Bruce Slovitt was posthumously honored during the American Junior Golf Association’s Annual Meeting Friday, Feb. 16, with the AJGA’s Digger Smith Award. An AJGA parent, tournament chairman and fundraiser since 1995, Slovitt, of Winnetka, Ill., was tragically killed in an automobile accident near his home in suburban Chicago July 9, 2006, at the age of 54.
The Digger Smith Award, which has been presented annually since 1991, praises an AJGA advocate for his/her longtime service and dedication to junior golf. Recipients are devoted to the AJGA Mission and Purpose of developing young men and women through competitve junior golf. Award winners not only set a standard for excellence, but they also continue to raise expectations year-in and year-out.
The award is named in honor of current AJGA Chairman of the Board J.R. “Digger” Smith, who has dedicated himself to the AJGA and junior golf for more than three decades.
Slovitt’s first experience with the AJGA came almost 12 years ago as a parent. In the years to follow, he would help guide three of his five children through the AJGA as they competed in a combined 40 events.
In 2000, he took over the duties as tournament chairman and main fundraiser for the AJGA’s Chicago-area events. In seven years, he captained 10 successful tournaments and helped raise nearly $500,000 for local Chicago junior golf programs and the AJGA Foundation.
“I just enjoy giving kids the opportunity to see and play golf at a high level,” Slovitt told the AJGA in September 2005.
Throughout his years of involvement, his motivation never wavered. His goal was to help Chicago junior golfers showcase their skills for college golf scholarships. In doing so, Slovitt was credited with pioneering the junior golf movement in the Chicagoland area in the late 1990s by cultivating a relationship with the AJGA. He also ascended to vice president of the Illinois Junior Golf Association and served as a board member for the Chicago District Golf Association.
Slovitt is survived by his wife, Bernadette, and his five children – Jennifer Strielgel, Philip, Matthew, Michael and Jimmy. All six were in attendance Friday to accept the award on his behalf.
Invitational of the Year
The 2006 Rolex Tournament of Champions, held at Hiwan Golf Club in Evergreen, Colo., July 5-9, was named the AJGA Invitational of the Year, an honor given to the invitational tournament that best showcases the AJGA, its members, sponsors and host facility. The local committee at Hiwan, headed by Bill Asbury, tournament chairman, Kyle Heyen, head golf professional, and David Fowler, club president, was able to secure private housing for every junior in need. They staged a Junior-Am and silent auction that rivaled that of any other event in 2006. Media came out in large numbers and were excited about having the event in their area. The members of Hiwan Golf Club did everything they could to make this event special, from volunteering their time to participating in the Junior-Am.
Tournament of the Year
The 2006 Houchens Industries Junior Open, held at the Club at Olde Stone in Alvaton, Ky., June 12-15, was named the AJGA Tournament of the Year, an honor given to the most outstanding Open event on the AJGA schedule, Tournament Chairman Larry Beam and his committee went above and beyond in every aspect. They raised an astounding $55,800 for junior golf through the Junior-Am Fundraising Tournament. All meals were free to players and their families, as well as the 90 volunteers who donated their time during the four-day event. Many additional touches made the event one of the most special on the AJGA schedule.
Newcomer of the Year
The brightest new spot on the AJGA tournament schedule was the PING Invitational, held at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., Oct. 7-9, and winner of the Newcomer of the Year Award. Nearly 200 Stillwater residents came out to volunteer at the four-day event, which boasted many unique features. Players were entertained nightly with a trip to Boone Pickens Stadium and a motocross stunt show, and also recieved personalized PING golf bags. Cowboy hats could be seen everywhere, including as tee markers, and the course was in pristine condition for the event.
There was no event in 2006 that was more welcoming of the AJGA than the Fidelity Investments Junior at Trump National, winner of the Hospitality Award. Trump National Golf Course in Bedminster, N.J., went above and beyond what was required to ensure that each participant and their family had a special experience. Each player was treated to a personalized locker in the members-only locker rooms upon arrival, inside of which they found a course yardage book, a Trump National divot repair tool and a hole flag autographed by Donald Trump. The Donald even made a cameo appearance at the tournament cookout, which also included a pool party, magician, hermit crab races, and cotton candy stand.
Given to the tournament with a model team of volunteers who are committed to the success of the championship, the 2006 Coca-Cola Junior Championship at Boyne Highlands is a desrving recipient. One hundred and thirty-four volunteers helped out ay Boyne Highlands Resort in Harbor Springs, Mich., an impressive feat considering the event took place over a busy Fourth of July weekend. These volunteers held many responsibilities during the week, such as spotting balls, shuttling players and parents to the starting tees, timing players and running scorecards.
For the second consecutive year, the Mirasol Junior Championship, which took place at The Country Club at Mirasol in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., June 6-9, was the recipient of the Junior-Am Award. Thanks to the effort of fundraising chairman Matt Lambert and the help of a silent auction held during the Honda Classic, four tournament partners, and the generosity of local businesses and vendors, including The Country Club of Mirasol itself, more than $90,000 was raised for the AJGA Foundation and the South Florida PGA Section’s junior golf program.
The Medicus Preseason Junior at Red Tail held at Red Tail Golf Club in Avon, Ohio, May 5-7, received the Media Award for having the best media covereage before, during and after the event. It is rare for a first-year tournament to receive this award, but Tournament Chairman Tom Kmiecik and Media Chairman Chip Carlson worked tirelessly to garner coverage in local newspapers and on television and radio stations. WKNR radio station even held a live remote from the club to broadcast their Sunday golf show.
Golf Professional of the Year
Jay Larscheid of Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, Ariz., was honored with the Golf Professional of the Year Award, given annually to the PGA professional whose selfless commitment and tireless efforts make the championship special for the players, families and staff in attendance. Larscheid first started working with the AJGA in 2003 when the ReBath Heather Farr Classic originally came to Longbow Golf Club. Since his relationship with the AJGA began, Larscheid’s support has never wavered. He has committed his golf course to providing one AJGA ACE Grant Scholarship annually. He also solicited the town of Mesa for charitable contributions and has strong media ties that help publicize the event.