History of the Alabama - NW Florida Section PGA
On February 13, 2017, the membership of the Dixie Section voted overwhelmingly to change the name of the Section to the Alabama - Northwest Florida Section, PGA of America. The new name gives the section clearly identifiable boundaries and a practicle name for doing business in the 21st century. The Section has a rich history, mostly rooted in the years operating as the Dixie Section from 1965-2016.
The Section boundaries have been Alabama and the Florida panhandle since 1969. Historically, we might go back to the fact that the PGA members in Alabama, as long ago as 1916, were members of what they then called the Middle States Section. That took in the states of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and both North and South Carolina. Of course, this was in the early days of the PGA, there were fewer members and autonomy of a Section was hardly more than a geographical identity. As the PGA grew, the demand for more reasonable and operational boundaries was heard and in 1926, the Southeast Section of the PGA was organized. The Carolinas was established as a separate Section, leaving six states as the Southeast Section. Not much better, but at least the trend was started to reduce the size of the Sections so they could have a more individual identity.
In the area of 1959, several things took place. Tennessee and Florida both were established as new Sections by themselves. Also, the states of Louisiana and Mississippi joined to become established as the Gulf States Section. This in fact left Alabama and Georgia together as one Section. At that time they called it the Georgia-Alabama Section. We might mention at this that during this period, as it is today, the Panhandle of Florida was considered a part of Alabama, for geographical identification.
In 1965, the Georgia-Alabama Section was renamed the Dixie Section. The Georgia professionals established and organized themselves as the Georgia Chapter of the Dixie Section. The Alabama professionals had some work to do in this respect, as at this time, there were several groups in the overall area that had gotten together for the promotion of golf, pro-ams, tournaments, etc. This was understandable because of the large geographical area to be covered by one organization. One was called the Professional Golfers of Alabama and there was a similar group in the Panhandle of Florida including a few from Mobile and other areas of South Alabama. While these groups included some, if not most of the PGA members, they also included some golf professionals who were not PGA members. That left some work to do insofar as organizing what would eventually be the Alabama Chapter of the Dixie Section as a counter-part to what the Georgia professionals had as the Georgia Chapter. In 1967, Jackie Maness of Alabama was elected Secretary/Treasurer of the Dixie Section (GA-ALA). Shortly after this, the organization called the Professional Golfers of Alabama was reorganized to be identified as the Alabama Chapter of the Dixie Section. This included, of course, the professionals in the Panhandle of Florida.
Starting in 1968, the Georgia professionals were making a strong attempt to have the National organization approve the Georgia Chapter being established as a separate Section. Of course, this met with approval and support of the Alabama professionals as this would, in effect, leave Alabama and the Panhandle of Florida as a Section alone. Jackie Maness was very instrumental in working with Georgia professionals in this goal and in December 1969 at the PGA Annual Meeting in Scottsdale, Arizona it was approved that Georgia be established as the Georgia Section PGA. This then left Alabama and the Panhandle also as a separate Section.
The Alabama professionals elected to retain the name of the Dixie Section PGA. Jackie Maness was named as President of the new Dixie Section and Gene Williams as the Secretary/Treasurer. At this point, there was still much to be done in regards to Chapter organization within the new Dixie Section. In January 1970, a meeting was held in the Panhandle area on this subject. A second meeting followed this several months later at the Pine Harbor CC in Alabama, where it was resolved that the Dixie Section would be divided into two Chapters. One would be called the Alabama Chapter to take in the area North of Montgomery and the other Chapter would be called the Gulf Coast Chapter and take in the area South of Montgomery through the Panhandle. The Chapters were to elect their own officers and conduct their own programs under the guidance and approval of the Dixie Section. By this time, the other non-PGA groups were disbanded as the PGA members pulled out to participate in their respective Chapters.
By 1977, the Dixie Section was one of very few sections that did not have an established business office and administrative person to handle all of the ever-increasing administrative details of the organization. Section PGA member Chick Ritter, who had recently retired as a Head Professional, was hired in April 1978 as the Executive Secretary and first full-time employee of the Section. Steady progress was made in the affairs and programs of the Section. In 1985, Chick requested retirement again with a lead time of June 1986 for a turn over to someone to take his place. In January 1986, after screening a number of applicants, the Section Board of Directors selected Eddie Webster of Webster and Associates, Inc., an association management firm, as the Executive Director for the Dixie Section. The contract became effective on February 1, 1986. After eight months, Eddie Webster left and Ralph "“Peg” Thomas served as interim Executive Director from October 1, 1986 until February 16, 1987, when Dave Berry, PGA member, assumed the position of Executive Director until his retirement in October 2004. In March of 2005, the Section Board of Directors named Bart Rottier the new Executive Director.
It is interesting to note the membership numbers since the Dixie Section, as we know it today, was established. In 1969, before the split with Georgia, there were 175 members in the overall Georgia-Alabama area. The split left the Dixie Section, as we know it today, with 82 members. There has been a steady increase to the point that in 2017, we have 359 Members and 55 Apprentices.
Many new ideas have grown in the Section with assistance of the PGA National Headquarters. A PGA Financial Assistance Fund (Scholarship Program) began in 1986 to provide college scholarships for children and grandchildren of PGA Members. In April of 2004 the Dixie Section Golf Foundation began. This Foundation was set up in a 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.
Wayne Griffith, 1972
Wayne Griffith, 1973-74
David Atnip, 1975-76
Bob Ledbetter, 1977-78
Steve Lyles, 1979-80
Joe Barbato, 1981
Woody Woodall, 1982-83
Phil Hill, 1984-85
Joe Terry, 1986-87
Brent Krause, 1988-89
Bob Barrett, 1990-91
Barry Holt, 1992-93
Butch Byrd, 1994-95
Clay Koschel, 1996-97
Gene Diamond, 1998-99
Allen Austin, 2000-2001
John Baas, 2002-2003
David Juhola, 2004-2005
Gene Diamond, 2006-2007
Bud Rousey, 2008-2009
Duke Ankiewicz, 2010-2011
Rob Clark, 2012-2013
Steve Cutler, 2014-2015
Eric Eshleman, 2016-2017
Steve Bobe, 2018-2019
Hall of Fame
2001 Steve Lyles
2002 Brent Krause & Woody Woodall
2003 Arthur "Butch" Byrd
2001 Royal C. “Bud” Burns & Jackie Maness
2002 Conrad Rehling & Wayne Griffith
PGA National Award Winners
1986 Bob Barrett - Merchandiser of the Year Private
1992 Conrad Rehling - Horton Smith Award
2002 Brent Krause - Horton Smith Award
2003 Jim Brotherton, Jr. - Golf Professional of the Year
2004 Hank Johnson - Teacher of the Year
2007 Brent Krause - Golf Professional of the Year