The Southwest PGA Hall of Fame Names Five Inductees
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – December 15, 2017 – PGA members Dick Hyland and Tom Lambie, longtime Titleist sales representative Al Birmingham, and industry pioneers Ron McPherson, President and CEO of Antigua Group, and John A. Solheim, Chairman and CEO of PING, comprise the 2017 class of inductees to be enshrined in the Southwest PGA Hall of Fame. The inductees will be honored at a ceremony celebrating their career achievements on Jan. 19, 2018 at Phoenix Country Club.
“The Southwest PGA is honored to welcome these exceptional gentlemen into the Southwest PGA Hall of Fame,” said Southwest PGA President Jamey Lewis. “This class represents the very best of the game of golf. From mentoring and inspiring junior golfers and young professionals to giving back to the Arizona community, these honorees are the epitome of what the PGA represents and we take great pride in inscribing their names in the Southwest PGA Hall of Fame.”
Al Birmingham is regarded as one of the best sales executives in the history of Titleist, having represented the iconic brand for over 34 years. Along the way, the former college teammate of Arnold Palmer became one of the most influential people in Arizona golf, including as President of the Arizona Golf Association (AGA), President of Papago Men’s Club, co-creator of the AGA’s initial handicap system and mentor to countless individuals.
Born and raised in Coraopolis, Pa., Birmingham, 84, attended Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., from 1952-1955, where he was a member of the golf team that captured the 1955 Atlantic Coast Conference Championship, the first in the school’s history.
After college Birmingham served in the Army and was stationed in Provo, Utah. Following his time in the Army, and after relocating to Phoenix, Birmingham sold pharmaceuticals and insurance before getting his dream job of representing Titleist in 1968.
At Titleist, Birmingham was first responsible for a territory that included Arizona, Las Vegas and Utah. It didn’t take long before he oversaw the highest volume of sales in the country. He attributed the sales boom to the fact that “everyone was playing golf out here at the time.” Birmingham was honored as Titleist’s National Salesperson of the Year on three different occasions.
In the early years of the AGA, when membership totaled just 4,000, Birmingham was one of the key contributors of the initial handicap system that helped grow the Association to more than 400 clubs and 55,000 members today. He served as the President of the AGA in 1986 and 1987.
During his time as President of Papago Men’s Club (now Papago Men's Golf Association), Birmingham was instrumental in securing Papago Golf Course in Phoenix as the home facility for Arizona State University’s golf team.
Giving back to the game of golf has always been important to Birmingham. Upon retiring from Titleist in 2002, Birmingham was tasked with coordinating a national mentoring program that assisted aspiring golf professionals and sales representatives in the industry.
The Southwest PGA honored Birmingham with the 2007 Anser Award, which recognizes an individual or group whose positive efforts have influenced the history of Arizona golf. The award is given in honor of the late Karsten Solheim, the founder of PING and named after his famous PING Anser putter. Birmingham was inducted into the AGA’s Arizona Golf Hall of Fame in 2003.
Birmingham and his wife, Marion, live in Scottsdale, and are the parents of sons Scott and Allan, and daughters Jan, Susan and Jill.
In his more than 35 years as a PGA Professional, Dick Hyland has exemplified the term consummate professional. From his introduction to golf as a caddie to his current position as the PGA Director of Golf/Senior VP of Golf and Agronomy at The Country Club at DC Ranch in Scottsdale, Hyland has excelled in every aspect of golf operations at the highest level.
A native of Ardmore, Pa., Hyland, 61, learned the game of golf working as a caddie with his brothers at the famed Merion Golf Club, which was only three blocks from their childhood home. It didn’t take long before Hyland developed a passion for the game, which he went on to practice before and after school. He knew at that young age a career in golf was in his future. After high school, Hyland played golf collegiately at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, Pa.
At the recommendation of Tom Wilcox, the PGA Head Golf Professional at Philadelphia Country Club, Hyland entered the PGA apprentice program and earned his first job at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. During his apprenticeship, Hyland worked seasonally at Philadelphia Country Club in the summer and at The Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Palm Harbor, Fla., in the winter.
