PHOTO: NJSGA president Bill Frese presents Distinguished Service Award to former NJSGA president Jay MacNeill
It was a night of historic proportions on Oct. 25 when the New Jersey State Golf Association and the New Jersey section of the PGA hosted the 15th annual Celebration of Golf at the Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit. Over 250 friends of New Jersey golf were in attendance.
Highlights for the NJSGA included former president Jay MacNeill of Plainfield Country Club receiving the annual NJPGA/NJSGA Distinguished Service Award and the installation of former NJSGA Caddie Scholarship Foundation director Ed Batta of Essex Fells Country Club into the Caddie Hall of Fame.
* Echo Lake Country Club in Westfield, named recipient of the NJSGA Caddie Scholarship Foundation Club of the Year for 2018.
* Dr. Albert Kuchler, recognized at the event as 2018’s recipient of the Honey Gantner Award, which will be presented to him in the spring.
* Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus was announced by the NJPGA as the Club of the Year for 2018.
* Charlie Cowell of Crestmont Country Club and Wayne Warms of Eagle Oaks Golf & Country Club as the newest members of the NJPGA Hall of Fame.
* Mark Kuhns, honored by the Golf Course Superintendents Association of New Jersey with a special award. Kuhns is retiring from his position as superintendent at the Baltusrol Golf Club.
* David Reasoner, Head Professional at The Ridgewood Country Club, was recognized as the 2018 NJPGA Golf Professional of the Year.
* Dan Pasternak, the General Manager at Essex Fells Country Club, was recognized as the 65th recipient of the National PGA Golf Professional of the Year Award - the highest honor given to a PGA golf professional. The first from New Jersey to be so honored, he received the award at the PGA of America's annual meeting in Indian Wells, Calif.
NJSGA and NJPGA individual champions were identified in a slide show at the Celebration of Golf. NJSGA Player of the Year Thomas LaMorte of Haworth Country Club, Women’s Player of the Year Samantha Perrotta of Old York Country Club at Chesterfield, Senior Player of the Year Anthony Fioretti of Ballyowen Golf Club and Tyler Hall, NJPGA Player of the Year, were singled out in video tributes.
Dennis Walters, a native of Neptune and close friend of Warms, was in attendance. Walters, an international ambassador of golf for the past 40 years, will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in June.
The Distinguished Service Award is presented annually by the NJPGA in collaboration with the NJSGA to honor an individual who has provided exemplary service and contributions to growing the game of golf in New Jersey, consistent with the honors, values and traditions of the game.
“I always wanted to improve the quality of our tournaments and we have done that,” said MacNeill, who was also responsible for helping relocate NJSGA to its current headquarters at the Galloping Hill Golf Course in Kenilworth.
“I was honored to serve the NJSGA with people of great distinction, like Bud Foley and Bob Cronheim. We in New Jersey are fortunate that we are at the crossroads of golf in the United States. We have some of the greatest courses such as Plainfield, Ridgewood, Baltusrol, Pine Valley and Somerset Hills, among others, and New Jersey is also the home of the USGA,” MacNeill added.
Batta, a former caddie himself at Essex Fells, served for three decades as chairman of the CSF and helped raise millions of dollars in donations and provide thousands of New Jersey caddie scholars with tuition grants.
“Ed, you personify all that is good about the game of golf. You are more than deserving of this honor in recognition of your many years of service. The impact you have had on thousands of caddies is truly remarkable,” said Jeff Harrison, vice president of the Western Golf Association, which administers the Caddie Hall of Fame in Chicago.
“Golf has been a big part of my life. From the time I was a caddie at Essex Fells, it has shaped my life. I will treasure this honor the rest of my life,” Batta said.
Ben Del Vento, current chairman of the CSF, announced that in recognition of the Caddie Hall of Fame honor and Batta’s long-time commitment to the CSF, that a scholarship will be established in his name.
Echo Lake was named Club of the Year based on a variety of factors. Its members contributed $51,000 to the CSF and Echo Lake led the way with 479 Par Club members who donated at least $100 apiece. “Echo Lake has been a beacon of support for the Caddie Scholarship program,” Del Vento said.
LaMorte’s highlights included a tie for low amateur at the NJSGA Open, where he finished tied for third, and a tie for fourth place at the NJSGA Amateur. He was also runner-up at the Hochster Memorial and took third place at the Trump Invitational.
Perrotta won the NJSGA Women’s Mid-Amateur and the Tournament of Club Champions and reached the quarterfinals of the Women’s Amateur. She also won the Women’s GAP Stroke-Play Championship.
Fioretti was the victorious at the NJSGA Senior Amateur, overcoming John Trainor of Valley Brook Golf Course in a three-hole playoff. In addition, he was ninth at the NJSGA Men’s Public Links.
NJPGA Hall of Fame inductee Cowell, the Director of Instruction at Crestmont, had a career year in 1992, with victories at the New Jersey PGA Assistants Championship and New Jersey State Open as he became NJPGA section Player of the Year.
In 1994, Cowell added a victory at the Metropolitan Open held at Ridgewood Country Club. Five years later, Cowell captured the NJPGA Match-Play Championship, defeating his former college coach, Peter Famiano, in the finals.
Cowell, who teaches LPGA Tour player Marina Alex, has worked in the New Jersey Section since 1989 and was the long-time head professional at Forest Hill Field Club.
Warms, a long-time head pro at Manasquan River Golf Club and Due Process Stable, was elected to the PGA in 1978 and was a 14-time New Jersey Section Special Award winner, which includes 12 New Jersey PGA Junior Golf Leader Awards. In 1995, Warms was awarded the PGA of America’s National Junior Golf Leader Award.
Warms is the first to enter the New Jersey PGA Hall of Fame in the service category. He served on multiple New Jersey Section committees and PGA of America committees throughout his professional career. Warms was a speaker at the 1992 PGA Teaching Summit, and has taught hundreds of junior golfers who went on to play at the collegiate level, as well as dozens of professional golfers who competed throughout the world.
It was an uplifting night, one that left many attendees struck by the quality of the people associated with New Jersey golf.