Walter Lowell Public Golf CourseDistinguished Service Award
Richter Park Golf Course
2015 Hall of Fame Inductees
Shuttle Meadow Country Club
Wyckoff Country Club
PGA Life Member
2015 Jack Kelly Sportsmanship Award
West Suffield, Conn.
2015 JGA Player of the Year
Feeding Hills, Mass.
East Longmeadow, Mass.
2015 Section Player of the Year
Black Hall Club
2015 Senior Player of the Year
PGA Life Member
Past Special Award Winners
2015 Connecticut Section PGA Special Award Winners
Golf Professional of the Year
Mike Carney, Watertown Golf Club
Mike Carney of Watertown Golf Club has been named the 58th Golf Professional of the Year by the Board of Directors and the Special Awards Committee of the Connecticut Section PGA. The Golf Professional of the Year award is given for overall performance as a golf professional, leadership, service to his/her Section, the ability to inspire fellow professionals, and the promotion of the game of golf.
“My first thought was that I don’t really deserve it, and I tried to turn it down but they wouldn’t let me,” says Carney. “I know it’s a great honor, the highest honor I could get from the PGA. But I wasn’t out seeking awards, that was the last thing I wanted.”
“Mike Carney has been a consummate golf professional; one who plays the game, manages the business, and serves his membership,” said Connecticut Section PGA Executive Director Tom Hantke. “He endears himself to both his peers and amateurs he plays with who appreciate his style and pace of play.”
Carney has been a Class A member of the PGA since 1987, and spent his entire career at Watertown. After four years as assistant to John Galeski, Carney took over the role of Head Professional at age 35, a position which he held for twenty-one years. In 2008, Carney passed off the reigns of Head Professional to Ian Marshall, and moved into his current role as Golf Professional Emeritus. Although he was frequently offered positions at other golf courses, it was the people and the environment at Watertown that always kept Carney at home.
Carney’s game has earned him many accolades, including two Connecticut Senior PGA Championships (2003 & 2006), the 74th Connecticut PGA Championship (2005), the Connecticut Section Senior Player of the Year (2003), as well as qualifying for the Travelers Championship in 2005. Carney also played in the 2003 Senior PGA Championship at Aronimink, and has twelve holes-in-one to his credit. His low round is a 62, at both Watertown Golf Club and the Country Club of Waterbury, and he also holds the competitive course record at Shennecossett (65).
Carney has also been instrumental in the fundraising efforts of the Connecticut Section PGA’s Golf Foundation. Carney, along with Marshall, represent Watertown Golf Club in an annual charity event called “The Match,” where they face the Country Club of Waterbury team of Tom Gleeton and his top assistant professional. Going into the seventh edition of the event, ‘The Match’ has helped raise over $25,000 for the Golf Foundation.
Head Golf Professional at Hawk’s Landing Country Club for the past 13 seasons, previously:
Assistant Golf Professional at Torrington Country Club (one season)
Lead Golf Instructor at The First Tee of CT (six seasons)
Golf Instructor at ESPN (five seasons)
Vitale attended Miami-Dade Community College and Southern Connecticut State University, earning a degree in Business. He is a Level 1 Certified Coach of the First Tee of CT and the 2013 Outstanding Service Award from Rally For A Cure.
Says Vitale on winning the award: “I truly feel that I was recognized for this award because of my determination to become the best teacher I can be. It included teaching The First Tee, at ESPN and the innovative things I have done with video, internet lessons and my involvement with junior golf in general. I was able to expand myself while maintaining my head professional status at Hawk’s Landing. I feel that all of the accomplishments combined were the reasons I was recognized for this award.”
What got you into the game: “My grandfather took me to watch my cousin play in the city championship when I was 12 years old. From there, I fell in love with the game. I would spend every summer at the golf course from that point on and eventually joined my high school golf team my sophomore year. My father would take me for weekly golf lessons that proved very valuable for me.”
