Eddie Ainsworth’s 14 years at the helm leave an enduring legacy.
By Jon Rizzi
The 825-member Colorado PGA Section will begin the year with new leadership. Eddie Ainsworth, the organization’s executive director for nearly 14 years, left his position last month. Bob Doyle—a Colorado Golf Hall of Fame member who twice served as Section president, was District 9 Director and ran Brighton’s Riverdale Golf Courses for 22 years—will replace Ainsworth on an interim level as the Section conducts a search to fill the position.
Whomever gets the job will have a tough act to follow. Ainsworth, a PGA general manager at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Eisenhower Golf Club who succeeded Darrell Bock as executive director in 2008, set a high bar, not only by serving the Section’s PGA professionals but also growing both the game and the national reputation of the organization.
Under his aegis, the section collaborated with the Colorado Golf Association, Colorado Women’s Golf Association and Colorado Open Golf Foundation to establish the highly successful Golf in Schools Program, which introduces school-age children across the state to the game of golf and the valuable life skills it teaches. Now in its 11th year, the program has brought PGA professionals into gym classes and hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren onto golf courses throughout Colorado.
Also related to youth, Ainsworth also partnered with the CGA to achieve the groundbreaking Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado, which integrated the junior-golf schedules of the two organizations to create a single, unified portal for players and parents to access information regarding tournaments, instruction, development programs and more. The JGAC annually conducts four majors.
The son of a career Air Force man, Ainsworth took enormous pride in the Colorado PGA REACH Foundation, a nonprofit built on three pillars: youth development, supporting our military and inclusion. In addition to its junior involvement, Colorado PGA REACH has annually hosted the Colorado PGA REACH Women’s Leadership Summit, served veterans through its H.O.P.E. (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) program and promoted diversity through its F.L.A.M.E. (Finding Leaders Among Minorities Everywhere) program. Most impressively, since 2014, the Colorado PGA REACH Foundation annually stages a invitational tournament highlighted by the presentation of a mortgage-free home to a disabled military veteran.
“Each of those homes is a direct result of Eddies’ leadership,” asserts Spencer Zinn, the Chairman of PGA REACH. “He really moved the needle when he aligned us with the Military Warriors Support Foundation to give homes to deserving wounded veterans during the annual REACH Invitational. That raised the visibility of the organization.”
The organization, Zinn asserts, also benefited from Ainsworth’s decision to add business professionals and military leaders to complement the skills of the PGA professionals on the PGA REACH Foundation Board of Trustees. “Bringing in that fundraising and business expertise in 2014 was really tremendous,” Zinn says.
(Full disclosure: Colorado AvidGolfer has helped to generate more than $265,000 for the Colorado PGA REACH Foundation at its annual Schomp BMW Cup.)
“It’s impossible to measure how passionate Eddie is,” Zinn marvels. That passion translated into innovations that commanded the respect of everyone across the industry. “I saw how his service to the section was always recognized at the national PGA meetings,” he adds.
To underscore the point, in 2011 and 2018, the Section received the Herb Graffis Award, the highest recognition the PGA of America can bestow on one of its 41 Sections. The award “recognizes exemplary contributions and achievements in player development (and) considers initiatives conducted by the Section, involvement of members in Section and National growth of the game programs, and overall impact on growth of the game.”
In addition to the aforementioned programs, Ainsworth also promoted growth-of-the-game initiatives such as the PGA Junior League, PGA Couples Golf and Drive, Chip & Putt. Working with the National Golf Foundation, he helped make Colorado the first state with a Welcome2Golf program in 2019.
During Ainsworth’s tenure, the PGA of America honored eight PGA professionals from the section with national honors or awards. One of those, the 2016 Public Merchandiser of the Year Award winner Jim Hajek of Fossil Trace Golf Club in Golden, currently serves as Section president.
“On behalf of the Board of Directors, we thank Eddie for his service over the last 14 years,” Hajek said in an email. “Kynda (his wonderful wife) and he just welcomed their second grandchild, and we know they are very excited about engaging more with their families. We wish them nothing but the best in their future endeavors.”
“He was instrumental in so many good things happening,” Zinn says. “I’d hate to see that get lost.”
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