ORLANDO, Fla. – January 25, 2023 – The PGA of America announced its 2023 National Award Winners today at the PGA Show in Orlando, Florida. Jamie Nieto, PGA, Nick Papadakes, PGA, and Kevin Weeks, PGA were the three Illinois PGA Members selected for this year’s class.
“It’s an incredible accomplishment to stand out as an honoree among nearly 28,000 PGA Professionals, as they are celebrated for furthering the business and game of golf,” said PGA President John Lindert. “Congratulations to our 13 National Award recipients for their inspirational dedication to the game. The PGA of America is proud to shed a spotlight on our Award winners and their amazing accomplishments, as they reflect the world-class expertise and talent of our Association.”
Nieto is the PGA Head Golf Professional at The Preserve at Oak Meadows in Addison, Illinois, and has been selected for the 2023 Deacon Palmer Award, which honors a PGA Professional who displays outstanding integrity, character and leadership in the effort to overcome a major obstacle in their life. On his 20th birthday, Nieto was lighting a firepit in his backyard when the can of accelerant exploded, engulfing his body in flames. He sustained 3rd degree burns to 65 percent of his body. Nieto spent six weeks in the ICU at Loyola University Medical Center—three weeks in an induced coma— as surgeons performed skin-graft operations to save his life.
Four years after working with doctors to rebuild his injured right hand so he could play golf again, Nieto registered as a PGA of America Associate and earned his PGA Membership in 2012. Nieto has a simple, three-word motto that he embodies and lives by and challenges those around him to live by: “Never give up.” He spreads this message by volunteering his time and counseling other burn patients, sharing his story and relating it to the game of golf. Prior to arriving at The Preserve at Oak Meadows, Nieto spent seven years as the PGA Head Professional at Pheasant Run Resort. Alongside his golf career, Nieto has dedicated 17 years as a volunteer SOAR Patient Counselor through the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors.
“Winning The Deacon Palmer Award at both the section and national level left me speechless,” said Nieto. “Knowing I get to follow in the footsteps of some great PGA Professionals is an experience I’ll not soon forget. I’m glad that what has happened to me has given me the opportunity to inspire others and create an avenue to help fellow burn survivors.”
Nieto was the recipient of the 2020 Illinois PGA Deacon Palmer Award, which marked his second career special award honor at the Section level (Distinguished Service Award 2016). Nieto was the second individual to receive this award in the Illinois PGA, as the Section first awarded this honor in 2019. Nominated by the Illinois PGA Special Award Committee for the 2023 National Award, Nieto becomes the first Illinois PGA Member to win this award nationally.
Papadakes is the PGA Head Professional at Onwentsia Club in Lake Forest, Illinois, and has earned the 2023 PGA Professional Development Award. This honor recognizes a PGA Member who displays commendable contributions to the education of PGA Professionals. Papadakes demonstrates his commitment to representing the golf profession with class and integrity and is passionate about mentoring peers and young professionals to help them achieve their desired goals within the industry. A PGA Member for nearly 20 years, Papadakes is currently the Honorary President of the Illinois PGA Section and has served as an officer since 2016, serving as Secretary, Vice President, and President. Previously, he served as the Illinois PGA Education Committee Chairman from (2010-’16), Finance Committee Chairman (2018-’20), and is currently the Chairman of the Illinois PGA Special Awards Committee and the PGA of America Employment Committee. Before arriving at Onwentsia Club in 2015, Nick was the Head Professional at Old Elm Club (2007-’14) and the Assistant Golf Professional at Conway Farms Golf Club (2002-’07).
“I am beyond excited to be this year’s PGA of America Professional Development Award winner,” said Papadakes. “Education and mentoring have always been important to me and I am honored to be recognized for our efforts here in the Illinois Section. Without the support of our 750+ Illinois PGA Members and our incredible Section staff, this would have not been possible. I am even more proud to stand on the stage with Kevin Weeks and Jamie Nieto; having three of us from the Illinois Section represented on the stage with this year’s awards class is incredible.”
Papadakes is a five-time recipient of the Professional Development Award at the Section level (2012, 2015, 2018, 2020, 2021) and a recipient of the Section’s Bill Strausbaugh Award (2017). He becomes the second Illinois PGA Member to win this honor nationally (Todd Sones, 2019).
Weeks, is the Director of Instruction at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont, Illinois, and is the 2023 PGA Teacher & Coach of the Year for his “outstanding services as a golf teacher, innovator and coach.”
A PGA Member for 28 years, Weeks has been a mainstay on Golf Digest’s 50 Greatest Teachers and Best Teachers in Your State lists, joining the 50 Greatest list in 2012 and being recognized as the No. 1 Teacher in Illinois since 2017. Also featured regularly as one of GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers, Weeks is renowned for his putting expertise. His research on the game began in 1999 at Cog Hill, where he created a state-of-the-art putting facility with his patented Dynamic Impact Indicator (using lasers to measure the putter face at impact) and a Putting Robot that has been instrumental in numerous research projects, leading to several discoveries that have earned him opportunities to speak worldwide on the subject. The newest addition to the Lab is a GEARS 3-D motion capture system, which he uses to measure what each segment of the body is doing during the putting stroke.
Weeks’ students have captured 10 PGA TOUR victories and include notable names such as Kevin Streelman, Michael Bradley, Mark Wilson, and several other top players. Weeks has also served as the swing coach for students who have won more than 50 professional mini tour events, 25 collegiate events, 11 American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) events, and five high school state championships.
Growing the game has always been most important to Weeks, which is why when faced with the decision years ago of traveling with his students each week on the PGA TOUR or continuing to develop the nationally recognized PGA Jr. League program he built, the decision was easy. With its main goal of having “FUN,” the program now has 371 players. Cog Hill has qualified for the last six National Car Rental PGA Jr. League Championships (the only coach in the country to do so), as his program has been listed as a Game Changer Top 25 program for the past three years and is currently the second largest program in the country.
“It is an honor to be recognized as the Teacher of the Year because of how many great teachers there are in our Association,” said Weeks. “To be honored this way is truly humbling. I’ve had so much help in getting here. Cog Hill Golf and Country Club has allowed me to do what I want to do and encouraged me to grow our PGA Jr. League team to the largest program in Illinois and the second largest in the country. I’m just grateful to the people that took the time to invest in me. This is a tribute to them and what they have done to help me get here. I never set out to win awards. I set out to be the best teacher and get my students to where they are today. My family has sacrificed so much for me to get here. Seeing the look on their faces was amazing. I would not have been able to achieve what I’ve achieved without them.”
Weeks was named the Illinois PGA Teacher of the Year three times (2005, 2007, 2009). He becomes just the second Illinois PGA Member to win this award, joining fellow Cog Hill Golf and Country teacher, and Illinois Golf Hall of Famer, Jim Suttie (2000).
About the PGA of America
The PGA of America is one of the world’s largest sports organizations, composed of nearly 28,000 PGA Professionals who work daily to grow interest and inclusion in the game of golf. For more information about the PGA of America, visit PGA.com and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
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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Illinois PGA Communications