The presentation of the Digger Smith Award - the climactic ending to the Digger Smith Awards Banquet – was unfortunately postponed because John A. Solheim fell ill prior to the event. A sinus infection kept the PING Chairman & CEO from traveling to Atlanta from his home in suburban Phoenix. The AJGA decided to properly recognize Solheim during the 2008 PING Invitational held at Karsten Creek Golf Club Oct. 10-13.
“We felt like this was the right thing to do,” AJGA Executive Director Stephen Hamblin said. “Because of all the incredible things this man has done for our Association and junior golf, we decided to honor him in person so he could fully appreciate our gratitude.”
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.
"It has always been a joy for me to watch young golfers develop, some into great players,” Solheim said when he first heard that he was this year’s award winner. “To be recognized by the AJGA is a great honor for me. They have done so much to help in the development of thousands of young people and, in doing so, set new standards for others to follow."
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.