Five-time PGA Champion Jack Nicklaus, whose philanthropic efforts include establishing the Barbara & Jack Nicklaus Junior Golf Endowment Fund, and elevating the role of PGA Professionals through First Tee teaching grants, will head a roster of seven inductees to be enshrined in the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame.
Nicklaus is joined in the 2006 Hall of Fame class by PGA of America President Roger Warren of Kiawah Island, S.C., who will complete his term as the 34th president of the Association in November. The inductees also include: 2005 PGA Golf Professional of the Year Bill Eschenbrenner of El Paso, Texas; 1958 PGA Champion Dow Finsterwald of Colorado Springs, Colo.; 1986 PGA Teacher of the Year Manuel de la Torre of Milwaukee, Wis.; PGA Master Professional William Heald of Westchester, Ill., and 1987 PGA Teacher of the Year Gary Wiren of North Palm Beach, Fla.
The inductees will be honored in a ceremony, Friday, Dec. 8, in conjunction with the 10th PGA Teaching & Coaching Summit, Dec. 6-10, at the PGA Learning Center at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
“It is with a great deal of pride that The PGA of America welcomes seven individuals who have dedicated their careers to the betterment of the game of golf in addition to becoming leaders in the profession,” said PGA Vice President Brian Whitcomb. “This is a class that features world-class instructors and outstanding contributors to golf, individuals who represent the best in the game and its possibilities for future generations.
“When you consider Jack Nicklaus‘ career as a player, you also see how much emphasis he placed on contributing to the betterment of so many aspiring players and PGA Professionals. Jack was coached by a legendary PGA Professional in Jack Grout, and it is with that spirit that he and his wife, Barbara, began initiatives such as the Junior Golf Endowment Fund and the Nicklaus/PGA Teaching Grants Program. We are delighted to have these seven individuals have their names inscribed in the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame among those who have made golf the greatest game.”
A closer look at the 2006 inductees:
Manuel de la Torre – Born in Madrid, Spain, and the son of Angel de la Torre, the first Spanish golf professional, Manuel de la Torre graduated from Northwestern University in 1947. He was elected to PGA membership in 1952. He became a premier golf instructor and was the recipient of the first PGA Teacher of the Year in 1986, and was inducted in 2005 into the World Golf Teachers Hall of Fame. A five-time Wisconsin PGA Section Champion, he also was the first to serve as president of the Section (1955-57), and from 1959-61 was the PGA District 6 Director. During his 46 years as PGA head professional at Milwaukee Country Club, de la Torre taught more than 50,000 lessons and has presented more than 100 seminars for 15 PGA Sections throughout his career. The winner of three Section Horton Smith Awards, de la Torre has been an advocate of education throughout his career.
Bill Eschenbrenner – A PGA Master Professional at Lone Star Golf Club in El Paso, Texas, Bill Eschenbrenner was the 52nd recipient of PGA Golf Professional of the Year in 2005, the highest annual honor bestowed by The PGA of America on a PGA Professional. A native of Fort Worth, Texas, but an El Paso resident since 1961, is a former caddie at Worth Hills Municipal Golf Course in Fort Worth, Texas, and made a career path to professional golf through his association and friendship with many of the premier players in the Lone Star State, including legends Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson. Elected to PGA membership in 1965, Eschenbrenner was the 1994 national Horton Smith Award winner for contributions to PGA education and winner of the 1984 Bill Strausbaugh Award for mentoring fellow PGA Professionals and community service. Among those guided by Eschenbrenner was the legendary Lee Trevino, who credited Eschenbrenner for helping him gain a PGA Tour berth. Eschenbrenner served 35 years as PGA director of golf at El Paso Country Club, and five years as consultant. He developed a city-wide junior golf program in El Paso. In 1974, he founded the NCAA College All-American Golf Tournament, an event that has returned more than $600,000 in golf scholarships to participating college programs. From 1976-77, Eschenbrenner served as president of the Sun County PGA Section, was District 12 Director for the national PGA Board of Directors (1995-97), and was a past Board member of the Southwest PGA Section from 1965-74.
Dow Finsterwald – The winner of the first PGA Championship conducted at stroke play (1958 at Llanerch Country Club in Havertown, Pa.), Dow Finsterwald also became a standout supporter of the Colorado PGA Section and the development of golf in Colorado. Elected to PGA membership in 1956, Finsterwald served more than 30 years as director of golf at Broadmoor Golf Club in Colorado Springs; and was Colorado PGA president from 1971-72. He was the recipient of the 1972 Section Golf Professional of the Year, PGA District Director from 1976-78; chair of the PGA Rules Committee; and member of the Tournament/Tour Policy Board and Section Past Presidents Committee. From 1979-81, Finsterwald was a member of the USGA Rules Committee and since 1978 has been a member of the Masters Tournament Rules Committee. He was a four-time Ryder Cup Team member and served as the 1977 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain. He was inducted into the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame in 1978 and to the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 2003.
