Paul Leahy named 2019 Golf Professional of the Year.
Paul Leahy’s earliest memories are about the game of golf. His father was an accomplished amateur player in Iowa for years winning three Iowa Amateur titles and countless other tournaments in the state.
“Our summers were spent on the course and following Dad to weekend tournaments caddying for him on many occasions. I have always loved the sport and the challenge of the game from a young age,” Leahy said. “My Dad was my golf instructor and taught me to respect the game and the integrity it takes to play at a high level.”
Having built a career around the sport, Leahy recently received one of the highest honors in the profession. In December 2019, he was awarded the 2019 Gateway PGA Joe Dodich Golf Professional of the Year award at a ceremony held in St. Louis. The award is one of the highest honors the Professional Golf Association of America can bestow on a working club professional whose total contributions to the game best exemplify the complete PGA Professional.
The PGA of America consists of over 18,000 golf professionals and is represented by 41 distinct sections throughout the country. The Gateway PGA section encompasses parts of Missouri, and Southern and Northern Illinois. It has over 335 professionals representing more than 250 golf facilities. Criteria that are considered in bestowing such an honor are: their overall performance as a golf professional, service to the section and the association, leadership ability, image and ability to inspire fellow golf professionals, and promotion and growth of the game of golf.
“Being honored by my peers with this award is definitely a highlight of my career,” Leahy said. “It is a culmination of hard work, dedication and a love of the game that has enabled me to succeed in my chosen profession. I couldn’t be more humbled and honored to be named this year’s golf professional of the year. The Lake area is blessed to have so many great golf facilities and golf professionals servicing the needs of our community and visitors.”
Leahy has been a Lake of the Ozarks resident for 30 years and has worked at Margaritaville Lake Resort, formally Tan-Tar-A Resort, in various capacities since he arrived at the Lake in 1989. He is a graduate of Ferris State University located in Big Rapids, Mich. with a marketing degree through the university’s Professional Golf Management program. Leahy has been prominent in the community as a Lake Area Chamber of Commerce board member and was president of the chamber in 2005. He has been heavily involved with the Lake of the Ozarks Golf Council and has been the president of the organization since 2003. The golf council is the marketing arm for the public golf courses in the Lake area. It promotes the Lake of the Ozarks Golf Trail as a destination for golfers to come and enjoy the area. Leahy is the co-director of the Lake of the Ozarks Junior Golf Association which has awarded over $125,000 in higher education scholarships to local high school senior golfers. He and other golf professionals have taught golf at local elementary schools for a number of years and has run a successful volunteer-only summer tournament series for junior golfers for more than 25 years.
Leahy was instrumental in the merger between the organization and the Missouri Golf Association to create the Missouri Junior Tour in 2017, to replace the tournament series that was run by him and other local golf professionals for years. The Missouri Junior Tour is a tournament series for junior golfers ages 7 to 18 to compete in mid-Missouri in an organized tournament setting throughout the summer.
Leahy was on the Gateway PGA Board of Directors for 16 years as the Outstate Director, retiring from the position in 2019, representing the interests of golf professionals in Columbia, Jefferson City and the Lake area. He served on many committees during his time on the Gateway PGA Board, most recently serving on the 2018 PGA Championship Member Services/Hospitality Committee and the Professional Development Committee. In addition to his efforts in the community with junior golf, the golf council, and numerous charities, he has also been a contributing writer for Lake Lifestyles magazine since 2007.
Over his 30 years at The Oaks Golf Course he has worked closely with many local charities on their golf tournaments, and have helped them raise funds through golf. He has worked with the Clown Golf Classic, Kids’ Harbor, Dewey’s Toys for Tots, the Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, Camdenton Booster Club, University of Missouri Athletic department and many other organizations over the years. He volunteers his time annually to teach veterans through the PGA Hope Program and continues to work with the Missouri Golf Association to run a professional and meaningful junior golf tournament series.
“We are very proud of Paul's accomplishments at Margaritaville overseeing both The Oaks and our 9-hole courses. He is an asset to the resort as well as the Lake of the Ozarks representing both with true professionalism. I have worked along side Paul for going on 30 years and it is indeed a relationship that is truly appreciated,” Fred Dehner, general manager of Margaritaville Lake Resort, said.
Q&A with Paul
When did you realize golf was going to be your career?
I worked at the local country club through high school and at that point I thought I could make this a career. I loved to be around the club and enjoyed the interactions with members and the golf professional. I went to college specifically to learn the skills needed to become a club professional. Ferris State University had the first program in the country that allowed you to earn a bachelor’s degree in marketing while obtaining practical experiences through internships at golf courses throughout the country.
What is it you love about golf?
I love the challenge of learning the swing. I believe it is one of the toughest sports to get proficient at. The individualistic nature of the sport makes it gratifying internally to succeed or accomplish it. Others around the game have the same attitude and love it, and the majority of time you are surrounded by people who come to have fun. Rarely are they in a bad mood when they come to the course.
Why do you put so much effort into your volunteer efforts with these organizations?
I love the game and want to share my experiences with others to hopefully get them to enjoy it as well. Working with juniors I believe I can help them with their love of the game as well as become better individuals personally and professionally. Golf can teach them integrity and self-worth. It is the only sport where you call penalties on yourself and if you cheat you have to personally live with it. You are by yourself on the course competing against yourself. How you conduct yourself transitions into how you treat your family and your career. I have had many junior golfers come back to me later and tell me how influential golf was in their life and how it helped them succeed in their chosen profession.