The Illinois PGA has few members to rival Katie Pius. In fact, there really aren’t any with the background that this assistant professional at Biltmore Country Club in North Barrington has.
Gender-wise the Illinois Section is noteworthy in having, in Carrie Williams, one of the three women to hold executive director posts in the PGA of America’s 41 sections. And, this year Carol Rhoades became the first woman to be named the section’s professional of the year in 62 years. Numerically, though, the IPGA includes just 31 women among its approximately 800 members and apprentices.
Playing-wise, of those select 31 Pius is the best of them all by a long shot and she has even held her own against the men in several Illinois PGA Championships.
Earlier this year Pius was named to the athletic Hall of Fame at her college alma mater, Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C. Then Katie Dick, she played on four teams that won the NCAA Division III national championship and she was the individual champion at that level in her junior season.
In 2005, her first year at the school, the National Golf Coaches Association named her its Freshman of the Year. A four-time first team All-American, she was part of Methodist’s astonishing string of 13 consecutive national championships from 2000 to 2012.
"I don’t know why I decided to go there, but I did luck out," she said. "I just wanted to go to a small school, and I hadn’t played much junior golf growing up. I wasn’t in the AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) stuff."
Growing up in a small town on the outskirts of Youngstown, Ohio, didn’t keep Dick from achieving her goal of becoming a golf professional. She decided to attend Methodist University because she would be able to play golf at a school that offered a PGA internship program. When she graduated in 2008 she had both her PGA Class A card and a degree in business.
Most players with her collegiate success would be tempted to give professional tournament golf a try, but not Dick. She still loves to compete but is doing it as one of the few women in otherwise all-male fields in the IPGA tournaments.
"I just didn’t have the practice mentality," she said, "plus, on the Futures (now Symetra) Tour you couldn’t make a living. I have tried the U.S. Open qualifiers because they’re a one-day thing, but playing tournament golf would be such a different life."
The life she has now is just fine, thank you. She is married to Josh Pius, the head professional at Inverness, and they became parents of daughter Betty who turns 2 in December. In being Lake Zurich residents, both have short drives to their respective clubs.
"I never thought I’d marry a golf pro," said Katie, "but it’s worked out for us. We both get Mondays off. I don’t know that we’d ever work together, but I do understand the long hours he has to put in at times."
Josh had a similar collegiate experience as Katie. He attended Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., which was a pioneer institution in creating programs for those who wanted to enter the golf industry.
As part of her college studies she spent two summers doing internships, one of which was at the famed Jim McLean Golf School at Doral Resort in Florida. She also interned at Lakeshore Country Club in Glencoe before beginning her run of assistant jobs at three of Chicago’s most established private clubs.
First came three years at Westmoreland, in Wilmette, then two at Bryn Mawr, in Lincolnwood, and she just completed her fourth year at Biltmore, where she won the 2014 Assistant Professional of the Year award, working under the direction of veteran head pro Doug Bauman. Katie handled teaching duties and had guided the ladies programs at Biltmore until motherhood led to her cutting back her workload.
"I want to focus on being a mom," she said, "but I don’t want to lose touch with golf."
Through job and lifestyle changes she’s been able to do that. She survived the cut playing with the men in the last five of six Illinois PGA Championships, tying for 49th place at Olympia Fields in 2016 and tying for 35th at Medinah this year. Playing at approximately 85-percent of the men’s yardage, she’s posted 16 Top 20 finishes in the past five years and has had a handful of good showings in the stroke play events as well, including a T2 in 2014. She also competes in the Illinois Women’s Open and sits on the Section’s Tournament Committee. Still, Pius downplays the unique place she has on the Illinois tournament side.
"I’ve never won, so there’s no reason," she said. "I haven’t done anything too special around here."
On that she’s selling herself a bit short. In the last four decades the only other woman to make a significant impact in the major IPGA events was Michele Drinkard in the 1980s. She eventually left club work and is now a successful college coach at the Division I level.