Biggest Career Influence: “The biggest influences would have to be my grandfather, my Father, Joe Dennis, Mike Carney, Jeff DelRosso, Tom Gleeton, everyone from East Mountain Golf Course, my brother A.J., Glenn Carlson, Mike Rasmussen, Coach Lou Holtz, Jack Miller, Ian Baxter and Mark Moriarty, Mike Deangelo and Adam DeSantis, all of my Students, Dan Paradis, and my wife Danielle our and son Vincent.”
Best Part of Your Job: “What I like most about my job is helping my students reach their goals. I absolutely love to see the smile on faces when a particular shot is hit or a milestone has been reached. I love the challenge of making every one of my students better. I also love the fact that I am surrounded by people who are getting out to have a good time. I feel blessed to be able to go to work every day and to do something that I have such passion for.”
What does this award mean to you: “Winning this award means that all of the hard work that I put into becoming the best teacher I can be has been recognized by others. I also feel that this award will inspire me to be better and to continue to learn from some of the top teachers in the world. I am humbled and truly honored by winning this award.”
Ciaran Carr, Wintonbury Hills Golf Course
Turned Professional in 1999
Elected to PGA Membership in 2001
General Manager at Wintonbury Hills Golf Course for the past five seasons, previously:
Director of Golf at Putnam National (four seasons)
Head Golf Professional at The Links at Union Vale (five seasons)
First Assistant at The Legends-Myrtle Beach (two seasons)
Carr has served on the Finance Committee and Tournament Committee for the Connecticut Section PGA. He also volunteers with the Bloomfield School system, initiating SNAG in elementary schools and a middle school golf team.
Says Carr: “I value mentorship so much and giving back to younger professionals starting in the business. I am proud that 3 of my assistants have gone onto Head Professional positions.”
Biggest Career Influence: “Mike Schroeder was the lead instructor at Wild Wing Plantation and was the Carolina Teacher of the Year. I spent hours watching him teach. He is a kind, understanding, classy man and one I always tried to model myself after.”
Greatest Playing Accomplishment: “I set the course record at The Links at Union Vale (64) which stood until Padraig Harrington visited and beat it with a 63.”
Best Part of Your Job: “Every day is different; I am challenged but embrace the industry and all its tests. I especially like the people I work with.”
What does this award mean to you: “I was much honored to be nominated and to receive an award named after such a role model as Bill Strausbaugh is very humbling. I will try and incorporate his beliefs into my future endeavors.”
Steve Madison, Golf Club of Avon
Turned Professional in 2001
Elected to PGA Membership in 2005
First Assistant at the Golf Club of Avon for the past four seasons, previously:
Assistant at Newport Country Club (one season)
First Assistant at Shelter Harbor Golf Club (five seasons)
Assistant at Jupiter Island Club (six seasons)
First Assistant Wampanoag Country Club (nine seasons)
Madison graduated from Central Connecticut State University in 2000 with a degree in Business Management. He has served on the Junior Golf, Professional Development, and Marketing/Sponsors Committees for the Connecticut Section PGA, and was President of the Assistants Association Board from 2013-14 (currently the Honorary President of the Assistants Association). Madison was named the Connecticut Section PGA Assistant Professional of the Year in 2013, and was recognized as a US Kids Top 50 Teacher in 2014.
Says Madison: “Last fall the Assistants Association held its Fall Meeting and tied it into a Mentor Education Event. We invited 10 seasoned, high profile Section Professionals to join us for an educational roundtable, and follow it will a fun best ball tournament. It was my last meeting as President of the Assistants Association, so I wanted to make sure that the program was a success. I enjoyed my role in the development of the event because the event was unique and educational for Assistants.”
What got you into the game: “I started playing golf around 8 years old. My Dad taught me how to play and follow the rules. I mostly hit plastic balls in my backyard until I got the chance to play at a local Par-3 course. I loved how it felt to make good contact with a real golf ball. I was then hooked for life.”
Biggest Career Influence: “My biggest influences are the Head Professionals who I’ve worked for, especially Ryan Hall, Dave Tiedemann, Jim Corrigan, and Jim McMahon.”
