For more than a decade, the Celebration of Golf as served a memorable, if unofficial conclusion to the season. A joint effort of the New Jersey State Golf Association and the New Jersey Section PGA, the event brings together the various constituencies that form the tapestry of the golf industry.
This year’s gala will have a different feel.
Organizers have decided to revise the format. The traditional cocktail hour and sit-down dinner have been supplanted by a cocktail party, which will be held at the Liberty House in Jersey City on Thursday, November 3.
Ben Del Vento Sr., winner of the Distinguished Service Award, and the late Phillips Babcock, winner of the Honey Gantner Award, will be among those recognized. Doug Steffen, retiring pro at Baltusrol, is the NJPGA Professional of the Year.
NJSGA Executive Director Kevin Purcell says eliminating a sit-down meal will allow attendees additional time to interact with one another.
“We realized people are having the best time when they’re able to get out there and socialize a little bit during the cocktail party where you’re bopping around and seeing everybody.”
Frank O’Brien, immediate past president of the NJSGA, explains, “What we’re looking for is the betterment of golf in New Jersey. What we tried to do is spark a renewed interest in the Celebration of Golf and do it in a less traditional way than we were doing it before.
“The idea was to create a program that will honor the best of the best in their professions.”
Purcell is quick to point out the importance of saluting the award winners of both organizations, which is the evening’s centerpiece. “Everybody wants to recognize them,” he says, whether it’s on the PGA side, people who have gotten into the Hall of Fame, or the Distinguished Service Award or Honey Gantner Award on our side. That’s important. We just wanted to be able to manage it a little bit better where it doesn’t take up the bulk of the evening, where really we just want to be in each other’s company.”
This marks the first time the event will be held at a non-golf facility. Liberty House overlooks midtown Manhattan and offers some spectacular views of the surrounding skyline. “We’re very lucky that that we found such a great venue,” organizer John Mascari, head pro at Preakness Hills C.C., says. “They were certainly open to the opportunity, and it’s an awesome location. It’s very impressive.”