JR Millar Wins Professional Development And Mike Downing Wins Bill Strausbaugh

Oct 21, 2022

Millar Wins Professional Development Award
Riverside, Iowa – 
JR Millar of Lake Bracken Country Club has been named the 2022 Professional Development Award winner. The Professional Development Award is based on a Professional’s entire record and achievements over their career. The guidelines for this award include various types of educational seminars brought to the section, contributions made to building the PGA image, leadership and networking ability, promotion of the game of golf within the community, techniques used to encourage membership support of the various seminars, articles written for publication in books or magazines and any sectional or nationally recognized coursed attended by the nominee which enhance the PGA Professional.
When asked on what this means to win this award Millar responded with, “If you stand still, someone will always pass you.  This has been my motivation as the Education Chair.  I have striven to provide a variety of educational opportunities that we, as PGA members, can use to better ourselves professionally.  We have to remain the leaders and innovators at our facilities to ensure our true value is seen by our employers.  It is truly an honor and a privilege to be selected as the 2022 Iowa PGA Professional Development Award winner.”
Millar successfully brought the Swing With Kids program to the Galesburg school district a few years ago. Lake Bracken C.C. has served as a host site for the National Drive, Chip, and Putt competition for the last two years. He’s also partnered with the Iowa Junior Tour the past several years to host a tournament. We upgraded our relationship this year to include Bunker Links Golf Course and become a 2-day “Major” event for the Iowa PGA Junior Tour. His junior golf program runs weekly for the months of June and July and has quadrupled in participants over the last 6-8 years. We recently reached out to some local schools and offered our private course for practices and to host their meets. We now have Carl Sandburg College Men’s and Women’s golf teams. Additionally, we serve as the home course for the Galesburg Girls golf team, the Knoxville Boys and Girls golf team, and the A-Town Boys and Girls golf team.
He hosted several women’s clinics in the early part of the year, geared towards new and beginning golfers. This has helped increase our league and tournament participation. He also conducts an All-Women Pro-Am annually that is well supported by ladies from all over the area. Lastly, as a Board member, he believes it is important to support our Section events. He tries to play in 4-6 events per year as my schedule allows. It is a great way to network with our fellow PGA Professionals and share ideas on how to better promote the game and ourselves.
Gail Hannam, Illinois Women’s Golf Association Board of Director, “JR supports and encourages golf for all ages. He runs a thriving weekly Junior Program giving these young people the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of the game in a fun and exciting way. He hosts the Drive, Chip and Putts event, along with an Iowa PGA Junior Tournament. Not only does he inspire young golfers at our club, but he created and facilitated a golf unit in the PE classes at our local school district. By doing this during school, he was able to introduce the game to many young people who may have never been given that opportunity.”
Ben Olson, Vice President of the Lake Bracken Country Club Board of Directors, “J.R. is always inclusive to all skill levels, whether it is providing instruction for an aspiring professional or members who are just starting to play. His teaching approach brings a relaxed feel to any skill set receiving instruction. This helps keep the student comfortable and focused on the task at hand.”
This is Millar’s first Iowa PGA Section Award.
The Iowa PGA Congratulates JR Millar as our 2022 Professional Development Award.


Downing Wins Strausbaugh Award
Mike Downing of Iowa PGA Section has been named the 2022 Bill Strausbaugh Award winner by the Iowa PGA Awards Committee. The Strausbaugh Award emphasizes the nominee’s performance and achievements over the past five years and is awarded to those who demonstrate day-to-day alternative methods of improving the employment conditions for the PGA Professional.
When asked on what this means to win this award Downing responded with, “It truly is an honor to be recognized as the recipient of this year's Bill Strausbaugh award.  Being able to give back and make a positive impact on our Member's and Associates' careers is one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done.”
One of the most valuable lessons he was taught early in his career was from a mentor August Sewart, PGA. “You are only given one thing in life, your name. It is up to you to do what you want with it.” This has stuck with him over his many years of being a PGA professional. He works hard to protect his name. He also works hard to build his personal brand each day. To earn respect, you must build relationships and give respect. Treat people how you would like to be treated. There are times in our professional careers when we need to make tough decisions. If you have invested time building relationships and doing what is right, people may not like the decision you made however they understand the reasons for the decision and respect you for that.
In the past 3-years he has met with over 150 PGA members and visited over eighty facilities. In these meetings we discuss challenges and opportunities the professional and/or facility are facing. We also discuss tools and resources the professional/facility needs to be more productive and efficient. Not that he has all the answers, but in his time visiting with professionals and facilities he has been able to share success stories from many of our talented professionals as it relates to operations, tournament management, and overall best practices. Again, his goal is to set them up for success and help them do their job better.
The Iowa PGA Section is a leader in many areas. Drive, Chip & Putt is just one of those. He has overseen and collaborated closely with our professionals to grow the program over the past couple of years. In 2021, we hosted twenty-three local qualifiers with a total of 460 participants. In 2022, he was responsible for twenty-four local qualifiers with a total of 720 participants. It has been incredibly rewarding to be involved in nearly doubling the program over the past two years. This truly is the trifecta – he cannot think of a better way to reach young people, while displaying the power of the PGA of America brand, and what it means to be a PGA Professional, while also growing the game of golf and positively impacting the lives of so many young people.
Gene Bears, Jr., PGA Professional at Lacoma Golf “Since Mike has joined our section as our Director of Membership & Player Development, he has hit the ground full speed even during the initial beginning which involved the Covid protocol. Keeping in constant contact with Section Members and Associates. Along with this his involvement with PGA junior League and Drive Chip and Putt. This keeps his schedule full. Through all this his integrity and loyalty for Iowa PGA to shine as leaders is his top priority.”
Todd Hadjuk, PGA General Manager/Director of Golf of TPC Deere Run, “When I heard Mike was moving into his new roll as Director of Player/Membership Development, I thought he was the perfect person for the position. Mike is selfless and always looking to find ways he can support and improve his fellow golf professional. In my case, Mike not only encouraged me to go through the ADM Golf Certification, but he followed up several times through the process to ensure I was following through on what I told him I wanted to do. His ownership of the process, along with holding me accountable, stood out to me as someone who was vested in my growth and development. We all need this type of support from time to time as we can easily get wrapped up in the daily grind of our jobs.”
This is Downing’s first Iowa PGA Section Award.
The Iowa PGA Congratulates as our 2022 Bill Strausbaugh Award.


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