Danny Mulhearn Wins Illinois PGA Professional of the Year
GOLF, Ill. – January 24, 2023 – The Illinois PGA Section has announced its slate of Special Award winners for 2022. Danny Mulhearn (Glen Oak Country Club) has been selected as the 2022 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 members’ contributions, with the 2022 awards placing special emphasis on the 2021 and 2022 seasons.
Following are the 2022 Illinois PGA Special Award Winners:
Danny Mulhearn, PGA (Glen Oak Country Club) – Professional of the Year
Joe Sheren, PGA (SMART Golf & Fitness) – Teacher of the Year
Kyle Donovan, PGA (Oak Park Country Club) – Assistant Professional of the Year
Tim Krouse, PGA (Effingham Country Club) – Youth Player Development Award
Ryan McGwyer, PGA (Cog Hill Golf and Country Club) – Player Development Award
Terry Russell, PGA (Cantigny Golf) – Bill Strausbaugh Award
T.J. Sullivan, PGA (GOLFTEC – Oak Brook) – PGA Professional Development Award
Juan Espejo, PGA (Maryville Academy) – Bill Heald Career Achievement Award
Mark Labiak, PGA (Ruth Lake Country Club) – Merchandiser of the Year – Private
Frank Hohenadel, PGA (Mistwood Golf Club) – Merchandiser of the Year – Public
Don Pieper, PGA (Merit Club) – Distinguished Service Award
Dino Lucchesi, PGA (Grayslake Golf Practice Center) – Deacon Palmer Award
Robert Powers, PGA (PGA Life Member) – Patriot Award
Tony LaFrenere, PGA (Schaumburg Golf Club) – 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 2022 class of Special Award winners is Danny Mulhearn, the 2022 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.
Mulhearn has been a PGA Member for 32 years. Over that time, he has worked at two facilities. He began his career at Cantigny Golf in 1990. He worked his way up from a summer intern in 1990 to the Head Golf Professional in 1995. In January of 2000, Mulhearn accepted a life-altering opportunity and became the Head Golf Professional at Glen Oak Country Club, a position he still holds today. Over the 107 years of Glen Oak’s existence, Mulhearn proudly owns the second longest tenure, behind only Al Huske (1943-1972).
Over the years, Mulhearn has been involved in the Section in a variety of different ways. Early on in his career, he was involved at the committee level, and has been a long-time member of the Tournament Committee. Mulhearn has also served on the Illinois PGA Board of directors two separate times. Most recently, he was elected to the Board in 2021 and is the current co-chair of the Employment Committee. This marks Mulhearn’s first career Golf Professional of the Year honor. Prior to this award, Mulhearn was named the Merchandiser of the Year – Public (1997), and the Merchandiser of the Year Private (2011). He was also the Professional Development Award winner in 1998 (then named the Horton Smith Award).
Teacher of the Year
Joe Sheren of SMART Golf & Fitness has been named the 2022 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 Illinois PGA membership. This award is based on a professional’s overall performance in teaching, innovative and special teaching programs initiated or implemented, and articles published, as well as outstanding golfers the professional has instructed.
Sheren is the Co-founder and Co-owner of SMART Golf & Fitness. As a company, SMART Golf & Fitness continues to prove that they are pioneers in this industry and still stand alone with their approach and coaching model. Since 2015, SMART Golf & Fitness has grown into two state of the art performance centers, housing 11 TrackMan hitting bays, all equipped with high-speed video. Additionally, these facilities have K-Vest, Bodi Trak, Sam-Putt Lab, and Puttview. These facilities also include substantial short-game areas and state of art gym spaces.
Sheren has built a team of 11 Illinois PGA Professionals and nine golf-specific fitness trainers. In 2022, SMART Golf facilitated nearly 23,000 lessons. Sheren accounts for 30-40 of those lessons a week while also mentoring 11 PGA Professionals by creating training protocols, and infrastructure that allows passionate and motivated golf coaches to hit the ground running when they are hired. The success that Sheren has seen with SMART Golf & Fitness’ growth helps him achieve his number one goal: provide every single player he sees with the best possible opportunity to improve their game, bar none. This is Sheren’s second Illinois PGA Special Award honor. He was the Illinois PGA Player Development recipient in 2019.
Assistant Professional of the Year
Kyle Donovan of Oak Park Country Club is the 2022 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.
Donovan was elected to PGA Membership in May of 2022 and has served as an Assistant at Oak Park Country Club since 2019. Over the past four years at Oak Park, Donovan has been put in many different leadership roles. He has managed the entire Outside Operations staff, including hiring, training, and scheduling. He is in charge of planning out and executing all of the junior golf programs, as well as the ladies league. Donovan has enhanced his club’s Wednesday morning junior camp, growing it to over 100 juniors, as well as the in-house PGA Junior League program, which has grown to 46 players. Donovan has been active in the Illinois PGA Section serving on the Assistant Committee for the past two years, and he has participated in the Illinois PGA Foundation’s Birdies for Charity event for the past four years.
