The American Junior Golf Association held its annual Digger Smith Awards Banquet during its Annual Meeting Friday, Feb. 29. Throughout the night, numerous awards were presented to tournament committee members who have gone above and beyond their call of duty to ensure the best tournament experience for all AJGA juniors and their families.
PING Chairman and CEO John Solheim was recognized as the winner of this year's Digger Smith Award, but was unable to attend the event due to illness. Solheim will be formally given the award during the 2008 PING Invitational held at Karsten Creek Golf Club Oct. 10-13. Solheim and his family's company, PING, have been longtime supporters of junior golf and the AJGA.
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 competitive 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.
Each year during the Annual Meeting’s Digger Smith Awards Banquet – named after AJGA Chairman of the Board Jordan R. “Digger” Smith – the AJGA presents awards to the tournaments with the best individual media coverage, junior-am fundraising tournament, volunteer support base and hospitality. At this time the Association also recognizes its golf professional of the year, new tournament of the year, most improved tournament of the year, AJGA Invitational of the year, and overall tournament of the year.
Solheim and PING have sponsored 50 tournaments in AJGA history. The first event was the 1990 PING Myrtle Beach Junior Classic, which ran for 12 consecutive years. The next year, the PING Phoenix Junior appeared for the first time on the AJGA schedule, where it can still be found today. These 50 events have provided more than 4,600 playing opportunities for juniors.
Recently, the PING Junior Solheim Cup (2002) and The PING Invitational (2006) were added to the AJGA schedule. Solheim was the main catalyst in the creation of both of these elite junior golf events and continues to be involved with all of the AJGA’s PING-sponsored events.
Solheim became President of PING in 1995, 36 years after his father, Karsten Solheim, founded the company in his garage. He was named Chairman and CEO in 1999.
The Phoenix-based company designs, manufactures and markets a complete line of golf equipment including metal woods, irons, putters and golf bags. PING game-improvement products can be found in more than 70 countries. For more information, visit www.pinggolf.com.
2008 Annual Meeting Digger Smith Awards Banquet
Media Award – Kris Strauss (OB Sports)
Volunteer Award– FootJoy Invitational (Greensboro, N.C.)
Hospitality Award – Thunderbird International Junior (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Junior-Am Award – PING Junior at The Woodlands (The Woodlands, Texas)
Charitable Giving Award – Birks & Mayors Junior Championship at Mirasol (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.)
Golf Professional of the Year Award – Billy Dettlaff (TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra, Fla.)
Most Improved Tournament Award – Fidelity Investments Junior Classic (Marblehead, Mass.)
Newcomer of the Year Award – Bass Pro Shops/Payne Stewart Junior Championship (Springfield, Mo.)
Tournament of Year Award – Dalhousie Junior Championship (Cape Girardeau, Mo.)
Invitational of the Year Award – The PING Invitational (Stillwater, Okla.)
Digger Smith Award – John A. Solheim (PING Chairman and CEO)