At another glittering awards evening, The PGA in England (South) celebrated the achievements of its top golfers in 2016 with a black tie dinner held at the world famous Wentworth Club, following a Pro-Am during the day for the region’s supporters, friends and associates.
Regional Secretary Sam Smith led the celebrations, taking the 200 guests through the highlights of the winning PGA Professionals’ achievements, while the awards were handed over by the region’s new Chairman Ben Blackburn, Director of Golf and PGA Head Professional at King’s Hill.
Smith began by announcing the continuation of main sponsor Virgin Atlantic’s support into 2017, along with CK Group and Westcoast, organisations whose foresight and generosity has enabled the region to raise the game of its members in terms of prize funds, courses played and standard of competition, a key factor behind the region’s successful development.
The PGA in England (South) Assistant of the Year: Sian Evans, King’s Hill GC
This year’s winner finished just outside the Top 50 of the Regional Order of Merit, 10th in the Regional Assistants Order of Merit and 5th in the WPGA Series, including three top five finishes and a victory.
In the true spirit of equality, Sian Evans has no problem in playing with the men and no problem in beating them either, tying 1st at one of the Order of Merit Qualifying Schools, and winning both The Kent Trainees Championship and the Kent PGA Closed Championship, beating three of the chaps in a four-way playoff. Evans also passed her Year Two Trainees exams in April with merit, and has worked hard teaching others, giving special support to juniors at her base, the King’s Hill Golf Club.
The PGA in England (South) Coach of the Year 2015: Kevin Flynn (Tournerbury Golf Centre)
A Full Member of The PGA since 2001, Flynn became a Fellow of The PGA in 2014, is a Plane Truth Golf Instructor, a Registered Disabled Golf Coach and a European Golf Development Consultant. As the Squad Coach to both the Hampshire Ladies and Hampshire Girls, he has helped both teams share national success: Hampshire were winners of the England Golf Women's County Finals in 2014 and South Region Junior Girls Champions in 2015. Flynn remains central to the development of the Hampshire Girls’ Golf Academy.
Arguably more remarkable is his achievement as the Golf Coach of the Latvian Ladies Golf Federation, guiding them to a Bronze Medal in 2015 and a Silver Medal in 2016 in the European Ladies' Team Shield Championship, a fantastic achievement for an emerging golfing nation. A close friend of his mentor John Jacobs, Flynn’s unwavering commitment to all those in his charge, from top tour player through club member to complete beginner, is an inspiration.
Charity Fund Raiser of the Year 2016: Dominic Toms (Sandown Park)
In 2015 and well into his 40s, the Sandown Park-based PGA Professional completed his first ever London Marathon, raising just over £7,000. In 2016 he raised his sights even higher, and completed no less than six of Europe’s top marathons: Paris and London in April, Edinburgh in May, Berlin in September and both Bournemouth and Dublin in October, a total of 157 miles! With a goal to exceed raising £10,000 for The Rainbow Trust, Dominic Toms truly has been on an epic fundraising journey throughout 2016.
Player of the Year 2016: Adam Wootton (Oxford Golf Centre)
Wootton enjoyed a fantastic 2016, racking up seven wins and 24 other top five finishes, including the CK Group PGA Kent Open Championship at Prince’s with a two round 11-under-par total and then the PGA Southern Open Championship at East Sussex National, birdieing the last to win by one.
Top five finishes in the Keith MacDonald Memorial Match Play and the PGA Southern Professional Championship meant he had bagged the Virgin Atlantic PGA South Order of Merit title for 2016 before teeing it up at Farnham in the last Order of Merit event of the season, sealing his place in the PGA Playoffs with James Ablett and Chris Gane. In 65 rounds, he had an under-par scoring average of 70.9, amassing 223 birdies and 11 eagles along the way, with an average of 3.5 birdies per round – beat that!
Professional of the Year 2016: Robert Hunter (Malden)
This year’s Professional of the Year is one of three Surrey PGA Professionals who celebrated a total of 75 years at their respective clubs. A stalwart of The PGA, he started his career 35 years ago at Malden in 1981 after completing his training at Sandown Park Golf Centre.
Becoming a Full Member of The PGA in 1984, in November 1990 he became Malden’s PGA Head Professional and later on its Golf Manager as well, steering the club and its members to success ever since until the end of this year, when he is retiring and handing over to Hunter’s previous Assistant, the club’s new PGA Head Professional Ben Tebbs. Hunter’s plans include sunshine, travel, food and some seniors tournament golf, harking back to his roots of playing on the tour as a 20 year old. As Tebb’s already acknowledges, Hunter will be a tough act to follow.