Donovan has also enjoyed a successful playing career within the Section. 2022 was the first year he was eligible for all the Illinois PGA Majors, Donovan finished T6 at the Nadler Golf Illinois PGA Professional Championship and qualified for the National PGA Professional Championship. He also finished T3 at the Illinois PGA Players Championship and made it to the Round of 16 at the Illinois PGA Match Play. Donovan also finished eighth in the Illinois PGA Bernardi Player of the Year race and fifth in the Illinois PGA Don Drasler Assistant Player of the Year race. This marks the first Illinois PGA Special Award honor in Donovan’s career.
Youth Player Development Award
Tim Krouse of Effingham Country Club is the recipient of the 2022 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.
Tim Krouse has been the Head PGA Professional at Effingham Country Club since 2009. Krouse has been guiding the Effingham Country Club Junior Golf Program for the past 14 summers, with each year bringing something new to the table. One thing that has always stayed true to form, is the immense success that comes from it. Last fall, Krouse’s junior program at Effingham Country Club was up over 100 junior golfers. In his 14 years, Krouse has helped develop countless players for the St. Anthony’s High School Golf Team. During that time, he has seen his students go on to be a part of four state championships, including one individual state champion, a fourth-place finisher in the individual state championship, a runner-up finisher at the 2021 state championship, and most recently the overall individual state champion, Joey Trupiano. Despite countless awards at the Central Illinois PGA Chapter level, this marks the first career Illinois PGA Section award honor for Krouse.
Player Development Award
Ryan McGwyer of Cog Hill Golf and Country Club is the recipient of the 2022 Illinois PGA Player Development Award. 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.
McGwyer is relatively new to the Illinois PGA Section having transferred into the Section from the Gulf States Section in 2020. McGwyer was brought to Cog Hill in large part because of his teaching ability and to help enhance the programs already in place at Cog Hill. Cog Hill is one hundred percent committed to junior golf. They offer a wide variety of opportunities for golf development for all skill levels and player backgrounds. Between McGwyer, Kevin Weeks, PGA and Clayton Pendergraft, PGA, they spend a minimum of five hours a week shadowing one another, reviewing each other’s lesson plans and mentoring each other on new and exciting ways to engage students. Cog Hill is on the cutting edge of golf technology with Force Plate and GEARS and spends a great deal of time on education and training with these tools. They host numerous PGA professionals who are encouraged to participate and co-coach in their many programs.
Personally, McGwyer likes to teach his programs as though he was attending them. He varies the instruction and does not spend a lot of time in one place. He introduces a variety of skills and challenges throughout his programs. This marks the first career Illinois PGA special awards honor in McGwyer’s career.
Bill Strausbaugh Award
Terry Russell of Cantigny Golf is the 2022 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.
Russell has been a PGA Member for 42 years. During that time, he spent nine years as an Assistant Professional at Evanston Golf Club and Bryn Mawr Country Club, two years as a commodities trader and broker at Chicago Board of Trade, 26 years as the Head Professional at River Forest Country Club and Bryn Mawr Country Club, and five years as a Teaching Professional at Cantigny Golf Academy. In those 42 years, he has worked with and employed a large number of very talented and ambitious people. With co-workers, he always strived to help them to be their best by being an example of work ethic and service orientation. With those whom he employed as Assistant Professionals, he taught them how to run a business and how to wear all of the many hats required to be successful in managing golf programs at a variety of facilities.
Russell has spent countless years serving the Illinois PGA and PGA of America. He was on the Assistants Committee from 1981-1983, he was also appointed an Illinois PGA Board Member during this time. Russell served on the Board as an elected member from 1995-2001 where he was the Tournament Committee Chair for seven years. He was then elected as the Section Secretary in 2003, the Section Vice President in 2005, the Section President in 2007, and the Honorary Past President in 2009. From 2018-2021, Russell was the PGA of America District 6 Director, a position that placed him on the PGA of America Board of Directors. This marks the second career Illinois PGA special awards honor for Russell who was the Illinois PGA Professional of the Year in 2002.
PGA Professional Development Award
T.J. Sullivan of GOLFTEC – Oak Brook is the 2022 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.
