Brian Morrison Wins Illinois PGA Professional of the Year
GLENVIEW, Ill. – January 21, 2022 – The Illinois PGA Section has announced its slate of Special Award winners for 2021. Brian Morrison (Olympia Fields Country Club) has been selected as the 2021 Illinois PGA Professional of the Year and headlines the 14 Illinois PGA Members who won awards in this cycle. With the exception of the Bill Heald Career Achievement Award, these awards are based on the past five years of a member’s contributions, with the 2021 awards placing special emphasis on the 2020 season.
Following are the 2021 Illinois PGA Special Award Winners:
Brian Morrison, PGA (Olympia Fields Country Club) – Professional of the Year
Garrett Chaussard, PGA (Skokie Country Club) – Teacher of the Year
Sean Rea, PGA (River Forest Country Club) – Assistant Professional of the Year
John Platt, PGA (Mistwood Golf Club) – Youth Player Development Award
Doug Brazeau, PGA (Old Orchard Country Club) – Player Development Award
Daniel Watters, PGA (Bob O’Link Golf Club) – Bill Strausbaugh Award
Nick Papadakes, PGA (Onwentsia Club) – PGA Professional Development Award
Allen Brown, PGA (Woodstock Country Club) – Bill Heald Career Achievement Award
Sydney Syster, PGA (North Shore Country Club) – Merchandiser of the Year – Private
Randy Heinrich, PGA (Cog Hill Golf and Country Club) – Merchandiser of the Year – Public
Dennis Johnsen, PGA (Pine Meadow Golf Club) – Distinguished Service Award
Bill Sakas, PGA (Glencoe Golf Club) – Deacon Palmer Award
Gary Groh, PGA (PGA Life Member) – Patriot Award
Gary Binder, PGA (Kemper Sports Management) – PGA Executive of the Year
“We are fortunate to have such an outstanding group of PGA Professionals that make up the Illinois PGA Section. Selecting a handful of members for these prestigious awards is never easy, but these professionals have shown extraordinary dedication to growing and improving the game of golf for everyone within the boundaries of the Section,” said Carrie Williams, Executive Director of the Illinois Section. “This year’s Special Award winners exemplify all that PGA Professionals have to offer as experts in the business and game of golf.”
Professional of the Year
Leading the 2021 class of Special Awards winners is Brian Morrison, the 2021 Illinois PGA Professional of the Year. Presented annually since 1955, this award honors the working club professional whose total contributions to the game best exemplify the complete PGA Professional. Special emphasis is placed on performance and achievement over the past five years and specifically in the following five categories; overall performance as a PGA Professional at his/her facility, service to the Illinois PGA and the Association, leadership ability, image and ability to inspire fellow PGA Professionals, and the promotion of golf.
Morrison recently became a PGA Life Member after 41 years of service to the PGA of America and Illinois PGA Section. Elected to membership in 1980, Morrison spent 21 years at Olympia Fields Country Club. As a Director of Golf for a total of 39 years, Morrison has served as a model leader and visionary to his staff, mentoring over 30 PGA Professionals who have gone on to succeed as Head Professionals or Directors of Instruction elsewhere in the industry. He has opened the doors of his facility to the Illinois PGA and PGA of America to host tournaments, clinics, and seminars, such as the Illinois PGA Professional Championship, Illinois PGA Teaching and Coaching Summit, and the 2017 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. Most recently, Olympia Fields played host to the BMW Championship in 2020.
Over the years, Morrison has served on various committees within the Illinois Section, brought positive attention to the Section by being selected as a Top 25 Golf Shop in America 18 years in a row, and served on the Leadership Committee for PGA Magazine for the last eight years. This marks the fifth Illinois PGA Special Award honor for Morrison who is a two-time Private Merchandiser of the Year (2003, 2009), a Bill Strausbaugh Award winner (2013), a Bill Heald Career Achievement Award Winner (2015). He was also the National PGA of America Private Merchandiser of the Year in 2009.
