Local golf pro wins prestigious award
Each year the Professional Golf Association awards one PGA Professional an award like no other, the Bill Strausbaugh Award.
The PGA established the Bill Strausbaugh Award in 1979. It is presented to a PGA professional “who by their day-to-day efforts distinguished themselves by mentoring their fellow PGA Professionals in improving their employment situations and through service to the community,” according to the PGA.
The award reflects the characteristics and qualities of Strausbaugh, the mid-Atlantic PGA professional who died in 1999. Awardees demonstrate a record of service, leadership ability, involvement in civic activities and local charitable causes within their community, and are recognized as someone of outstanding character, according to the PGA.
Polson Bay’s golf pro Roger Wallace qualified for all the above and received this year’s award with his whole community standing behind him with pride.
Tracy Dooley of Polson knows first-hand the impact that Wallace has made in the golf community, particularly with his mentoring. Dooley said Wallace has brought up at least 10 golfers to professional levels, including Dooley’s own son Jeff, a Polson High School graduate. Jeff Dooley who won several titles, including the 2000 state title and is now the PGA director of golf at the Cabinet View Golf Course in Libby.
“It’s really cool,” Dooley said about Wallace’s honor. “To be able to watch my son excel the way he has, and to know it was through Roger’s mentoring that helped get him there, it’s pretty amazing.”
On Sept. 2, Wallace, a seven-time Pacific Northwest section award winner, was honored at the Polson Bay Golf Course with a party organized by Cameron Milton, Polson Bay’s head golf professional that has been working under Wallace since 2008, and Wallace’s wife Carolyn.
Many Polson golfers and a few from as far away as Calgary, attended the party to raise their glasses to a man they all believe has touched their life in one way or another.
Longtime Polson resident Jeanne Newgard, who said she has been a Polson Bay golf member “for a long while,” has watched Wallace grow the Polson Bay golf course from just a small town, nine-hole course to the beautiful 27-hole course it is today.
“He’s very deserving and very humble,” Newgard said, stating that Wallace has done “so much for his community.”
“It’s basically one of, if not the highest honor, for a golf professional to get a national award,” Milton said. Milton believes the Bill Strausbaugh Award is particularly special in what it represents for the recipient.
“It’s usually a body of work,” Milton said. “It’s not just what you did in one year, it’s what you’ve been doing your entire career. And for Roger’s fans, it’s upwards of 30 years.”
Milton said the award is recognition for something that everybody already knew, but now it’s just on a larger scale.
Milton described Wallace’s body of work as “just doing really good things as far as charity and civic leadership, and giving back to his association and the people that have worked with him.”
For Wallace, it has been a bit overwhelming but he is taking his fame in stride.
“It’s very surprising and humbling,” Wallace said. “I certainly was not expecting this. I was expecting to get a phone call saying ‘thanks, have a nice career but you were not chosen,’ but that wasn’t exactly the way it turned out. You don’t start or build any kind of career expecting to get awards, you just sort of go about your business the best way you know how to do it and look what happens. I really don’t know what to say, it’s kind of hard to wrap my whole head around it still.”
Wallace said he is fortunate “to have landed in a place like the city of Polson” that has allowed him to build the Polson Bay Golf Course up to today’s success.
Wallace said it has been a pleasure being a part of the community, too.
“The people here are pretty unique. It’s not just a tight knit golf community, but a pretty tight knit community, really,” Wallace said. “It’s more like a family than a customer base. We’ve been pretty fortunate to establish that kind of relationship with the people that play golf here. I think we’ve done a really good job of not losing sight of the fact that this is recreation. So many people in my business get consumed with the bottom line that they forget what they are here to do, and I feel like if you do your job right and provide a quality recreational experience … the bottom line kind of takes care of itself. That’s sort of what I try to live by, and so far it’s been fairly successful.”
Wallace will be honored in a ceremony along with others receiving various national PGA awards in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Nov. 20.