Former Midlands-based professional Sarah-Jane Eaves ranks as the most successful PGA graduate ever as she was crowned the Titleist PGA Assistant of the Year and Female Assistant of the Year at the PGA’s annual graduation ceremony at the University of Birmingham.
The two newest accolades come on the back of Eaves being top of the class amongst her peers in both the first and second year of her PGA Foundation Degree. The historic treble of topping years one, two and three was only achieved for the first time last year and now Eaves has emulated the feat.
Runner-up was former British Boys Amateur champion Mark Pilling, who has designs on becoming one of the country’s leading coaches. The 27-year-old, who is based at Prestbury Golf Club in Macclesfield, secured a prize of £2,500 from Titleist. In addition, Pilling’s coaching prowess was rewarded by leading swing technology innovator GASP Systems as he secured £2,000 worth of lab video software.
Third place was taken by Portsmouth Golf Centre’s David Egan, who played the game on pay and play courses and only achieved an official handicap when he decided to become a PGA professional after finishing a business studies degree at university. He earned a prize of £1,500.
Former banker Andre Bell has found a new lease of life since ditching the financial world for a career as a professional golfer. The 40-year-old’s enthusiasm and determination came to the fore as he topped the second year assistants’ to collect the Lord Derby Trophy and a cheque for £1,000.
The Rookie of the Year title and the Major John Bywaters Trophy and a cheque for £1,000 was won by former chartered surveyor Edward Cartwright, who is an assistant at Bradford Golf Club.
In addition, the coaching prowess of five assistants – three from the final year plus top of the pile in years one and two – were recognised by GASP Systems with almost £8,000 worth of prizes.
Celtic Manor’s Robert Watkins, who was ninth overall, took the top GASP prize worth £2,999. Pilling was runner-up with Craig Fricker of Styrrup Hall in Hampshire third. Graeme Dunlea (Adare Manor) topped year two with Andrew Buchanan top of year one.
Sarah-Jane Eaves, who is based at Monte Rei Golf & Country Club on Portugal’s Algarve, flew in to collect the Whitcombe Cox Trophy, the LET-sponsored Beverly Lewis Trophy and total prize money of £5,000. In addition, graduation sponsors Titleist have given Sarah-Jane a two-year equipment contract including balls, clubs, a bag, gloves and hats.
Sarah-Jane, who missed last year’s graduation ceremony due to being grounded as a consequence of the Iceland volcano eruption, paid tribute to the PGA Training Academy and her mentors in helping her achieve her unprecedented success.
“I owe a great deal to the PGA tutors and mentors who have been absolutely brilliantly throughout the three years,” said the 27-year-old former Belfry assistant. “Their commitment and willingness to be available on the end of the phone and to give their time was a real help all the way through training.”
She added: “To come top all the way through the course is a real surprise. Like everyone else on the course I just went into it trying to do my best and become a qualified PGA professional. Having come top the first two years there was an element of pressure, mainly from myself, to come top in the final year.
“But I’ve been lucky throughout my training to firstly learn so much from my time at the Belfry and then for the past couple of years in Portugal, all of which I have been able to transfer to my studies. Working overseas I also know that the PGA’s training programme and the skills we learn are amongst the best in the world.”
Sarah-Jane’s achievement received praise from the PGA, the LET and graduation sponsors Titleist.
Ken Graham, Titleist director of sales, said: “We are pleased to continue our support of the Titleist PGA Assistant of the Year award, recognising this as a starting point of the PGA’s commitment to provide its members with a framework for lifelong learning.
“PGA professionals play a key role in the development and growth of the game across all levels, and we are delighted to support the next generation of qualified professionals. As a longstanding partner of the PGA and sponsor of the Titleist PGA Play-Offs, we are committed to further developing our already strong relationship.”
PGA chief executive Sandy Jones added: “Last year Jonathan Shipstone established a record by being the leading assistant in every year of his training which many thought would never be equalled.
“However in this era of equal rights it is quite appropriate that Sarah Jane Eaves has now matched that feat – an achievement which sees her become the first female PGA assistant to come top of all three years. This is a great success coming so hard on the heels of Jonathan’s achievement and has been achieved on the back of hard work and dedication to the golf profession.”
Ladies European Tour executive director Alexandra Armas said: “Sarah Jane deserves huge applause for her outstanding achievements as PGA Female Assistant of the Year and Assistant of the Year overall.
“As the first female golfer to have won all three years and the second ever assistant to top all three years of the PGA education programme, she has passed with flying colours and will be exceptionally equipped for an exciting and rewarding career in golf.”
The PGA training programme concentrates on all aspects of golf including business, equipment technology and repairs, rules and tournament organisation, sports science and sports psychology and playing.
Training and education remains an integral part of the PGA with the foundation degree, while the PGA also runs an honours degree in association with the University of Birmingham.
PGA News www.pga.info