Teacher of the Year
Garrett Chaussard of Skokie Country Club has been named the 2021 Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year. The Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year Award is designed to recognize a PGA Professional who is an outstanding teacher of golf among the ranks of the PGA membership. This award is based on a professional’s overall performance in teaching, innovative and special teaching programs initiated or implemented, articles published, as well as outstanding golfers the professional has instructed.
Chaussard earned his PGA Membership in 2012. Since starting as Skokie County Club in 2016, Chaussard has created five specific women’s programs, five junior programs and three men’s programs. Prior to his arrival, there was one program for women and juniors, and no men’s golf programming. Additionally, Chaussard is nationally renowned for his success as a putting coach. He has taught many high-level players at the local level as well as players across the country, such as Vince India and Brad Marek, PGA.
Off the lesson tee, Chaussard has been heavily involved in the Illinois PGA’s education opportunities. As a member of the Illinois PGA Teaching and Coaching Committee, Chaussard has played a vital role in securing speakers for the Illinois PGA Teaching and Coaching Summit. He has also played a significant role in planning and securing speakers for the Illinois PGA Junior Golf Summit, an event he emceed in 2019. He also served on the PR and Communications Committee and Tournament Committee for several years.
Chaussard has decorated playing career in his own right. He is a two-time winner of the Illinois PGA Bernardi Player of the Year (2019, 2021) and he is also one of four Illinois PGA Professionals to win the Illinois PGA Match Play Championship in back to back years (2018, 2019). Although this marks Chaussard’s first career Illinois PGA Special Award honor, he has been named to the Golf Digest Best Teachers in the State every year since 2010 and to the Golf Digest Best Young Teachers in America every year since 2018. From 2011 to 2014, he was named an Honorable Mention in the US Kids Golf Top 50 Coaches.
Assistant Professional of the Year
Sean Rea of River Forest Country Club is the 2021 Illinois PGA Assistant Golf Professional of the Year. The Illinois PGA Assistant Professional of the Year Award bestows special recognition to a PGA Member Assistant Professional. Special emphasis is placed on leadership qualities, moral character, the individual’s record of service to the Illinois PGA and the game of golf and consideration as a well-regarded and model PGA Professional.
Rea was elected to PGA membership in 2017 and has served as an Assistant at River Forest Country Club for nearly four years. During his time at River Forest Country Club, Rea has grown both the women’s and junior golf programs. The women’s program has had weekly participation numbers rise every year over the past three years, while the average clinic size has gone from five-seven to 10-15 depending on the week. The junior program has exploded during Rea’s time. By way of gamification and the use of DiscoverGolf products, River Forest has been able to facilitate a total growth of 51% in the program without increasing the size of its facility.
Rea lives by the philosophy that “to serve is to lead.” His intention is to inspire his peers by being as involved as possible. He currently sits on the Teaching and Coaching Committee and the Assistants Committee, and he has also been a participant in the Illinois PGA Foundation’s Birdies for Charity event. This marks the first career Illinois PGA Special Award honor for Rea.
Youth Player Development Award
John Platt of Mistwood Golf Club is the recipient of the 2021 Illinois PGA Youth Player Development Award. The Illinois PGA Youth Player Development Award recognizes the PGA Professional who is a leader in junior golf and who reflects the ideals of those who work with youth golfers.
Platt is a Quarter Century Member of the PGA and has been at Mistwood Golf Club since 2013. Platt has developed and run multiple junior programs at Mistwood Golf Club and the Mistwood Golf Dome throughout the year. Among those programs are his Competitive Athlete Program (CAP) and his CAP JV. The CAP program is designed for high school athletes who are seeking to play college golf. Full swing, short game, putting, fitness, on-course playing/course management and mental game are the focuses of CAP. Since the inception of this program, Platt has seen over 175 of his students compete in the Illinois High School Association state finals and over 150 have gone on to play college golf.