In 2019, Sullivan became the youngest Master PGA Professional in Teaching and Coaching in the Illinois Section and one of the youngest in the country. Sullivan has spent most of his time as an Illinois PGA Member focusing on education and mentorship. In 2017, he volunteered to join the Illinois PGA Education Committee where we assisted with the development of the Teaching and Coaching Summit. In 2020, he was called upon to put a virtual seminar together based on some key metrics that correlate directly to skills based on GOLFTEC’s data study. In 2021, he was elected to the Illinois PGA Board of Directors to serve as the Chair of the Teaching and Coaching Committee. Since then, he has led the committee to plan and organize a winter education series, the 2022 Junior Golf Summit (record 95 attendees), and plan the Fall Teaching and Coaching Summit, which saw close to 200 attendees. He also sits on the Player Development committee and was able to help provide a continuing education opportunity by helping plan the Harborside International event with Maurice Allen.
Currently, Sullivan works directly with a staff that includes four Associates (and one Class “A” Member). He has made it his personal goal to help them along the process to obtain their membership. He has also encouraged Class A Members to go into the Specialized program. This award marks the first career special award honor in Sullivan’s career.
Bill Heald Career Achievement Award
The 2022 Bill Heald Career Achievement Award recipient is Juan Espejo of Maryville Academy. 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.
Espejo has worked at the Maryville Golf Academy for nearly 29 years. The Maryville Golf Academy was established in 1994 to offer the Maryville children residing at the Des Plaines campus, the opportunity to work, play and practice at neighboring PGA-led facilities. Espejo provides instruction in golf lessons, caddying, club repair, golf ball recycling, golf facility operations, and tournament management. Espejo has also been involved with PGA HOPE and executes the annual Illinois PGA/Maryville Gleason Cup Invitational. He is involved with the Western Golf Association’s Evans Scholars program in raising funds for the Evanston Par Club initiative. He is also a mentor for the WGA Caddie Program. This honor marks Espejo’s fifth Illinois PGA special award. He is a two-time Illinois PGA Youth Player Development Award winner (1998, 1999), and a two-time Illinois PGA Distinguished Service Award Winner (2015, 2020). Espejo was the inaugural recipient of the Illinois PGA Distinguished Service Award in 2015.
Private Merchandiser of the Year
Mark Labiak of Ruth Lake Country Club is the 2022 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.
Labiak has been a PGA Member since 1986 and is currently the Head PGA Professional at Ruth Lake Country Club where he owns and operates the pro shop among his many other roles. The philosophy at Ruth Lake is to offer a wide selection of the best products from the best vendors and provide the ultimate customer shopping experience. Labiak and his staff pride themselves in not just being a Golf Shop with golf merchandise but being more of a boutique shopping experience, offering lifestyle items as well as golf apparel. In addition to the traditional shopping in the Golf Shop, Labiak feels it is important to offer the ability to shop online, attend Apparel Expos, Custom Fitting Days & Nights during winter and summer, and much more. Special orders equate to a great percentage of the annual business at Ruth Lake and Labiak and his staff pride themselves on overcommunicating with the customer until their order has arrived. This marks Labiak’s second career Illinois PGA special award honor, and first Merchandiser of the Year recognition. He was the Illinois PGA Professional of the Year in 2020.
Public Merchandiser of the Year
Frank Hohenadel of Mistwood Golf Club is the 2022 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.
Hohenadel earned his PGA membership in 2010 and is currently the Head PGA Professional at Mistwood Golf Club. Hohenadel’s merchandising philosophy is based on creativity in buying, displaying, and marketing. Choosing the best brands that are in line with his customer’s wants and needs is taken very seriously. Whether through verbal communication or a formal survey, the Mistwood Golf Club members and public guests have a say in the brands and type of merchandise brought into the shop. In addition, Hohenadel believes it is important to closely assess the sales performance of each brand and not be afraid to phase out brands that aren’t performing well. Through general marketing efforts of fun, playful tactics, Hohenadel has established a strong social media following for Mistwood, which allows for the advertising of new merchandise arrivals to a large audience. Hohenadel believes in utilizing state-of-the-art technology to create an unmatched experience in Mistwood’s Golf Digest Top 100 club fitting operation. Involving the Assistant Professionals in the buying, receiving, and displaying of merchandise is something Hohenadel has really placed a premium on to not only make the operation better but to also better prepare them for the rest of their career.
Hohenadel has seen as much success on the course as he has seen off it. Year after year, Hohenadel is a top finisher on the Illinois PGA’s Bernardi Player of the Year list. In 2022, Hohenadel finished third in the Player of the Year standings. He finished ninth at the Nadler Golf Illinois PGA Professional Championship and qualified for his eighth PGA Professional Championship.
Distinguished Service Award
Don Pieper of Merit Club has been selected as the 2022 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.
