Southwest Section PGA inducts 2012 Hall of Fame Class

by Vito Berlingeri & Alex Smolinski

The Southwest Section PGA announced its 2011 Special Award Winners at its Annual Awards dinner on January 13, 2012, at Firesky Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, AZ. The Annual Awards dinner also saw the five members of its 2012 Southwest Section PGA Hall of Fame Class inducted. Among the members of the class were Chuck McCool, Bobby Phillips, Craig Sloan, Gene Lesch and Ed Francese.

Charles W. “Chuck” McCool, born in 1914 in Denver, CO, played quarterback at Northern Colorado University and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II before gaining membership to the PGA of America in 1948. McCool served as an assistant professional and head professional at multiple courses. He partnered with the Phoenix Gazette and the AGA to conduct the Arizona Junior Golf Championship, founded the Phoenix City Amateur Championship, and first promoted the idea of what would eventually become the PGA Professional National Championship. McCool served two terms as President of the SWPGA and was named PGA Professional of the Year in 1964.

Bobby Phillips has been a member of the PGA since 1972 and is currently in his 34th year as Golf Professional at Bellair Golf Club. Phillips was named SWSPGA Player of the Year six times over the course of three different decades and was the SWSPGA Section Championship Runner-up six years in a row. He played on the PGA TOUR for three and a half years and was a member of 22 Goldwater Cup teams and five Sr. Goldwater Cup teams. Phillips has been a Section Board Member for 15 years.

Craig Sloan began as an assistant professional at Mesa Country Club after serving in the Air Force in 1969. After working for Dick Turner for just over three years, Sloan became the Director of Golf at Fountain of the Sun Golf Course in Mesa, and since has been actively involved in the development and operations of over 40 golf courses located throughout the country. He served on the Southwest Section Board of Directors for over 15 years, including as President from 1981-1987, and was named Professional of the Year in both 1979 and 1984.

Gene Lesch was born in 1930 in Prospect, Illinois. He was known as a complete professional and an innovator ahead of his time. Gene was excellent at developing and marketing equipment, including his patented “Bite Wedge”. During the 1970s, Lesch claimed victories at both the Arizona PGA Match and Stroke Play Tournament as well as the Mountain Shadows Open. Lesch played in three PGA National Championships, was one of the first instructors to introduce video golf lessons, and was the driving force behind the development of the Southwest Seniors Golf Association.

Ed Francese has been involved with the game of golf for over 50 years. The two-time SWPGA Professional of the Year has had several top ten finishes in the Section Championship, including a first place finish in 1976 at the Arizona Biltmore. Francese has been a participant in eight Goldwater Cup Matches and has played in the PGA Championship, the Phoenix Open (three times) and the Tucson Open (twice). He has won the Sedona Open and OSWS Southern Chapter Championship, and was a four-time winner of the Pro Assistant. Francese was the President of OB Sports Golf Management Company and is currently the Owner and President of EF Golf Management.