The CAP-JV program is designed for players who want to play high school golf or need to improve their skills to help them make their high school team. The focus is on the full swing and short game, to help these juniors understand how to hit shots and start learning to control their ball flight. He also runs the PGA Jr. League teams at Mistwood Golf Club and has been a presenter at the Chicago Golf Show four times.
This marks the second Illinois PGA Special Award honor in Platt’s career. He was the 2011 Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year. He was also named the NCAA Division II National Coach of the Year in 1999 (Lewis University).
Player Development Award
Doug Brazeau of Old Orchard Country Club is the 2021 Illinois PGA Player Development Award recipient. The Illinois PGA Player Development Award is designed to recognize a PGA Professional for extraordinary and exemplary contributions and achievements in the area of player development. This award considers the PGA Professional’s growth of the game leadership commitment at the Section and National levels and the impact made at his or her facility.
Brazeau has worked at Old Orchard Country Club since 1997, earning his Class-A membership and the title of Head PGA Golf Professional in 2008. Brazeau has committed himself to growing the game of golf by focusing on player development. He was responsible for the installation of forward tees at Old Orchard as part of the “Tee it Forward” initiative and has designed countless programs to help grow the game at his facility. Among those are a “Get Golf Ready” program that has 100 participants each a year, “a Camp 101” class designed for adults who are just picking up the sport, and a putting school designed to teach adults about the statics of putting.
He hosts parent-child scrambles, high school golf camps, a beginner junior golf academy, fitness programs, free Veteran classes, and runs a PGA Jr. League team that has been very successful in making it to the Section Championship over the years. The 2021 Illinois PGA Player Development Award is the first Special Award honor in Brazeau’s career.
Bill Strausbaugh Award
Daniel Watters of Bob O’Link Golf Club is the 2021 Illinois PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award winner. The Illinois PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award is designed to recognize PGA Professionals who by their day-to-day efforts have distinguished themselves by mentoring their fellow PGA Professionals in improving their employment situations and through service to the community.
A PGA Member since 2007, Watters became an Assistant at Bob O’Link in 2010 before taking over as Head PGA Professional in 2015, a position he still holds today. Watters has always wanted to be a person that helps others in their careers and beyond. Throughout his career, he has mentored his assistants to become better PGA Professionals. His Assistants have gone to succeed in the golf industry at places such as the Patriot Golf Club in Tulsa, Aronimink Golf Club, Big Foot Country Club, Oakmont Country Club, Pinnacle Peak Country Club, Springfield Golf and Country Club, The Club at Holiday Farms and Philadelphia Country Club.
Watters has also been deeply rooted in his service to the Illinois PGA Section. He was elected to the Illinois PGA Board of Directors in 2019 and served as the Section’s Partnership Chair. He was recently re-elected for his second Board term and will continue his work as the Partnership and Employment Committee Co-Chairs. He was also a part of the Tournament Committee in 2019 and is a member of the Illinois PGA Foundation Capital Campaign Committee.
Watters has helped his staff at Bob O’Link to further their careers and takes pride in welcoming new members to Section. He has also offered a helping hand to countless Illinois PGA Members who’ve found themselves struggling personally or professionally. The 2021 Illinois PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award is the first Special Award honor of Watters’ career.
PGA Professional Development Award
Nick Papadakes of Onwentsia Club is the 2021 Illinois PGA Professional Development Award (formerly the Horton Smith Award) recipient. The Professional Development Award recognizes the PGA Professional who is a model educator for his or her fellow PGA Professionals. This award is designed to give special recognition to an individual PGA Professional for outstanding and continuing contributions to professional education.
Papadakes has been a PGA Member since 2003. He spent time working at high-profile facilities including Conway Farms Golf Club and Old Elm Club before being named Head PGA Professional at Onwenstia Club in 2015.
