NAMED PROFESSIONAL OF THE YEAR
By Bob Weiner
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Affable John Neet accepted the most prestigious honor the Northeastern New York PGA has to offer during Monday’s annual NENY PGA Spring Membership Meeting & Special Awards Presentation at Saratoga National Golf Club. But he pointed out that the real MVP in his family is his wife, Christine.
Neet, despite battling pancreatic cancer, not only finished second on the NENY PGA Player of the Year points list, but he continued his busy professional duties as Director of Golf Services at Golf Galaxy Albany, as well as the Regional Golf Services Director for Dick’s Sporting Goods, an area that stretches from Ohio to Massachusetts.
Neet gives an average of 550-650 lessons per year, as well as 400 club fittings. Among his numerous player development programs are Get Golf Ready and Tee It Forward. He has also been involved in conducting numerous Executive Women’s Golf Association (EWGA) clinics.
CHRISTINE’S DRIVE BETTER THAN JOHN’S
Balancing his family, his career, and his illness wouldn’t be possible without the tireless efforts of his wife. “Christine’s full-time job is in the insurance business, but her second full-time job is taking care of me,” Neet said. “She does everything for me, and I do nothing. My job is playing golf and working. She does everything else.”
Neet noted that Christine Neet coordinates medical efforts at Roswell Park in Buffalo and in Miami, FL, where Neet recently had to drive for medical attention. “She handles correspondences from three different medical departments and thousands of emails,” he explained. “She is constantly making calls. She organizes everything to get everyone on board, including the 20 doctors who are taking care of me. I can’t fly, and I can’t drive. She drove me all the way to Florida and back.”
Several stories about the Neet family have been written over the last year or so, but Neet said his wife hasn’t received the full credit she deserves. “The articles written mentioned my great support system and called Christine a great advocate, but I’m here to tell you that, yes, Christine is a great advocate, but more importantly, she is also a great wife,” he said.
The Niskayuna-native has been a member of the PGA for 15 years but has worked in the industry for more than 20 seasons. Among his NENY PGA positions were as an assistant pro at Normanside Country Club and The Edison Club, as well as a head pro at Eagle Crest Golf Club before beginning his career at Golf Galaxy in 2010.
He is a certified as a club fitter by PING, Titleist, Mizuno, Callaway, Cobra and TaylorMade, is a V1 Sports certified instructor, and is also a certified Foresight GC2 launch monitor specialist.
Neet won the 1999 NENY PGA Assistants Match Play championship and the section’s Assistant Stroke Play title in 2008. He was the Assistant Golf Professional of the Year in 2000.
In his acceptance speech, Neet thanked many of his fellow professionals, including Mike Klimtzak and Herb Moreland for inspiring him to become a PGA member. He also thanked his former bosses, Tom DeBerry at Normanside, Rick Wright at Edison Club and the Paulsen family at Eagle Crest, for helping him to improve his trade.
“I spent eight years with Tom DeBerry, and he was the consummate professional. You never knew what was going to happen with Tom around. He was a lot of fun,” Neet said to the room at Saratoga National. “Rick Wright was brilliant at club management, and he was always there if you had a question about the profession. The Paulsen family gave me a great opportunity to work there.
“I would also like to say that my boss at Golf Galaxy, Rich Rogaski, has been very supportive and has been a great person to work for. And I would like to thank Peter Gerard, who has been a great friend.”
MCLEAN: “JOHN LOVES TO PLAY GOLF”
Craig McLean, Director of Golf at The Edison Club, introduced Neet for his acceptance speech: “There are three good reasons for John to receive this award, and there are three great admirable characteristics that make him what he is. First, John loves to play golf. That might seem obvious, but I’m sure a lot of us would rather go home rather than play golf after a long day. John likes to play golf at 7AM, and he will play no matter what.
“The second admirable characteristic that John has is that you can’t play golf with John and not feel better about yourself and your game,” McLean continued. “Invariably, without question, when you get done playing with John, you are happier, and you feel better about your day.”
McLean told a brief story about how Neet once showed up to play when he appeared to be extremely ill. “He showed up one day, and he looked terrible,” McLean said. “He always walked and carried his bag. I watched him from the box as he walked to the first tee. He hit his tee shot about 60-yards. Then he walked up to that ball and hit the next one about 60-yards again. As he picked up his bag and continued to walk, I couldn’t watch any more. I thought sure he would come back in. But when he was finished, the three guys who played with him said they had a great time. That’s the kind of guy John is.”
McLean said that Neet’s other strong characteristic is his loyalty to the profession and its members. “John cares immensely about the PGA and the PGA members,” McLean said. “He goes out of his way, and under the radar, to help all the PGA members. He makes them feel better about the business.”
Other major award winners presented Monday, March 27, included Assistant Professional of the Year Justin Hearley (Normanside CC), Horton Smith winner Eric Keeler (Schuyler Meadows Club), Bill Strausbaugh winner Steve Jensen (SMC), Player Development Award winner Peter Gerard (Mill Road Acres), Teacher of the Year Anders Mattson (Saratoga National), Youth Player Development winner Bob Cain (SNC) and Roland Stafford Sportsmanship Award winner Steve Plata (SNC).
Mattson, who has been featured on Golf Channel, won for the third time, while Gerard, a former Teacher of the Year himself, is celebrating 24-years with the PGA. Cain is a former junior golf product himself, while Plata received his award for integrity and sportsmanship. Jensen was honored for helping mentor six former assistants who later became head pros.
Rounding out the award winners were Sales Representative of the Year Gar Fellman of Kirk & Matz Awards, who is in his 51st year as a salesman, Patriot Award co-winners Ron Ireland of Saratoga Golf & Polo Club and Willie King of Plattsburgh Golf plus Merchandisers of the Year Eric Mabee (private) of the CC of Pittsfield and Todd Manderson (public) of Ballston Spa CC.