Best Part of Your Job: “I like the variety my job provides. I love working with golfers trying to improve and enjoy the game more. This means different things to different golfers, but when they come in off the course with a smile and a feeling of accomplishment, it feels good to know that you helped them achieve that feeling.”
What does this award mean to you: “Winning this award means a lot because it recognizes my efforts in an area that I’m very passionate about. I think that as professionals in such a unique and rapidly changing industry, we need to be educated and well rounded to meet the challenges of tomorrow. I have been in a unique position to be able to help others connect with that education.”
Assistant Professional of Year
John Dipollina, North Ridge Golf Club
Turned Professional in 2004
Elected to PGA Membership in 2009
Assistant Golf Professional at North Ridge Golf Club for the past two seasons, previously:
Head Professional at Gillette Ridge Golf Club (2 seasons)
Head Professional at Minnechaug Golf Club (4 seasons)
Assistant Professional at Lauren View Country Club (1 season)
Apprentice at Grand Cypress Resort (2 seasons)
Dipollina graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2001with a degree in Psychology/Criminal Justice, and served on the Membership Committee for the Connecticut Section PGA. Dipollina is a U.S. Kids Golf Certified Golf Professional and a U.S. Kids Golf Top 50 Kids Teacher Honorable Mention.
Says Dipollina on winning the award: “I feel it was from my work side by side with our head golf professional Jack McConachie. Jack & I complement each other very well and we both learned a great deal of knowledge from each other about all of the aspects of the golf business.”
What got you into the game: “My Dad brought home a rickety set of clubs and some golf balls one day and hung them in the garage because he knew I loved mini-golf and thought maybe I’d enjoy real golf. I cut 9 holes in the back yard with a potting shovel and made my own course around our yard.”
Biggest Career Influence: “I’ve been lucky to work under some tremendously talented professionals both in and out of golf. Working for four years at The University of Connecticut’s Women’s Basketball Office, Geno Auriemma and his staff taught me what it takes to be a winner and how much work and attention to detail is involved. I spent a season with LPGA Professional of the Year 2013 Kammy Maxfeldt of Birchwood CC and learning how to be “professional” in every sense of the word. I studied golf instruction under two-time CT PGA Teacher of the Year George Connor and saw him build a business of teaching the game of golf. Now I have the privilege of working alongside a man in Jack McConachie who quite simply loves the game of golf more than anyone I have or will ever know.”
Best Part of Your Job: “Going to work and being genuinely excited about each day. My one work goal in life is not to be a rich, but when you wake up in the morning to look forward to the day ahead of you, not to dread it.”
What does this award mean to you: “Being recognized by other PGA golf professionals that have been in my shoes before is an amazing feeling. Receiving this award reinforces the fact that I am doing all the right things in order to be a successfully employed head golf professional in the future. It tells me that all of the sacrifices that I have made for the sake of my career are worth it and are paying off.”
Player Development Award
Rich Varrato, Tumble Brook Country Club
Turned Professional in 2001
Elected to PGA Membership in 2005
Assistant Professional at Tumble Brook Country Club for the past four seasons, previously:
Assistant Professional at Golf Club of Avon (two seasons)
Assistant Professional at Chippanee Golf Club (three seasons)
Assistant Professional at Hunter Golf Club (three seasons)
Varrato has served on the Marketing Committee for the Connecticut Section PGA, and was President of the Assistants Association Board in 2006. He was also the 2005 Assistant Professional of the Year.
Says Varrato: “The recent addition of a launch monitor and simulator to our winter golf program has been the one thing that I can say has separated us from other instructional programs in the area. The members at Tumble Brook Country Club have been extremely supportive of us and because of that, we owe it to them to be at the cutting-edge of technology and constantly be improving our programs.”