After a short stint with Wilcox at Sunset Ridge Country Club in Northfield, Ill., Hyland returned to Innisbrook as the Director of Instruction and Coordinator of the Golf Digest Schools with Jay Overton, one of the most respected PGA Professionals in the country. During his time at Innisbrook, Hyland worked with the late, legendary instructor Jim Flick, who served as a mentor to Hyland for over 35 years.
After earning his membership in the PGA of America in 1982, Hyland served as the PGA Director of Golf at Bardmoor Golf & Country Club in Seminole, Fla., for three seasons before being recruited to Arizona in 1987 by Mark Kizziar and Joe Black, past presidents of the PGA of America, who were principles of Western Golf Properties. As the Director of Golf his primary responsibility was to establish and oversee the golf operations of what would become six Jack Nicklaus-designed golf courses at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale.
Before accepting his current position at DC Ranch, Hyland served as President of Lyle Anderson Golf overseeing all golf properties including Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club in Gold Canyon, Ariz., Las Campanas in Santa Fe, N.M., The Hokulia Club in Hawaii and Loch Lomond Golf Club and Dundonald Links in Glasgow, Scotland.
Hyland takes great pride in mentoring as over 50 of his former assistants and instructors have elevated their careers with better opportunities of their own.
With TaylorMade Golf CEO Mark King, Hyland started the TaylorMade Golf advisory board in 2000 recognizing PGA Professionals, instructors, players and merchandisers around the country.
Among his many recognitions and awards, Hyland was honored twice as the Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year (1992, 2014), the 1996 Bill Strausbaugh Award for his commitment towards mentoring others within the Association, and the 2001 Southwest PGA Private Merchandiser of the Year. He was honored nationally by the PGA of America as the 2001 Private Merchandiser of the Year. He was honored by the Arizona Golf Association with the 2012 Updegraff Award and inducted into their Arizona Golf Hall of Fame in 2016.
Hyland and his wife, Jeri, live in Scottsdale, and are the parents of a daughter, Kaycie.
At the start of the Great Depression in 1930, Tom Lambie became hooked on golf because “no one was playing and the courses were all empty.”
Born in Pennsylvania and raised in Phoenix, Lambie, 96, grew up in a home his parents built off the sixth green at Phoenix Country Club. At the time there were only four golf courses in the Phoenix area and Lambie and his friends would sneak onto to Phoenix Country Club and play until it got too dark. Rather than returning home, they moved over to the range and practiced until it was pitch black out. On the weekends, Lambie was a fixture at the club caddying and selling lemonade on the seventh hole to the members and guests.
Following high school, Lambie chose to attend Stanford (Calif.) University not because of academics but because they had a great golf course. He attended for one quarter before voluntarily withdrawing to return home for fear of being removed for low grades. He enrolled at Phoenix College, a local junior college, and continued to play every afternoon following school.
The evening of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lambie went to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Corps to become a pilot but would have to wait six months before he was assigned to active duty. While awaiting deployment, Lambie played golf day and night resulting in his game being the “best it ever was.”
During World War II, Lambie was stationed in Africa and Italy, where he flew photo reconnaissance missions in the P-38, which he referred to as the fastest and best plane ever made. After flying the required 50 missions, Lambie was sent to Oklahoma and Kansas to serve out the remainder of his time in the military.
Following his service, Lambie returned home and once again enrolled at Stanford. His first year on the men’s golf team in 1946, Lambie won the Pacific Coast Intercollegiate (now the Pac-12 Conference) individual title and the team captured the NCAA Championship at Springdale Golf Club in Princeton, N.J. The team followed it up with a third-place finish in 1947, and in his final year (1948), they finished third once again with Lambie serving as captain.
After graduation Lambie accepted a position working in the construction business for Del Webb, which he did for seven years. At the suggestion of his wife, and his long-time friend and college teammate Bob Rosburg, Lambie left Del Webb for a career in golf, this time as a professional.
Lambie entered the PGA program and earned his first job in 1955 as an assistant at Westmoreland Country Club in Export, Pa. He earned his membership in the PGA of America in 1960.