Papadakes has been heavily involved in the Illinois PGA Section, and most notably serves as the Section’s current President. He takes great pride in education and has had strong input on the Section’s education opportunities. He served as the volunteer Education Committee Chair from 2010 to 2016. In that time, the Section conducted over 80 educational events averaging over 30 participants each. He was also a part of the efforts to grow and strengthen the annual Illinois PGA Teaching and Coaching Summit.
In 2020, Papadakes used weekly videoconferences to inform and update Section members about ongoing discussions with the Illinois Department of Public Health and Governor’s office regarding golf regulations in the COVID-19 era. He polled members for suggestions and best practices on how to best adapt to the state’s restrictions. He led discussions that invited Section members to envision, formulate and create videos on COIVD-19 best practices that educated the staff and advisors of the State of Illinois on ways the game of golf could be safely reintroduced.
As an Officer of the Section, Papadakes has actively promoted educational programs to all Illinois PGA Members. This marks the fifth time Papadakes has won the PGA Professional Development Award (2012, 2015, 2018, 2020). He has also won the Illinois PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award (2017).
Bill Heald Career Achievement Award
The 2021 Bill Heald Career Achievement Award recipient is Allen Brown of Woodstock Country Club. The Bill Heald Career Achievement Award is presented to an Illinois PGA Member for a career of service to employers, mentoring, community service, playing ability, teaching, junior golf, education and going above and beyond the duties of a PGA Professional that has not been previously honored as the Illinois PGA Golf Professional of the Year.
Brown is a Quarter Century Member of the PGA and has held his Head PGA Professional position at Woodstock Country Club since 1997. Throughout his career, Brown has been a major contributor to the Woodstock High School golf teams. He has hosted the McHenry County Junior Golf Association Tournament of Champions for six years and also hosted their Parent-Child Championship. He was responsible for bringing the McHenry County Senior Amateur to Woodstock Country Club for the last two years and most recently helped form a co-op PGA Jr. League program with the Golf Academy at Terra Cotta.
Mentoring has also been a major part of Brown’s career. In total, he has mentored eight young men and women to PGA Membership. The 2021 Illinois PGA Bill Heald Career Achievement Award is the first Illinois PGA Special Award honor of Brown’s career.
Private Merchandiser of the Year
Sydney Syster of North Shore Country Club is the 2021 Illinois PGA Private Merchandiser of the Year. The Illinois PGA Private Merchandiser of the Year Award is designed to recognize a PGA Professional who has excelled as a businessperson/merchandiser in the promotion of golf at a private facility.
Syster has been a PGA Member for three years and is currently an Assistant Professional at North Shore Country Club. The mission at North Shore Country Club is to provide members and guests with an exceptional shopping experience through the avenues of customer service, high-end and unique product offerings, and maintaining a well-stocked and visually appealing shopping environment. Syster has had great success creating retail-related excitement using custom, limited edition items, pairing Ladies’ Days with trunk shows that contained unique merchandise and producing a Holiday Gift Guide that was sent to members and turned into a digital flipbook that included stocked items and items that could be ordered. In addition to the Illinois PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Syster was also a recipient of the Association of Golf Merchandisers Platinum Award in 2021. She is now the first female to win the Illinois PGA Private Merchandiser of the Year Award.
Public Merchandiser of the Year
Randy Heinrich of Cog Hill Golf and Country Club is the 2021 Illinois PGA Public Merchandiser of the Year. The Illinois PGA Public Merchandiser of the Year Award is designed to recognize a PGA Professional who has excelled as a businessperson/merchandiser in the promotion of golf at a public facility.
Heinrich earned his PGA membership in 2013 and is currently an Assistant Professional at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club. Heinrich has achieved merchandise success by sourcing a variety of different products. To make the buying process easier and more enjoyable, he always has staple products such as tees, ball markers, towels and socks, seasonal products like rain suits, jackets, quarter zips, winter hats, core products such as golf polos and shorts, and bi-annual tournament merchandise stocked at all times. Heinrich also puts an emphasis on his shop display. His strategy consists of the newest arrivals always being presented immediately when a patron enters the shop, (this is called the “lead-in” position), and there are golf ball towers flanking the entrance for impulse-buying as well as mannequins dressed in the newest “eye-catching” men’s and ladies fashions. The 2021 Illinois PGA Public Merchandiser of the Year Award is the first Special Award honor in Heinrich’s career. This marks the first winner of this award since 2018.