What got you into the game: “I grew up playing golf at Hunter Golf Club in Meriden. I almost immediately fell in love with the game, the people who I would play with, and the Professionals who took me under their wing: Tex Kane and Dave Cook. Ever since I started my career washing carts and picking the range, I knew becoming a Golf Professionals was what I wanted to do with my life. In fact, in my 8th grade yearbook, one of my classmates wrote a fictional story about where we’d all be when we were all “grown up” and I was a Golf Professional!”
Biggest Career Influence: “I've been blessed to have worked for some of the best PGA professionals in the country and they have all had a hand in my success thus far. I've spent the most time working with Howie Friday at Tumble Brook CC. He has not only been someone I have enjoyed working for, but has become one of my best friends.”
Best Part of Your Job: “Without question, the best part of my job is the people I interact with on a daily basis. In addition to the wonderful staff at Tumble Brook CC, the members of the club have been so supportive of me and my pursuit to be the best person and Golf Professional I can be. I can be certain that no staff looks forward to working with each other day in and day out like we do at Tumble Brook Country Club.”
What does this award mean to you: “I liken my professional development to the development of my students and their golf games. We constantly need to do what's necessary to improve and be cognizant of what areas need to be improved on. That being said, this award is indication to me that both my students of my peers recognize my efforts to be the best man and PGA Professional I can be.”
Brian Gehan, Richter Park Golf Course
Turned Professional in 2006
Elected to PGA Membership in 2013
Gehan has been the Director of Golf & Operations at Richter Park Golf Course for four seasons. Previously, he served as Head Golf Professional Richter Park for five seasons. Richter Park also won the 2015 Walter Lowell Distinguished Public Golf Course Service Award.
Says Gehan on winning the award: “The main accomplishment would be to have a great shop for our golfers! The goal is to provide a great atmosphere for our golfers and a good looking well stocked Pro-Shop is a piece of that puzzle. I have great reps that I work with who are a big help!”
What got you into the game: “I started playing golf when I was in 8th grade. A couple buddies I played baseball with asked me to play golf with them. After that first round I knew that was all I wanted to do!”
Biggest Career Influence: “I have a great group of people around me who have helped me along the way through my journey into the PGA and beyond. My parents, Bill Flood, PGA, Bob Geambazi, PGA, Paul Miner, PGA were all huge influences on my career in the PGA.”
Best Part of Your Job: “I love all aspects of my job, from teaching, tournament operations, to the business side of golf!”
What does this award mean to you: “It was a lifetime goal to just to be part of the PGA, but to receive an award from the PGA Members & peers you have looked up to, is an unbelievable honor!”
Youth Player Development
Marc Bayram, Timberlin Golf Course
Turned Professional in 2005
Elected to PGA Membership in 2009
Head Golf Professional at Timberlin Golf Club for the past five seasons.
Bayram graduated from Saint Leo University in 2005 with a degree in Business Administration. He has served on Tournament and Golf Properties Committees for the Connecticut Section PGA, as well as a member of the Assistants Association. Bayram was the 2012 Public Merchandiser of the Year.
Says Bayram: “Timberlin has had a great tradition when it comes to junior golf and I have been fortunate to continue that tradition. Seeing the youth enjoy the game of golf and hanging out at Timberlin because they want to is very rewarding. The Town of Berlin has allowed me to cater to the youngsters by closing the driving for clinics and allowing kids to play with their parent’s free on weekend afternoons. I have always taken a lot of pride in creating fun programs for the youngest of our junior golfers, all the way to hiring boys & girls from the high school team to work in the shop and writing letters of recommendation to college coaches.”
What got you into the game: “My father has been an avid golfer for over 40 years. He is the reason I got in to the game and my love for the game started when I would accompany him and his foursome at Stanley Golf Course when I was 11. They would let me hit a tee shot every so often and it was the highlight of my day. That got me hooked and a few years later I got to join his foursome every weekend.”
