Gayle Champagne, of Birmingham, Mich., was honored by the American Junior Golf Association Friday, Feb. 17, with the 2006 Digger Smith Award after more than a decade of service to the organization. Champagne, who serves as President of the AJGA Board of Directors and Detroit Sales Manager for Golf for Women magazine, was presented the award at the Digger Smith Banquet during the Association’s Annual Meeting.
Each year, the AJGA presents the Digger Smith Award to an individual whose service to junior golf goes above and beyond the call of duty. The award is named for AJGA Chairman of the Board J.R. “Digger” Smith, who has dedicated himself to the AJGA and junior golf for more than two decades. Smith was honored as the Golfweek “Father of the Year” in 1995.
“In my mind, Gayle Champagne personifies all that this award represents,” AJGA Executive Director Stephen Hamblin said. “She clearly understands the AJGA’s vision and mission and works diligently to further it. She is a valuable part of this Association and a guiding light to our Board and staff.”
Champagne’s involvement with the AJGA began in 1992. As national advertising manager for Golf for Women magazine, she was integral in the creation of the Golf for Women Girls Championship, now the Rolex Girls Junior Championship. In 1995, she joined the AJGA Foundation Board of Directors. She became a member of the AJGA Board of Directors in 1997 and went on to serve as Vice President from 1999-2003. She was elected President of the Board in 2003, a position she holds to this day.
Champagne’s tenure has seen unprecedented innovation. In 2002, The AJGA created the industry’s most revolutionary method to improve pace of play at its events. In 2003, the AJGA abandoned its subjective tournament selection in favor of a Performance Based Entry process. That same year, the Association instituted a program called the Achieving Competitive Excellence Grant, a need-based program to give financial assistance to those players with the talent to play at the national level but lack the financial resources to do so. In 2004, the AJGA secured Rolex Watch USA as the Association’s first-ever Premier Partner. And recently, Titleist agreed to a 10-year extension to its National Sponorship, a distinction it’s held since 1989.