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Hall of Fame

The SOPGA Hall of Fame recognizes extraordinary careers and pays tribute to those PGA Professionals who served the Section in an exemplary manner, set standards for promoting the game throughout our communities, and/or will long be recognized and respected for their illustrious playing accomplishments.  By dedicating themselves to the game of golf, SOPGA Hall of Fame Members contributed in a special way to the Section’s growth and heritage of professionalism.

Inductees

JR Ables, a 45-year member of the PGA of America, has been elected to the 2021 Hall of Fame class for the Southern Ohio PGA.Ables was born and raised in Mount Vernon, Ohio. He got his introduction into the game of golf at 13 years of age and quickly immersed himself in the sport. Ables noted that he tried to learn as much as he could, as quickly as he could, which led him to eventually join Rod Myer, the Men’s Golf Coach and Head Professional at Ohio State University as an Assistant Professional in 1971.

Ables stayed on at Ohio State for nine years, eventually taking on the role of Co-Head Professional and Assistant Men’s Coach in 1974 and Head Women’s Coach in 1976. Beginning in 1980, Ables started focusing full-time on teaching the game. He was a Teaching Professional at Bash Recreation from 1980 to 1982 before he mov

ed on to the Head Professional and Co-Owner role at Eastland Golf Center. From 1989 through 20

18 he owned and operated his own golf centers, first at Ables Golf Center on Polaris and then at Ables Golf on Avery in Dublin, OH. Since 2019, he’s taught the game at a number of facilities in the Columbus area.

A noted instructor, Ables was named the Southern Ohio PGA Teacher of the Year in 1987 and 1992.

One of his career highlights came in 2010 when then student Rod Spittle qualified for the Champions Tour event in San Antonio, TX. Rod called on Ables to caddie in the event which Spittle went on to win in a sudden-death playoff over six-time PGA Tour winner, Jeff Sluman.

Ables prides himself on programs he’s created and the success that many of his junior students have had over the years. In 1982, Ables created Maximum Golf, an off-season program focused on exercise and strength training that continues today with more than 40 attendees annually. Junior students that he has taught and coached include Leila Raines, Holly Niederkohr, Allison Harper and TT Crouch.

Over the years, Ables estimates that he’s given nearly 90,000 lessons. He has always focused on delivering the same consideration and effort, regardless of the skill level, and has lived by a single philosophy: keep it simple with the right fundamentals.

Tom Littlepage, PGA, elected to PGA Membership in 1959, has made his mark on history as a 2020 Southern Ohio PGA Hall of Fame Inductee. Littlepage began his career in the golf industry at Saginaw Country Club in Saginaw, Michigan before moving to the Southern Ohio Section in 1970. Throughout his career, Littlepage held a variety of positions at facilities around the western part of the Section in addition to working his way to hold the Section President position in 1983. Littlepage has been honored for his success in the industry as the Southern Ohio PGA’s Bill Strausbaugh Award in 1984 and 1986, and the SOPGA Legacy Award in 2018.

Littlepage’s professional accomplishments include designing and building Stillwater Valley Golf Course in Versailles, Ohio. Additionally, he helped design the second nine holes at Greenville Country Club in Greenville, Ohio. Tom served as the Head Golf Professional at Greenville Country Club from 1978-1989.  Littlepage also built two stand-alone driving ranges.  He has mentored many current PGA Professionals and coached multiple levels of golf teams throughout his career.

Ed Mitchell, PGA, elected to PGA Membership in 1967, has claimed his spot in history as a 2020 Southern Ohio PGA Hall of Fame Inductee.

Known for his passion about education, Mitchell has dedicated his career to learning and sharing the newest developments in golf equipment. He helped revolutionize club fitting with his signature loft & lie machine and recently developed the SwingFit Data Analysis program for high school and college golfers to advance their games.

The current Michigan resident has a long history with the Southern Ohio PGA.  In 1983, Mitchell moved his family to Dayton where he started an indoor learning center.  During this time he realized the club fitting industry had many challenges and the equipment on the market was not accurate. He set out to solve this problem and created Mitchell Golf in 1988. Today, Mitchell® Golf Equipment Company, is known as the worldwide leader for professional grade club repair tools.

The current Michigan resident has a long history with the Southern Ohio PGA.  In 1983, Mitchell moved his family to Dayton where he started an indoor learning center.  During this time he realized the club fitting industry had many challenges and the equipment on the market was not accurate. He set out to solve this problem and created Mitchell Golf in 1988. Today, Mitchell® Golf Equipment Company, is known as the worldwide leader for professional grade club repair tools.

Mitchell served on the PGA Junior Golf Academy and the PGA National Education Committee for four years each. He has won numerous awards from both the South Florida PGA Section and the Southern Ohio PGA Section, including the SOPGA Professional Development Award in 2009 and the SOPGA Legacy Award in 2016. He has also served as the official clubmaker and repair person at The Masters.

Bob Sowards, PGA, was inducted into the Southern Ohio PGA Hall of Fame in 2019.