Biggest Career Influence: “My father was a huge influence on getting me started in the game and the Stanley Golf Course junior program led by Ted Pisk and Ted Keiltyka helped me hone my skills. Mr. Pisk would always challenge the juniors to putting matches in the evening on the practice green and that is something I try to do at Timberlin as well. We would always poke fun at the fact he would go out ball-hawking at night and re-sell the golf balls he found in zip lock bags in the shop. Now that I own my own golf shop I can just see he was being an entrepreneur! The biggest influence I have had career-wise has been Tim Gavronski. Working under his leadership truly prepared me for a career in the golf business and I owe much of my success to his tutelage.”
Best Part of Your Job: “The best part of my job is that I can support my family doing something I truly enjoy.”
What does this award mean to you: “This award means the world to me because I take a great deal of pride in youth golf. In a short amount of time I have gotten to see youngsters grow as not only golfers, but grow as good citizens as well. My wife and I are lucky enough to have 3 future junior golfers of our own, all ages 5 & under, and sharing this award with them is very special to me.”
Donny Kirkpatrick, Wampanoag Country Club
Turned Professional in 2002
Elected to PGA Membership in 2005
Kirkpatrick graduated from Penn State University in 2002 with a degree in Professional Golf Management. He is currently the Head Golf Professional at Wampanoag Country Club for the past three seasons, previously:
Assistant Golf Professional at Greenwich Country Club (10 seasons)
Assistant Golf Professional at Quogue Field Club (one season)
Says Kirkpatrick on winning the award: “The ability I had to turn a shop that was there more for a convenience to the membership into a Golf Shop that not only I was proud of but a top shop in the section.”
What got you into the game: “I grew up in Oakmont, PA home the famed Oakmont Country Club. I started out as a caddie and moved my way up. Working and seeing the admiration and respect that the members showed Head Professional Bob Ford, I knew right then that a life in the golf industry was my future.”
Biggest Career Influence: “-My wife Natalie Kirkpatrick, my parents Dale and Terry Kirkpatrick, Head Professional at Briarwood Country Club Andy Fellows, Head Professional at Oakmont Country Club Bob Ford, and Head Professional Glen Ridge Country Club Tommy Monteverdi.”
Best Part of Your Job: “There is not just one part of my job that I can say is the best. Interacting with members and their guests, talking and being around the game I love. Teaching and growing the game to the next generation of golfers.”
What does this award mean to you: “It shows that all of my hard work had paid off. I put a lot of effort into creating a golf shop that not only I am proud of but my members are proud of as well. It is a good feeling when the members bring in guests to show off our Golf Shop.”
Sales Representative of the Year
Rob Lamy, Bridgestone
Lamy has been the Territory Manager for Bridgestone Golf for the past 9 seasons, and in 2010 was recognized as the Bridgestone Golf East Region Salesman of the Year. He graduated from Lynchburg College in 1997 with a degree in Communications.
Says Lamy on winning the award: “I like to think it’s my credibility and integrity. I truly appreciate the golf professional or facility that gives me an opportunity to be in their shop.”
What got you into the game: “My interest in golf took off when I played a round at Tallwood with a friend who was a Pro at the time. I saw the game played at a completely higher level. I noticed great ball flight & heard the sound of clean ball striking for the 1st time.”
Biggest Career Influence: “My work ethic from my father, and my consultative selling style from Harry Murley.”
Best Part of Your Job: “Being involved in the game of golf, and visiting a wide variety of golf courses throughout New England.”
What does this award mean to you: “When I heard I won this award, I was reminded of the great past winners, many of which I consider mentors and have learned from. I thought about when I was hired by Bridgestone Golf nine years ago as their Territory Manager. At the time, I worked as a tech rep for a golf manufacturer and had golf retail sales experience. However, I had to work hard to generate green grass sales knowledge and connections with PGA Golf Professionals. I feel winning this award validates my strong relationships with the CT Section PGA Golf Professionals, as well as my credibility as a valued partner with them. I like to think that I provide beneficial product recommendations and sales support to encourage their sell through and protect their profitability. I am truly thankful for this award, and I appreciate the opportunity to carry the flag for the CT Section Sales Representatives in 2015.”
Walter Lowell Public Golf Course – Richter Park Golf Course