USGA's Zontek To Receive GCSAA Distinguished Service Award
January 30, 2006
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Far Hills, N.J. - Stan Zontek, who has served the United States Golf Association as a director of the Green Section for the past 35 years, 21 of them in the Mid-Atlantic region, is one of two individuals selected to receive the annual Distinguished Service Award from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA). He will receive the award Feb. 9 at the Association's conference in Atlanta.
Given in recognition of outstanding contributions to the advancement of the golf course superintendent profession since 1932, Zontek will be recognized along with Thomas Cook, associate professor of horticulture at Oregon State University.
"Stan and Tom are most deserving of the Distinguished Service Award," said GCSAA President Timothy O'Neill. "The GCSAA is honored to have them as colleagues in the field of golf course management."
"There are some 25,000 professionals in this business, and for me to be recognized by my peers is a humbling experience," said Zontek. "To have your fellow professionals tell you how good you are just makes you quiver. I am honored."
The son of a course superintendent, the 57-year-old Zontek was raised on a golf course. He attended Penn State University, where he studied to follow in his father's footsteps. But upon graduation he found a job in the Green Section at the USGA. That was in 1971, and he's been with the Association ever since.
Zontek has worked in various sections of the country, from the Great Lakes region to the Northeast to the Mid-Atlantic states, his current territory. When he started with the USGA, the company was headquartered in an old brownstone office building in downtown Manhattan.
"I remember going into New York for my first meeting," recalled Zontek. "There might have been 20 of us in all, and, being the new guy, I sat on the window sill in the office, far away from the heater."
Times have changed.
Today, the USGA headquarters is tucked away in rural New Jersey on more than 60 acres of prime land and there are more than 300 employees who handle everything from championships to handicap services to equipment testing and Rules. A new 20,000-square foot museum expansion that will be named in honor of Arnold Palmer is planned for 2008.
But Zontek doesn't get to see much of the stately headquarters campus in New Jersey. And his job hasn't changed much from those early days.
"This is still a people business, Zontek said. "It all comes down to going one-on-one with people," "We are so much better now at what we do, but we are still there to help clubs grow better grass. We are a management tool for the golf course. We are part of their team."
Zontek has logged more than 4,500 turfgrass visits to clubs and courses in more than three decades with the USGA. But it was a special trip when he was called to the White House in 1996, along with course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr., to help the Bill Clinton administration restore the putting green on the back lawn originally constructed with the help of another USGA Green Section agronomist in the early 1950s for President Dwight Eisenhower.