Ryder Cup winning captain Bernard Gallacher was on hand to congratulate the class of 2015 as the shining stars of the PGA Foundation Degree returned to Birmingham for the annual PGA Graduation ceremony.
Gallacher celebrated the achievements of new crop of PGA Professionals at the University of Birmingham on Friday April 22 as they embarked on their fledgling careers. By coincidence, it also just happened to be a Scottish one-two in the Titleist PGA Assistant of the Year awards.
A ‘chuffed’ Keir McNicoll of Gullane Golf Club captured the top honour, which secured him the Whitcombe Cox Trophy a cheque for £3,500 and a personalised golf bag and clubs from Titleist.
Runner-up was Bobby Rushford of Glenbervie Golf Club, who acknowledged fellow Scot and former European Tour player Dean Robertson as his inspiration for taking the degree. His efforts secured a cheque for £2,500.
Third place went to Moor Park’s Harriet Key, who was also named the LET Female Assistant of the Year, which secured her the Beverly Lewis Trophy and a cheque for £1,750 to go with the £1,500 for finishing third.
The top second year assistant was Robin Hood Golf Club’s Jamie Carney, who made the short trip from Solihull to collect the Lord Derby trophy and £1,000.
Rookie of the Year went to Hawkstone Park’s Daniel Leeke, who picked the sport back up after seeing a potential career as professional footballer. He was presented with the Major John Bywaters Trophy and a cheque for £1,000.
The PGA training programme, encompassing the three year Foundation Degree, was founded more than 50 years ago and covers all aspects of golf including business, equipment technology and repairs, rules and tournament organisation, sports science and sports psychology.
Training and education remain an integral part of The PGA – it also runs an honours degree in association with the University of Birmingham and this year has launched a new partnership with the University of Highlands and Islands in Scotland.
Once qualified, PGA Members undergo a process of continual professional development to keep them up to speed with all the latest developments in the sport and wider golf industry.
PGA chief executive Sandy Jones said: “The PGA Graduation day is always inspirational and gives me great confidence each year the game of golf is in good hands for generations to come. The quality of the graduates coming through our PGA training programme are second to none and there’s no doubt they are starting at the beginning of their careers which will take them to almost any corner of the world.
“I congratulate each and every one of them for their hard work and effort they have put into obtaining the qualification. I wish them all success wherever the game of golf takes them.”
Matthew Johnson, Titleist brand director, 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.
“Titleist has had a long standing commitment to PGA professionals, we realise and endorse that they 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, we look forward to working with them and would like wish them well with their future careers.”
On a day of recognising achievement, Foxhills’ Scott Sellars took top spot in the equipment technology exams, resulting in a cheque for £1,500 from Golf Pride’s Conor Dillon.
Former Assistant of the Year Sarah Walton (Kington) was back at the Great Hall having achieved Director of Golf status. Poult Wood’s Rupert Hunter also collected his Director of Golf award.
Tutor Jerry Hayes had a special presentation after retiring from the education programme, while Greg Brodie and Rick Valentine collected their PGA Level 4 certificates.