Distinguished Service Award
Dennis Johnsen of Pine Meadow Golf Club has been selected as the 2021 Illinois PGA Distinguished Service Award winner. The Illinois PGA Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who displays leadership and humanitarian qualities, including integrity, sportsmanship and enthusiasm for the game of golf.
Johnsen has been a PGA Member since 1976 and has a long and decorated history of involvement in the Illinois PGA Section. Johnsen served as an Officer on the Illinois PGA Board of Directors from 1999-2006. He was the Section President from 2003 to 2004. He has also been involved as a PGA Jr. League Coach and has played host to the PGA HOPE Program, which provides free instruction to active-duty military and veterans to aid in their rehabilitation.
Beyond the Illinois PGA, Johnsen is heavily involved with junior golf and growing the golf initiatives at the National level. In 2012 he was a member of the American Family Focus Team, he was a member of the PGA of America Growth of the Game Committee from 2008 to 2012, he sat on the PGA of America Jr. League Advisory board from 2016-2018 and served as a member of the PGA of America Junior Player Development committee from 2012 to 2019.
This award adds to the impressive career Johnsen has had with the Illinois PGA. He has been the recipient of the Illinois PGA Merchandiser of the Year – Resort (1991), Illinois PGA Professional of the Year Award (1999, 2001), Illinois PGA Distinguished Service Award (2004), Illinois PGA Player Development Award (2007, 2009), Illinois PGA Merchandiser of the Year Award – Public (2008), and the Illinois PGA Youth Player Development Award (2015). He is also the only Illinois PGA Member to win two National PGA of America Awards. He was the National Merchandiser of the Year – Public recipient in 2010 and received the National Youth Player Development Award in 2016.
Deacon Palmer Award
Bill Sakas of Glencoe Golf Club is the 2021 Illinois PGA Deacon Palmer Award recipient. The Illinois PGA Deacon Palmer Award bestows special recognition on a PGA Professional who personally displays outstanding integrity, character and leadership in an effort to overcome a major obstacle in their life. This individual is an unsung hero/heroine at their facility and in their community.
In 2021, Sakas was diagnosed with Amyloid light-chain amyloidosis, which is a “protein misfolding disorder,” that causes organs and tissues, including the heart, kidney, skin, stomach, small and large intestines, nerves and liver, to thicken and eventually lose function. Despite his diagnosis, Sakas was steadfast in his work to teach golf and help his students develop a passion for the game. Forced to cut back his hours, Sakas did what he could to teach as many lessons as possible. Out of pure love for the game, he finds it hard to turn his students away and spends as much time with them as they wish. Sakas’ love for teaching and dedication to the growth of the game is evident in all he does. He is perhaps most proud of helping two of his Assistants prepare for the PGA of America’s Playing Ability Test (PAT). Both passed the PAT after several failed attempts and have since entered the PGM Program to become PGA of America Members.
Over the years of Sakas’ PGA Membership, he has served on the Illinois PGA PR and Communications Committee, the Opens and Pro-Ams Committee, Senior Committee, and the Tournament Committee. This marks the first Illinois PGA Special Award honor in his career.
PGA Life Member Gary Groh is the recipient of the 2021 Illinois PGA Patriot Award. The Illinois PGA Patriot Award bestows special recognition on a PGA Professional who personifies patriotism through the game of golf and demonstrates unwavering commitment and dedication to the men and women who have valiantly served and protected the United States of America. Groh has been a PGA Member for 48 years, spending his entire career at Bob O’Link Golf Club before his retirement. Groh has been a PGA HOPE certified instructor and teacher in the RevelationGolf Military/Veterans program for over three years, providing PGA instruction on a weekly basis for 34 weeks each year. Having served in the Navy (1966-1967), Groh is able to relate to the participants on a level not many can understand. He treats each student with compassion and respect while simultaneously using golf to help them in their healing and recovery.
