History of the Northern Ohio PGA

birdies for charity full photo 2021

Over $100,000 was raised at this year's Smucker's Birdies for Charity event at Oberlin Golf Club.

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The first Ladies Section Championship was held in 2021 at Lakewood Country Club where Mary Suitca was crowned the champion.

The Northern Ohio PGA and Southern Ohio PGA were originally part of the Ohio Professional Golfers Association that was created in 1921. The Ohio Professional Golfers Association conducted the playing of the first Ohio Open Championship during its first year as a section and crowned Grange Alves as Champion at Toledo Country Club. Dues for professionals were set at $10 a year for members and $5 a year for associates. Through the minutes of the Section, we can see some of the history of the United States reflected in the actions of the Northern Ohio PGA Officers. Dues increased to $15 in 1928 until the Great Depression forced officers to reduce dues to $1 in 1933. When World War II began for the United States in late 1941, the Ohio Professional Golfers Association chose to not have the Ohio Open Championship in 1943.

The NOPGA and SOPGA split in 1946 after discussing the action for several years because of long drives for members to play in tournaments and the effect that this had on rubber tires, a crucial necessity during the war. On September 9, 1946, the Northern Ohio PGA held its first meeting as a new section at Chagrin Valley Country Club in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. During this meeting, Harry Moffitt was elected as the first president of the Northern Ohio PGA. Previously, Moffitt had served terms as president of the Ohio Professional Golfers Association and he would go on to become president of the National PGA in 1954. Marty Cromb was then unanimously elected to the office of Secretary-Treasurer of the Section; Marty had previously served in this office for the Ohio Professional Golfer’s Association. It is because of Marty’s service as NOPGA secretary-treasurer that the Northern Ohio PGA possesses the original minutes from the meetings between the years of 1921-1946.

During this first meeting, the original Northern Ohio PGA members made several philanthropic acts that set the foundation for the Section in years to come. Members agreed to raise money for the widow of Carl Rocco, an NOPGA member and assistant at Mayfield Country Club, who had died more than ten years earlier. Some of these members included Lloyd Gullickson, W.H. Way, Jack Way, and Grange Alves, who were pallbearers during Rocco's funeral. This act shows the camradery and importance of relationships in our section that is still present today. The gentlemen at

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The 1923 Ohio Open was held at Cincinnati Losantiville Country Club and hosted some of the giants in golf at the time.

this meeting raised $275 that night and held an exhibition match the following summer to raise more money for the widowed Mrs. Rocco. During this first meeting it was also discussed what to do with funds that were raised after World War II; the Ohio Professional Golfers Association had raised over $3000 in a Rehabilitation Fund for veterans who were injured during the war. These funds were later distributed to a veterans’ hospital to help with rehabilitation. Seventy-five years later, the Section Foundation saw the training of NOPGA members to become PGA HOPE trained on May 5th at TopGolf-Independence, to help veterans who have bravely served our country find solace in the game we all love.

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Al Espinosa after winning the 1936 Ohio Open at Maketewah Golf Club.

In 1951, there were members appointed to serve on various committees including: Publicity, Junior Golf, Tournaments, Benevolent Funds, and War Programs. The following year, the Junior Golf Committee reported that 966 juniors had received free instruction from NOPGA professionals in 1951. Several members during this meeting voiced that they would allow any junior to come use their range free of cost at any time. These members helped pave the path for the eventual creation of the Northern Ohio PGA Junior Tour in 1977 and the partnering of the NOPGA with Youth on Course in 2021, allowing junior golfers to play golf at area courses for a reduced rate.

During a 1953 meeting, the Section members spoke about President Eisenhower, well-known for his love of the game of golf. Members were disappointed in the bad publicity President Eisenhower had received when he chose to go to Augusta, Georgia to watch the Masters. The Section wrote a letter to President Eisenhower stating their stand on the subject and sent the letter to the National PGA and then to President

Eisenhower. The section also approved the purchasing of sets of golf books for the veterans’ hospitals in Northern Ohio during this meeting.
In 1956, a 16-year-old amateur won the Ohio Open Championship at Marietta Country Club. This 16-year-old went on to win 72 PGA tournaments and 18 Major Championships including 6 Masters, 5 PGA Championships, 4 U.S. Opens, and 3 British Opens. His name was Jack Nicklaus.

The 1970s led to the section’s first full time employee as well as first home building in Bedford Heights.

In 1977, Northern Ohio PGA members Paul McMullin and Tom Fussaro began the Northern Ohio PGA Junior Tour. In 1984, the Kenny Novak Tour Championship took place for the first time to honor and remember junior golfer, Kenny Novak, who gave his life to save the life of another. It has been played every year since then at Club Walden and the tournament celebrated its 37th year in 2021.

In 2014, the Northern Ohio PGA opened a 501(c)(3) that is known as the Northern Ohio PGA Section Foundation. In 2020, the Section conducted the first annual Birdies for Charity event at Barrington Golf Club and raised over $70,000 for local charities in Northern Ohio. In 2021, the Section Foundation is raising funds towards two newly created initiatives: Clubs Fore Kids and the Kenny Novak Scholarships. Clubs Fore Kids will provide juniors who are financially in need with a set of golf clubs and balls so that they are able to enjoy the game that we all love. In addition, two $10,000 scholarships were granted to high school seniors in 2021 at the inaugural Kenny Novak Scholarship Day and there are already plans to continue this tradition.

The Northern Ohio PGA and Southern Ohio PGA alternated hosting the Ohio Open Championship every year until 1983 when Northern Ohio took over running the event completely. In 2021, we celebrated the 100th anniversary of the first playing of the Ohio Open Championship. The one hundred past champions of the event have an accumulated 198 PGA Tour Wins and 29 Major Championship wins. These Major Championships were won by the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Byron Nelson, Denny Shute, Herman Keiser, Tom Weiskopf, and Billy Burke.

Today, the Northern Ohio PGA includes more than 430 members. For 75 years, the golf professionals of Northern Ohio have been leaders in their communities, and we look forward to continuing to make the golf community a better place in Northern Ohio.

Click on the video above to hear from some past champions of the Ohio Open!