This year, Amateur Golf Alliance Board members Bob Ford, David Leadbetter, and Jim Nugent individually received significant honors from the USGA, PGA of America, and AJGA. Bob Ford was named the 2017 Bob Jones Award Winner by the USGA, David Leadbetter was named the 2017 PGA Teacher of the Year by the PGA of America, and Jim Nugent was named the 2017 J.R. “Digger” Smith Award Winner by the AJGA.
The Bob Jones Award is the USGA’s highest honor and exists to recognize the individual who demonstrates the spirit, personal character, and respect for the game exhibited by Bob Jones. Anyone who has had the opportunity to meet Bob Ford can confirm that he is an ideal choice for this award. As the long time head professional at both Oakmont Country Club and Seminole Golf Club, Ford has garnered a reputation as the game’s top club professional. USGA President Diana Murphy stated that “Bob has set the gold standard in his profession and has left an indelible mark on countless young club professionals whom he has mentored. He has instilled in each of them a passion, love, and appreciation for the game through his exemplary character, humility and respect for people. He is the best at what he does and uses his skills and time to bring out the best in them.” Ford is also a fine player in his own right, having qualified for three US Opens, two US Senior Opens, and 10 PGA Championships. In 1983 when Oakmont hosted the US Open, Ford finished t-26th while running the merchandise tent after his rounds, making him the last host professional to play in and make the cut in a US Open. He is the first PGA club professional to receive the Bob Jones Award, which is appropriate since his peers call him “the pro’s pro.”
David Leadbetter was this year’s recipient of the PGA of America’s Teacher of the Year Award for his “outstanding services as a golf teacher, innovator, and coach.” After such a distinguished teaching career, former number one player in the world Nick Price and 2015 PGA Teacher of the Year Cameron McCormick both expressed this as an honor long overdue. Leadbetter has worked with the best players in the game for 35 years and in that time his students have won 24 major championships and seven ascended to the top of the world ranking. Early in his career, Leadbetter became widely known for his work with Nick Price and helping to rebuild Nick Faldo’s swing. This success led to many more top students such as Ernie Els, Michelle Wie, and Danielle Kang, but Leadbetter has also had a significant impact on players of all levels through his golf academy that has grown to 30 locations in 14 countries. “To get involved with juniors is really important for me,” Leadbetter said, “if you get kids at a young age they are going to play for a lifetime.” He’s also been a mentor and educator to fellow teachers through numerous articles, instructional videos, and authoring eight books about the golf swing. At the awards ceremony, Leadbetter explained that he wasn’t focused on building a career, he was just trying to help people because it was something he enjoyed doing. “That’s one of the qualities you need as a teacher, you’ve got to want to see people get better and enjoy this great game.”
The American Junior Golf Association’s J.R. “Digger” Smith Award honors longtime service and dedication to junior golf. It has been awarded annually since 1991 to a supporter who is devoted to the AJGA mission of developing young men and women through competitive junior golf. This year’s recipient is AGA Board member Jim Nugent who has served on the AJGA Executive Committee since 1993 and has been the President of its Board of Directors since 2013. Digger Smith, the award’s namesake, stated that Nugent was unquestionably deserving of the award. He continued, “Jim is so knowledgeable about golf and all of the various stakeholders in the profession – he has been a tremendous asset to the Association all these years.” Professionally Nugent is the Founder and Publisher of Global Golf Post and is a 25 year veteran of the global golf media industry. He is a champion of the global amateur game and, through his writing at The Post, strives to support and elevate the amateur game worldwide.
Ford, Leadbetter, and Nugent are invaluable assets to the Amateur Golf Alliance. They have all led distinguished careers in the golf industry and their experience and insight are instrumental in guiding our initiatives forward. The Amateur Golf Alliance congratulates them on these well deserved honors.