Groh won the 1975 Hawaiian Open and has a decorated playing history and passion for the game. This passion for the game and for helping others exudes from him, and by the end of each session, the veterans leave with their swings a little bit better, their smiles a little bit brighter, and feeling like they matter. Beyond dedicating time each week to serving different communities of veterans and active-duty personnel, Groh shares his experiences with other Illinois PGA Professionals and encourages them to support our service members.
On the course, Groh has seen a great amount of success over the years. He is an 11-time Illinois Senior PGA Professional Champion, a four-time Illinois PGA Professional Champion and the 1994 Illinois Open Champion. Groh was also inducted into the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame in 2017. This marks his first career Illinois PGA Special Award honor.
PGA Executive of the Year
Gary Binder is the 2021 Illinois PGA Executive of the Year. The Illinois PGA Golf Executive of the Year Award bestows special recognition on a PGA Golf Professional who has performed outstanding services for multiple facilities/course management/ownership operation, Allied Association or golf industry executive management position. As one of the highest honors the Illinois PGA can bestow, candidates must possess outstanding qualities of leadership, vision, courage, strong moral character, and a substantial record of service to the Association and the game of golf. Individuals honored with the PGA Golf Executive of the Year award are held as a model PGA Professional.
Binder has been involved in golf management as a PGA Executive Golf Professional for the past 28 years with KemperSports Management. During his time with KemperSports, he has supported many facilities and launched many key initiatives. KemperSports is the third-largest U.S.-based golf management company with over 130 properties nationwide. Some of Binder’s key responsibilities include supplying operational and growth oversight for the KemperSports Owned Property Portfolio, the Private Club Portfolio, the Keiser portfolio, Bandon Dunes, Sand Valley, The Dunes Club and many other private, daily-fee and resort properties. He also played a key role in creating True Service, the acclaimed company-wide customer service program in use at all KemperSports facilities. He helped create True Review, the Net Promoter Score-based customer satisfaction review program also now used at all KemperSports properties. He created the Strategic Partner and Preferred Vendor Program, the company’s key vendor buying program for golf retail, food & beverage, and agronomy goods.
Binder was also involved in the Greenside Technology Project, creating the company-wide point-of-sale platform currently in use at the company. Early on at KemperSports, he was also Managing Director of CK Golf Partners LP, inserting into the company the formal enterprise he had formed with the remaining management contracts when Crown Golf exited the golf business.
In addition, Binder has also been involved in the Illinois Section in a variety of ways. He was the founder of the Rainsuits for Responders initiative that was created in conjunction with the Illinois PGA Foundation to support medical staff during the COVID-19 pandemic by supplying golf rain suits as Personal Protective Equipment. He is a current member of the Illinois PGA Foundation Board of Directors, and he also sits on the Illinois PGA Foundation’s Capital Campaign Committee. The 2021 Illinois PGA Executive of the Year Award marks the first career Special Award honor in Binder’s career.
About the Illinois PGA/Illinois PGA Foundation
The Illinois Section of the PGA of America is a professional organization serving the men and women golf professionals in northern and central Illinois who are the recognized experts in growing, teaching and managing the game of golf. The Illinois PGA is responsible for the administration of competitive golf tournaments, educational opportunities, support programs and growth of the game initiatives. With over 840 members and apprentices, the Illinois PGA is one of the 41 regional Sections that comprise the PGA of America. The Illinois PGA Foundation focuses its community efforts on promoting the goodwill and growth of the game with an emphasis on activities that benefit youth. Foundation initiatives include: GolfWorks Illinois, Youth-based Scholarship Funds and the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame. For more information about the Illinois PGA and the Illinois PGA Foundation, please visit www.www.ipga.com and join us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
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