William Heald – A PGA member since 1952, William “Bill” Heald is a PGA Master Professional and a two-time winner (1981 and 1999) of the Bill Strausbaugh Award for distinguishing himself in mentoring PGA Professionals. Heald served as PGA head professional at Riverside Golf Club in North Riverside, Ill., for 33 years and spent a decade at the facility as general manager. He served as Illinois PGA president from 1976-77, and as District 6 Director from 1993-95, and a 1991 member of the National Club Relations Steering Committee. Among his initiatives was coordinating PGA members, Park District presidents, management companies and non-private facility amateur players for a video presentation which promoted why facilities are better served in employing PGA Professionals. During his presidency of the Illinois PGA Section, Heald established the first Section executive office with a full-time executive director. In 1997, Heald was inducted into the Illinois PGA Hall of Fame. Though retired from Riverside Golf Club, Heald remains one of the most active Illinois PGA Professionals while serving on the Section Employment and Rules Committees.
Jack Nicklaus – Regarded by most historians as the greatest player in golf history, Jack Nicklaus also has been revered for his efforts in sportsmanship, philanthropy, respect for the game of golf and its effect upon future generations. The 2000 recipient of the PGA Distinguished Service Award, Nicklaus partnered with his wife, Barbara, to begin the Barbara & Jack Nicklaus Junior Golf Endowment Fund. Nicklaus remains honorary chair of PGA Junior Golf, and partnered with The PGA of America to create a $2 million endowment to provide teaching grants to certified Chapters of The First Tee that use PGA Professionals and Apprentices for instruction. To date, 123 of the 202 active Chapters of The First Tee nationwide have been recipients of either a PGA of America or Nicklaus/PGA teaching grant. The combined PGA and Nicklaus/PGA grants total $1,520,000. In addition to a playing career that includes 18 professional major championships, Nicklaus was a six-time U.S. Ryder Cup member and a two-time Ryder Cup Captain (1983, ‘87). In 1977, Nicklaus was credited in leading a campaign to include European players in the Ryder Cup to enhance competitive balance in what today is golf’s ultimate spectacle. In November 2005, Nicklaus was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civil award, and presented by President George Bush.
Roger Warren – The 34th president of The PGA of America, Roger Warren has been a leader in the development of PGA education, a passion that followed an 18-year career as a high school instructor and coach in the Dundee (Ill.) School system. The president of the Kiawah Island (S.C.) Golf Resort, Warren was elected to PGA membership in 1990, and served as a member of the Golf Professional Training Program (GPTP) faculty for three years. In 1996, he served on the task force that developed CareerLinks, The PGA’s job identification service. As PGA President, Warren has been instrumental in advancing several member-based education and research programs, including the PGA Certified Professional Program and PGA PerformanceTrak. Warren was the 1992 Illinois PGA Merchandiser of the Year for public facilities and the 1998 Illinois PGA Golf Professional of the Year. Nationally, he has served on The PGA’s task force on governance, and was elected president in 2004. A native of Galesburg, Ill., Warren graduated from Western Illinois University in 1972 with a degree in education. He earned his master’s degree in 1981 from Northern Illinois University. He joined Kiawah Island Golf Resort as director of golf in April 2003 and assumed his present position in September 2005.
Gary Wiren – A golf educator, PGA Master Professional, a Master Certified Teacher and a former national PGA staff director, Gary Wiren is a graduate of Huron University in South Dakota with a master’s degree from the University of Michigan and a Ph.D. from the University of Oregon. A PGA member since 1966, Wiren is a PGA teaching professional at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla., and Senior Director of Instruction for all Trump Golf Properties. The author of more than 200 magazine articles and 11 books, Wiren is a past board member of the National Golf Foundation, the American Junior Golf Association and the Children’s Golf Foundation. He has taught, privately, in groups, at seminars and in stage performances before more than 250,000 people in 34 countries. Wiren was recipient of the 1987 PGA Teacher of the Year Award. He served The PGA of America for 12 years, founding its National Academy of Golf and was director of education, learning and research.
The PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame originated in 1940 at the suggestion of famed sportswriter Grantland Rice, the PGA Golf Professional Hall of Fame was relocated in 2005 at the PGA Historical Center at PGA Village in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The Hall of Fame recognizes all PGA members who have made significant and lasting contributions to the building of The PGA of America and the game of golf. The inductees include PGA Presidents, PGA Golf Professional of the Year award winners as well as those PGA Professionals who also distinguished themselves as competitors while in service to The PGA of America.