Sowards a native of Sciotodale, OH, made a name for himself early in life, finishing as a co-champion of the 1986 OHSAA AA state championship. He went on to compete at Glenville State College in Glenville, WV. While at Glenville, Bob was a four-time All Conference athlete in 1987, 1988, 1989, and 1990. He lettered in golf all four years while receiving All-American Honors twice and being named WVIAC Golfer of the Year in 1987, 1989, and 1990.

Soward turned professional in 1991. He competed on the Nationwide Tour in 1998, 2004 and 2009, competing in 76 total events. He also earned his PGA Tour card through the 2007 qualifying school and was a rookie in 2008. His best finish was a T-9 in the Wyndham Championship.

Sowards has become one of the most decorated PGA Professional competitors in the history of the PGA of America. He won the PGA Professional National Championship at Longaberger Golf Club in 2004 and has claimed the PGA of America National Club Professional Player of the Year in 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2014. Sowards has won the PGA of America National Senior Club Professional Player of the Year in 2018, 2019 and 2021 along with the Senior PGA Professional National Championship in 2018.

Locally, Bob has claimed the Southern Ohio PGA Player of the Year honors 18 times and won the Southern Ohio PGA Professional Championship ten times.

Sowards is an 18-time PGA of America Southern Ohio Section Player of the Year and is a 10-time winner of the Southern Ohio PGA Section Championship. He has most recently won the Senior Section Championship four times (2018-2021) while claiming Senior Player of the Year honors over the same time period. Bob has also played on 16 Ohio Cup teams.

Sowards has won the Ohio Open Championship and the Senior Ohio Open Championships three times each.

Pat Delaney, PGA, began working in the golf industry as an assistant Professional at Losantiville CC in Cincinnati, OH. In 1982, Pat was elected to PGA Membership and has spent much of his career in Southern Ohio serving the Memberships of Springfield Country Club, Sycamore Creek Country Club and Urbana Country Club.

In addition to his service to the members at his clubs, Mr. Delaney dedicated over 10 years of service to the governance of the Southern Ohio PGA, serving as President from 2013 through 2015. 

Pat made a name for himself competing on the course. In 1978, he claimed medalist honors at US Amateur Qualifying in Toledo, OH. He claimed titles in the Southern Ohio PGA Assistant Professional Championship as well as the Dayton Chapter Championship. Upon becoming a Senior, Delaney earned the Southern Ohio PGA Senior Player of the Year title in 2008 and 2010. He also claimed the Senior Section Championship in 2010, 2016 and 2017 and has competed on the Ohio Cup team ten times.

Pat cherishes the personal relationships he’s made at each facility and those with his fellow PGA Professionals. Also being able to use his educational marketing skills to run his facility. As such, being the leader of the golf program and being accessible as the golf professional at his facility is one of his favorite aspects of the business. When asked, Pat stated “My favorite of all was after the Pro-Member at Piqua CC with many fellow professionals listening to Pete Brown tell stories of his path to the PGA Tour and of all the great players of his era.”

Paul became a PGA member in 1956 and spent the majority of his career serving the members of Zanesville CC in Zanesville, OH. He served on various committees and notably started the Zanesville District Golf Association so that players would have championships to compete in.

Paul had an illustrious playing career with many highlights:

  • Winner, Columbus Chapter Championship – twice
  • Southern Ohio PGA Player of the Year – twice
  • Queen City Open Champion – 65
  • Southern Ohio PGA Assistant Professional Champion – twice
  • Won many of Pro Ams held in chapter
  • 1985, 1986 – Southern Ohio PGA Senior Section Champion
  • 1998 National Quarter Century Championship (Florida)
  • Qualified – 3 National PGA Championships
  • Qualified – 1962 US Open (Oakmont CC)
  • Qualified – Senior PGA Championships
  • Qualified – 3 USGA Senior Opens

13-career Hole-in-Ones

Thomas is a member of the Zanesville DGA Hall of Fame (’01) and was the longest serving PGA Member in the Southern Ohio PGA, having been a member for more than 64 years.

2017 – Tom Kendrick, Steve Jurick, Larry Drehs

2016 – Jeff Steinberg, Zachary Fink

2014 – Gil Gusweiler

2012 – Gene Samborsky

2011 – Steve Groves, Geoff Hensley, Gary Howlett

2010 – Jim Brown

2009 – Jim Gilbert

2008 – Guy Amicon

2007 – Phil Stockdale, George Sargent

2006 – Mike Crotty

2005 – Lauren King, Gary Taylor, Rino DellaFlora

2004 – John Marchi, Otto Hackbarth

2003 – Jack Nicklaus, Pete Brown, Bob Harrison, Marty Kavanaugh II

2002 – Jim Flick

2000 – Bob Hauer

1999 – Robert Kepler, Jim Slominski, Steve Zappe

1998 – Elhanon ‘El’ Collins, Robert Foppe, Walker Inman, Jack Ortman, Dick Plummer

1997 – Tom Bryant, Gene Marchi, Harry Schwab, Donald Shock, Marty Kavanaugh I, Jim Rudolph, Jack Kidwell