Dreams Realized

by Hayden Lewis, PGA / Thursday, July 1, 2021

PELHAM, Ala. (July 1, 2021) – The Alabama–NW Florida Golf Foundation announced on Thursday its 2021 Scholarship Program recipients.  Established in 2020, the Scholarship Program was created to encourage and promote the attainment of higher education for youth who have demonstrated a high level of achievement during high school or college, have financial need, and have shown interest in the game of golf.  The 2021 program again included the PGA Professional Family Scholarship and Junior Tour Scholarship – both funds being awarded to recent high school graduates or current college students who fit the eligibility guidelines.  “Ultimately, the Foundation exists to create life-changing opportunities through the game of golf,” says Foundation President, Eric Eshleman, PGA. “We believe these scholarships are helping us fulfill this dream.”  In 2021, the Foundation was able to award scholarships to four deserving students who have each made an indelible mark on the Section and their local communities.

“We are extremely proud of this 2021 class of recipients for what they have done in their classrooms, communities and on the golf course,” says Section President, John Carney.  “We are looking forward to following their journey and we are confident they will continue to do great things.”  In total, the Alabama–NW Florida Golf Foundation awarded $6,250 to these deserving recipients.  Read below for more on their stories:

Jacob Kruse – 2021 PGA Family Scholarship Recipient 

A 2021 graduate of Helena High School, Jacob is the son of PGA Member Joe Kruse, Director of Golf at Timberline Golf Club in Calera.  Jacob finished his high school career with an incredible 4.40 GPA and twelfth in his class of three-hundred and forty.  During his time at Helena High School, he played on the Varsity Football and Baseball teams and took part in countless organizations like Big Brothers-Big Sisters, Shelby County Youth Leadership and National Honor Society.  Jacob plans to study mechanical engineering at Auburn University this fall where he also plans to try out for the Auburn football team.  “Golf is the foundation of which my family is based upon,” says Jacob.  “I have learned the values of hard work through my father and what it means to form new and lasting relationships because of the game of golf – it helps keeps my friends and family close.”

Jack Wert – 2021 PGA Family Scholarship Recipient

A Junior Tour Member for the 2019 season, and son of PGA Member Doug Wert, Regional League Manager for the PGA of America, Jack is entering his sophomore year at Auburn University this fall as a Biomedical Science major.  Holding an outstanding 4.0 GPA during his freshman year, Jack is well on his way to achieving his dream of becoming an optometrist.  “One major lesson that golf has taught me is about my work ethic.  I believe there is no substitute for hard work,” says Jack.  “This work ethic I have developed in golf has transferred directly to my academic career and my life.  Finally, golf has inspired me in many ways and allowed me to build the relationships I now have with people I cherish.”  During his freshman year, Jack made the Dean’s List for the College of Science and Mathematics and made the Outstanding Freshman List for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Ellie Smith – 2021 Junior Tour Scholarship Recipient

A member of the 2021 Fairhope High School graduating class, and the 2019, 2020 and 2021 Alabama–NW Florida PGA Junior Tour season, Ellie will be heading off to Clinton, Mississippi this fall where she will be a member of the inaugural women’s golf team at Mississippi College.  While competing as a NCAA Division II athlete, Ellie will also be pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology.  “I want to eventually obtain my Doctorate in Chiropractic and help athletes with their injuries just like my chiropractor has done for me,” says Ellie.  “When I think of a college education, I see it as a next step in who I was created to be – it’s a next step in growing my faith, my relationships and becoming a better athlete and golfer.”  Ellie finished her high school career with a 4.22 GPA all while competing on two varsity teams at Fairhope High School, partaking in Student Government events, and working junior camps part-time at Rock Creek Golf Course in Fairhope.  Ellie consistently finished at or near the top of her age division on the Junior Tour in 2019 and 2020 and has continued this trend with an impressive season so far in 2021.

Jon Byrd – 2021 Junior Tour Scholarship Recipient

A 2021 graduate from Monroe Academy in Monroeville, Alabama, Jon is a stand-out student, athlete and active participant in his community.  Finishing with 3.96 GPA, Jon played tennis and was a semi-finalist in the AISA State Tennis Championship in 2021 and a runner-up in 2019.  Additionally, he played varsity football, basketball and golf throughout his high school years – making the state championship team for golf every year from 2016 through 2021.  Further, Jon volunteers at First united Methodist Church in Monroeville a coach for its basketball camp.  Jon played on the Alabama–NW Florida PGA Junior Tour in 2020 and won the Tour Championship for the Boys 16-18 age division by posting an even-par 71 at The Ledges in Huntsville.  “Playing golf has taught me self-discipline, self-motivation, and how to balance school and sports.  It’s taught what good sportsmanship really looks like – even when you’re facing a bad day.”

The Foundation is poised to continue making its mark on the Section, it’s PGA Professionals and junior golfers in the years ahead.  With the introduction of programs like the Assistants’ Summit and the Willow Cup over the last few years, it’s clear there is a wealth of opportunity ahead to build up support for the Foundation.  “For us, the Scholarship Program is a direct representation of dreaming big,” adds Eshleman. “It’s something that our Foundation continues to make a top priority as we carry forward to create life-changing opportunities through the game of golf – in a sense this is our dream, and we are just getting started.”

“These four individuals are inspiring us to work harder for our communities, the game of golf and people we serve,” says Carney.  “Their stories represent countless others and we are proud to be dreaming alongside them.”

Media Contact: Hayden Lewis, PGA / hlewis@pgahq.com



The mission of the Alabama – NW Florida Golf Foundation is to positively impact the lives of those who reside in the state of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle through community outreaches, programs and initiatives the game of golf provides.  The Foundation has three (3) main areas it will focus is programming and outreach on – these include engaging youth, military communities and diverse populations with the PGA Section.  Our dream: create life-changing opportunities through the game of golf.


The Alabama – NW Florida PGA is one of 41 Sections that make up the PGA of America. Our Section is headquartered in the Birmingham suburb of Pelham, Alabama at Ballantrae Golf Club.  Established in 1969, the Section consists of over 400 Members and Associates in the state of Alabama and the Florida Panhandle. The Section exists to support its Members who are the driving force to growing the sport and business of golf.