Pieper has been a member of the PGA since 1989. He has spent the majority of his career at the Merit Club, starting as the Head PGA Professional in 1991 and working his way up to General Manager, a position he has held since 2010. Pieper has achieved a lot in his career both personally and for the club during his time. As General Manager/Director of Golf at the Merit Club for the past thirty years, Pieper has been placed in a unique position of not only being a mentor to all the golf professionals at the facility but also to all the employees of the club. One of his main sources of great pride with the staff is the fact of bringing a 401K program to the Merit Club staff in the early stages of his tenure as the General Manager. Recently the milestone of $3,000,000 in the program was surpassed.
Pieper has been greatly involved with Illinois PGA Foundation, serving on the board since 2006. During his time, he has been involved in many charitable activities, but his biggest achievement is securing a $1,000,000 donation to the Illinois PGA Foundation. This anonymous donation has created a scholarship fund under Pieper’s name to assist children, grandchildren, and nieces and nephews of Illinois PGA Members. In the past 15 years, approximately $200,000 have been allocated to assist recipients achieve their collegiate goals. This award marks the third special award honor of Pieper’s career. He was the Illinois PGA Professional of the Year in 2003, and the Bill Strausbaugh Award winner in 2015. Pieper has also been recognized as an Illinois PGA Senior Master (2017) and most recently received the Peter Bensinger Distinguished Service Award in 2021.
Deacon Palmer Award
Dino Lucchesi of Grayslake Golf Practice Center is the 2022 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.
Lucchesi has been a PGA Member for nearly 30 years. He has spent his entire career in the Illinois Section dating back to his first Assistant position at Ravinia Green Country Club in 1993. Throughout his career, he has held various Assistant Professional jobs until becoming the PGA Teaching Professional at Grayslake Golf Practice Center in 2014. A few years later, Lucchesi became the Head PGA Professional at Grayslake Golf Practice Center and still holds this position today.
In January of 2021, Lucchesi was diagnosed with cancer of the tongue and throat. He discovered a lump in his throat and went to have it looked at by doctors. What he thought was going to be a routine doctor’s visit turned out to be a life-changing experience. Quickly after his diagnosis, Lucchesi started treatment. He received chemotherapy and radiation for seven months. During this time, Lucchesi was forced to scale back his work at his facility. In August of 2021, Lucchesi received news that his cancer was in remission. He returned to Grayslake Golf Practice Center in full force and continues his regular teaching hours today. This award marks the first career Illinois PGA special award honor of Lucchesi’s career.
PGA Life Member Robert Powers is the recipient of the 2022 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.
Powers has been a PGA Member since 1981. Currently, Powers is the lead instructor of the PGA HOPE clinic at Pine Meadow Golf Club. PGA HOPE is the Illinois PGA Foundation’s flagship military program that introduces golf to Veterans to enhance their physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being. The program introduces the game of golf through a developmental 6–8-week curriculum taught by PGA Professionals trained in adaptive golf and military cultural competency. In addition, Powers also assists the Pine Meadow staff with the Illinois PGA Veteran Play Day. The 2022 event was the first of its kind in Illinois. There were 90 Veterans that participated in a day of golf and fellowship. By his accounts, Powers has impacted over 120 Military Personnel with his involvement in these programs. This marks the first career Illinois PGA special award honor in Powers’ career.
PGA Executive of the Year
Tony LaFrenere is the 2022 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.
LaFrenere began his career as the Head PGA Professional at Poplar Creek Golf Club in 1995. He went on to become the General Manager there in 1999 and held that position until 2012 when he took his current position of Executive Director of the Schaumburg Park District. In his current role, LaFrenere oversees a diverse portfolio of recreation facilities and programs including the 27-hole Schaumburg Golf Club. He is charged with administering an overall budget of $45 million dollars and managing 80 full-time staff as well as over 600 part-time staff in peak season. His facilities host over one million guests each year at weekly recreation classes, large athletic tournaments, cultural arts performances, preschool, and much more. In 2017, LaFrenere oversaw the renovation of all 27-holes at Schaumburg Golf Club, making the club more playable for players while also repositioning holes to allow greater flood control that aided the entire Schaumburg community.
Throughout his career, supporting the PGA mission of growing the game of golf has always been one of LaFrenere’s passions. From Get Golf Ready, PGA Junior League, Golf 2.0 and more, he has always been a steadfast supporter of PGA golf initiatives and programs. Throughout his 27 years as a PGA Member, LaFrenere has implemented PGA programs at the clubs he manages and has helped introduce thousands of new players to the game while working to enhance the skills of existing members. Over his 30-year career, his facilities have hosted well over one million rounds of golf. This award marks the first career Illinois PGA special award honor in LaFrenere’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.ipga.com and join us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
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