PITTSFIELD -- Now everyone in the golf community will know what members at the Country Club of Pittsfield have known for many years -- Brad Benson is the consummate head club professional.
Benson, the head pro at 639 South Street for 33 years, has been named the 2014 Golf Professional of the Year by the Northeast New York PGA Section. At least dating back to 1976, he is the only Berkshire County pro to win the award. Benson will be honored at the section's spring meeting at Wolforts Roost Country Club in Albany on Monday morning.
"I'm stunned," Benson said. "This award is kind of big. It's from your peers. I can't fathom anything bigger than being recognized by your peers."
While Benson may have been surprised, the news likely wasn't a shock to CC of Pittsfield members.
"I think it's great validation for Brad for a job well done for a long time," said 13-time club champion Matt Scarafoni. "He's an unbelievable head pro. I think members sometimes forget how hard it is to keep everyone happy. Every decision you make, some people are happy and some people aren't, but he has been able to keep our members happy."
Benson was in Tennessee after his mother sadly passed away when he was informed he had been nominated. He was asked to submit a letter explaining why he would be worthy of the honor. Apparently, his words hit all the right notes.
"It was a very nice, heartfelt letter," said Tom Sullivan, the head professional at Wyan tenuck Country Club and a member of the awards committee. "I just thought it epitomized what a golf professional should be. He wasn't bragging. It was just a nice, gentle letter that encompassed what pros should do, and that is serve their members."
"I just wrote from my heart and I'm told the letter hit home with a lot of people," Benson said. "I talked about the priorities of being a PGA member and about how mine are serving my members and making each and every day they are at the club special."
The 60-year-old's longevity speaks volumes about the job he has done and continues to do.
"It is unusual to be able to stay at the same private club that long and the fact that he has says a lot," said Sullivan, who met Benson for the first time shortly after he took over at CC of Pittsfield after serving as an assistant at the famed Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, Pa.
"He was as gracious then as he is now," Sullivan said. "He knows what his job is, does it well, and worries about every little thing that goes on [at the club]."
Though his longevity alone is worth honoring, Sullivan said this wasn't an honor given just to reward Benson for his decades of service. The selection process was changed just this year.
"It wasn't a case of seeing whose turn it was," Sullivan said. "Our awards are now based on a points system and the award is based strictly on the nominees' merits. ... Everyone turned in [secret] ballots. Sometimes in the past, it might have been too much of a buddy-boy system. Our new system is something we needed to do and everyone is on board with it."
Being a successful club professional requires a number of skills and personality traits.
"Brad can really do it all," Scarafoni said. "When he came from Merion, he was a great golfer. ... His junior programs have been a big part of our community. He taught me, my kids and countless others' kids how to play and that is a big deal. ... He can merchandise, he runs excellent tournaments and is friends and socializes with the members."
Obviously, much has changed in the golf business during his tenure. Benson has been equal to the challenge of remaining in tune with the times.
"The thing I'm most proud of is staying with one club for 33 years," Benson said. "I think it has to do with my ability to evolve with the industry. Equipment technology changes have been huge and, to be honest, like any small business, whether it is on North Street or at 639 South Street, the Internet and everyone's ability to purchase online is a huge challenge."
That's an area where having gained the trust of his members pays dividends.
"Fortunately, I get great support from our membership," Benson said. "Customer service is important. It's crucial to build relationships with members so they know they can come in and get fit for clubs instead of going online or ordering on the phone from someone with no knowledge of golf. If you buy something from me that isn't right, we'll get it right."
Through all these years, Benson has happily been able to stay true to words of wisdom from his father, who offered him a chance to work in the family business that he turned down in order to pursue a life in golf.
"My dad told me that whatever I decided to do, do something where you look forward to going to work every day. There's never a day when I don't go to work smiling. I'm blessed and wouldn't change a thing."
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