In 1965, after six years as a working as a head golf professional at three different facilities including Century Country Club (now Orange Tree), Lambie built Coronado Golf Course in Scottsdale. The course became very successful. It was the favorite practice facility for the Arizona State University golf team and had an impressive list of PGA instructors working there.
Following eight years of running the facility alone, Lambie made the decision to sell 2/3 interest to his next door neighbor Milt Coggins. He recalled that he made more money with Coggins as a partner and his 1/3 interest than he did owning it outright. They ran the facility together until it was sold in 1987 and Lambie retired from the golf business.
Lambie is considered one of the best golfers raised in Arizona. Among his many playing accomplishments, he won the Phoenix City Championship in 1941, competed and made the cut in the 1941 and 1942 Western Open in Phoenix (a major at that time), competed in the 1947 U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach, won the 1952 and 1954 Arizona Public Links Championship and captured the 1957 Arizona Open.
Among Lambie’s best friends was the legendary Johnny Bulla. Lambie recalls playing thousands of rounds with Bulla stating “no one played more golf with Johnny than me...and I only beat him once. It was the opening round of the 1957 Arizona Open, which I went on to win. Johnny was the best hitter of the golf ball that ever lived.”
He competed in numerous Phoenix Open Championships, making the cut the majority of the time. For the 1958 Phoenix Open, Rosberg brought a friend to stay at Lambie’s house for the tournament. That friend was Arnold Palmer. Lambie was the only one of the trio to make the cut. However, three months later, Palmer went on to win his first Masters and in 1959, Rosberg won the PGA Championship. Rosburg said about Lambie that he was "the best striker of the golf ball he had ever seen.”
Lambie was inducted into the Arizona Golf Association’s Arizona Golf Hall of Fame in 2016.
Lambie lives in Phoenix, and is the parent of sons, Tom, Jr. and Bob, and daughters, Lee, Betsy and Patricia.
An outstanding amateur golfer, Ron McPherson had dreams of one day playing professional golf on the PGA Tour. Although he didn’t make it to the PGA Tour as a player, the CEO of The Antigua Group, one of country’s leading sports apparel companies, is visible in every tournament.
Born in Kalispell, Mont., McPherson, 67, grew up in Casper, Wyo., after his parents moved the family when he was 9 years old. It didn’t take long before golf became an important part of McPherson’s life as he began working at the local municipal course, Airport Golf Club in Cheyenne, Wyo. At the facility he performed countless tasks from picking the range to an assistant in the golf shop, all while developing his game.
Following high school, McPherson earned a scholarship to play golf at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. During his time in college, McPherson won two Wyoming State Amateur Championships in 1970 and 1972 and following graduation he turned professional in 1973. He attended the PGA of America Business School and earned his membership in the PGA of America in 1976.
McPherson relocated to the Phoenix area where he played in various local and state opens around the country for six years. After an unsuccessful bid to qualify for the PGA Tour in 1979, McPherson accepted a position that impacted not only golf but the sports industry as a whole.
When Tom Dooley founded Antigua (at the time named Eagle Golf), McPherson became his first hire as the national sales manager. McPherson used his creativity and merchandising techniques to help grow Antigua from a golf apparel company to one of the nation's leading brands in all sports including lifestyle apparel and accessories.
In 1989, McPherson was named the Vice President of Sales and Marketing and, after Dooley sold his interest in the company in 1997, McPherson became President, and ultimately CEO of The Antigua Group in 2003.
Under McPherson’s leadership Antigua expanded into other leagues, including all four major sports – Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League and the National Basketball Association, as well as its roots in golf with the PGA of America, PGA Tour and LPGA Tour. Since 2011, Antigua has been the official apparel for the U.S. Solheim Cup team. The Peoria, Ariz., based company now has over 8000 golf corporate customers, 2700 retail/licensed sports and 3000 corporate/promotional products distributors.
Along the way, the development of junior players has been very important to McPherson. For over 30 years Antigua has been the title sponsor of the Southwest PGA’s Antigua Junior Prep Tour. Through sponsorships, Antigua has supported numerous golf organizations not only in Arizona, but nationwide. He has served on the Arizona Junior Golf Association Board of Directors since 2006.
