Feb 14, 2019

GLENVIEW, Ill. – The Illinois PGA Section has announced its slate of Special Award winners for 2018 which includes a Professional of the Year honoree dedicated to community relations efforts, three winners from the Central Illinois PGA Chapter, a head and assistant pro from the same north shore club and a distinguished service winner who became a PGA golf professional later in life.

Following are the 2018 Illinois PGA Special Award winners:

  • Chris Gumbach, River Forest Country Club – Professional of the Year
  • Claire Castetter, Onwentsia Club – Assistant Professional of the Year
  • Mike Carbray, Butterfield Country Club – Teacher of the Year
  • Mark Krizic, Ridge Country Club – Player Development Award
  • Lance Olson, Champaign Country Club – Youth Player Development Award
  • Paul Betteridge, Pekin Country Club – Bill Strausbaugh Award
  • Nick Papadakes, Onwentsia Club –  Horton Smith Award
  • Harland Kilborn, PGA Life Member – Bill Heald Career Achievement Award
  • Shaun McElroy, North Shore Country Club – Merchandiser of the Year, Private
  • Jonathan Parsons, Schaumburg Golf Club – Merchandiser of the Year, Public
  • Lloyd McWilliams, Rockford Park District – Distinguished Service Award

“We are privileged to have such an outstanding group of PGA Professionals in the Illinois Section that are dedicated to growing and improving the game for everyone from the junior player to the weekend player to the elite player,” said Carrie Williams, executive director of the Illinois PGA Section. “And this year’s Special Award winners exemplify all the PGA of America has to offer as the experts in the business and game of golf.”

Professional of the Year
Leading the 2018 class of Special Award winners is Chris Gumbach, 46, winner of the Professional of the Year Award. 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, or specifically in the following 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.

Gumbach is the Head PGA Professional at River Forest Country Club in Elmhurst, Ill. where he has worked for the past 25 years. He grew up in Binghamton, NY, a few hours north of New York City, where his father introduced him to the game. After high school graduation, Gumbach decided to pursue a career in the golf business and attended New Mexico State University where he earned a Bachelor of Business Administration degree and majored in Marketing as part of the Professional Golf Management (PGM) program. Following college graduation in 1994, Gumbach returned to Chicago, where he had interned at Itasca Country Club the summer before, to work for PGA Professional Terry Russell at River Forest Country Club, and he’s still there going strong.  

“I’m very humbled and honored to be recognized by my peers as the Illinois Section Golf Professional of the Year,” said Gumbach. “This is certainly not a solo effort and I have a number of people including my parents, family, friends, members, mentors and fellow golf professionals to thank for their support and encouragement over the years. I really enjoy the game and the camaraderie being involved in all aspects it brings. My passion for the game and the desire to be engaged has been the driving force during my career.”

Gumbach has been deeply involved in Illinois Section leadership having officially started board service in 2007 when he was on the Tournament Committee. He subsequently held numerous positions during the next six years prior to being elected as the 25th Section President in 2013. He was also named Assistant Professional of the Year in 1999 and is currently the only Section professional to have won both the Assistant Professional and Professional of the Year awards. Perhaps his greatest achievement to date has been co-founding and co-chairing the Illinois PGA Foundation Birdies for Charity fundraising program which has raised nearly $1.5 million in just eight years for local children’s charities. It’s the single longest running fundraiser the Section and Foundation has ever supported and has made a tremendous impact in the lives of children via several key benefitting charities including the Illinois PGA Foundation, where Gumbach has also served on the board for the past five years and is now an officer.

Central Illinois Chapter is on The Map
The Illinois PGA Section also includes the Central Illinois PGA Chapter (CIPGA) which is comprised of 80 golf professionals in the area south of I-80 and in the middle part of the state. Three Special Award winners call the CIPGA Chapter home: Lance Olson, 47, Champaign Country Club, Youth Development Award winner; Paul Betteridge, 62, Pekin Country Club, Bill Strausbaugh Award winner, for his mentorship to fellow PGA Professionals in improving their employment situations and through service to the community; and Harland Kilborn, 68, PGA Life Member, Bill Heald Career Achievement Award. Kilborn was the Head PGA Professional at Illinois State University Golf Course for 15 years and also served as the school’s men’s golf coach for 30 years, and women’s coach for four years. He is a four-time Missouri Valley Conference Men’s Coach of the Year (1989, 1992, 1999, 2004). After working at the university course, he designed, built and owned/managed Royal Links Golf Course for 18 years.

Head/Assistant Pros at Onwentsia Club
Claire Castetter, 24, and Nick Papadakes, 47, work side-by-side at Onwentsia Club in Lake Forest, Ill. and in just a few seasons have developed a solid working relationship that allows them to serve their membership well. Castetter is the winner of the Assistant Professional of the Year Award and Papadakes is honored as the Horton Smith Award winner for his dedication to developing and improving educational opportunities for PGA Professionals.
"I've truly enjoyed the opportunities I've had to work with and advance within the Illinois section, and I am so lucky to have met the mentors I now have. From being an intern and then advancing on as a full-time assistant at Onwentsia, it's been a fantastic experience and I'm so thankful and excited to be recognized by my peers for this honor," said Castetter.

A Distinguished Gentleman
Lloyd McWilliams, 73, is on his second act as he became a PGA Professional at age 63, following a 37-year career in Information Technology in the Aerospace industry. He has been instrumental in building the junior golf program throughout the Rockford Park District golf facilities in Rockford, Ill. As the park district’s Lesson Coordinator, McWilliams has developed new programs that incorporate nutrition, exercise, technology, personal growth, goal setting and instruction. McWilliams has become a well-respected and sought-after teacher and you’ll often find him on the course or range during the season or running his Winter Golf Academy and enjoying every minute of it.

“At my age, in the regular business world I would be retired, but as a PGA Professional and golf instructor I’m able to continue to learn about my profession and help mold and mentor hundreds of junior golfers,” said McWilliams. “I am a product of Rockford Park District programs when I was a young boy and enjoy giving back to the organization and community that did so much for me during my formative years.”

Additional Award Winners
Rounding out the Special Award winners are Mike Carbray, 43, Butterfield Country Club/Journey 2 Better Golf, Oak Brook, Ill., winner of the Teacher of the Year Award; Mark Krizic, 40, Ridge Country Club, Beverly, Ill., winner of the Player Development Award for his work making the game fun and attainable for players of all ages and abilities; Shaun McElroy, 35, North Shore Country Club, Glenview, Ill., winner of the Merchandiser of the Year Award for a Private facility; and Jonathan Parsons, 45, Schaumburg Golf Club, Schaumburg, Ill., winner of the Merchandiser of the Year Award for a Public facility.

A private awards ceremony will be held Monday, March 11th at Bobak’s Signature Events in Woodridge, Ill.

E-Z-GO is a proud sponsor of the Illinois PGA Special Awards: E-Z-GO ELiTE Professionals.

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 and join us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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Palmer Moody
Illinois PGA Communications
847.804.2721 mobile