list with: Bob Ford of Seminole Golf Club and Oakmont Country Club (2015); Dave Podas of Bel-Air Country Club (2016); Rob Labritz of GlenArbor Golf Club (2017); Rod Perry of Crane Lakes Golf & Country Club (2018); Cary Cozby of Southern Hills Country Club (2019); Jim Sobb of Ivanhoe Club (2020); Darrell Kestner of Deepdale Golf Club (2021); and Doug Doxsie of Seattle Golf Club (2022).
This year’s selection is John McNeely, the longtime face of Diamond Creek in Banner Elk, North Carolina, and a critical piece in developing Congaree Golf Club in Ridgeland, South Carolina. As Ron Green Jr. explains in his accompanying profile, McNeely’s distinguished career has included working under Claude Harmon at Winged Foot, becoming a noted instructor and serving as the spiritual voice of Congaree as it has established itself as one of the most unique golf operations in the world.
More than anything, McNeely’s dedication to being a caretaker – whether that means guiding facilities or the game of golf in a broader sense – makes him a perfect fit to be our Pro’s Pro.
If one of these All-Pro selections is your club pro, drop him a note and congratulate him on being selected; he’ll appreciate it. And even if your pro is not among those honored here, consider thanking him or her for advancing the game of golf in America.
PGA professionals are the irreplaceable lifeblood of our game, and we hope this small effort shines light on all that these individuals can do.