McPherson served on the Board of Directors for the Banner Health Foundation, where he actively raises funds for cancer research.
Among his many awards, McPherson received the Spirit of Philanthropy Award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals and in 2006, was honored by the PGA of America with the Ernie Sabayrac Award for his lifetime contributions to golf.
McPherson was inducted into the Arizona Golf Association’s Arizona Golf Hall of Fame in 2011.
McPherson and his wife, Marti, live in Scottsdale, and are the parents of a son, Alex, and a daughter, Meg.
When PING founder Karsten Solheim began designing putters out of the family’s garage, his youngest son, then 13, John A. Solheim, was always by his side. From their start designing putters to evolving into a global manufacturer of golf clubs, the Solheim family has made PING one of the largest and most influential golf companies in the world.
Born in Redwood City, Calif., Solheim, 71, aspired at a young age to be an architect. While his father Karsten focused on the design and innovation of what would become the famed PING Anser putter, Solheim, still in high school, oversaw all stages of production.
As the business grew, so did Solheim’s responsibilities, and dreams of architecture went by the wayside. When the company expanded its putter manufacturing to include woods and irons, his focus shifted to product design and manufacturing. He also was closely involved with his father on growing the relationships with the USGA, the R&A and the PGA Tour.
In 1995, Solheim was named the President of PING, succeeding his father in the role. He was named Chairman and CEO four years later in 1999. Under his leadership, Solheim reorganized player sponsorship deals and developed a marketing plan that focused on bringing new players to the game.
Solheim and PING’s commitment to golf goes beyond the men’s professional game. Their long-time support and dedication to amateur, junior and women’s golf is well-documented. John, Karsten and Louise Solheim spearheaded the creation of the Solheim Cup. A few years later, John introduced the PING Junior Solheim Cup for girls, and today the Ryder Cup-style events provide a global showcase for women’s golf.
Solheim stated that under his leadership, PING’s mission hasn’t changed: “We've always focused on the same principles – performance, innovation, and custom fitting – as the foundations for engineering products that make the game easier for golfers of all abilities.” Another tenet that hasn’t changed is the Solheim family’s practice of charitable giving and being a good corporate citizen. Just one example: in 2012, PING and Bubba Watson provided funding for a pediatric Motion Analysis Laboratory at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. The lab opened in 2015 and is the only one in Arizona and one of 40 in the United States. The Motion Analysis Lab uses revolutionary assessment tools to evaluate and treat children and adolescents who have movement disorders or walking difficulties caused by conditions like Cerebral Palsy.
Among his many honors, Solheim received the 2008 J.R. “Digger” Smith Award from the American Junior Golf Association for his devotion to the AJGA mission of developing young men and women through competitive junior golf. And in 2013, Solheim joined his father (posthumously in 2000) and mother Louise (2004) with induction into the Arizona Golf Association’s Arizona Golf Hall of Fame.
Solheim was honored as the recipient of the 2015 Southwest PGA Anser Award, which recognizes an individual whose positive efforts have influenced the history of the game in the state of Arizona. The award was created in 1991 with Karsten selected as the first honoree.
From humble beginnings operating out of the family’s garage to its current headquarters in North Phoenix, PING now occupies over 50 acres and employs more than 1,200 people worldwide, conducting business in over 70 countries.
The PING tradition of family leadership will carry on. Last January Solheim’s oldest son, John K. Solheim, was named company president.
John and his wife, Sunny, live in Phoenix, and they each have three children. John has 10 grandchildren.
About The Southwest Section PGA:
The Southwest Section of the PGA of America is a professional organization serving the men and women golf professionals in Arizona and Southern Nevada who are the recognized experts in growing, teaching and managing the game of golf. The Southwest PGA is responsible for the administration of competitive golf tournaments, junior golf programs and events, educational opportunities, support programs and growth of the game initiatives. With 1282 members and apprentices, the Southwest PGA is the fifth largest of the 41 regional entities or Sections that comprise the PGA of America. For more information about the Southwest PGA, please visit www.southwest.pga.com and join us on social media at www.facebook.com/swsectionpga and twitter.com/swsectionpga.
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