Six PGA Professionals Inducted Into Northern California PGA Section PGA Hall of Fame
Rick Jetter, Jim Langley, Steve Menchinella, Ken Morton, Sr., Gary Plato and Ken Venturi Announced as the Hall of Fame Class of 2019; New Inductees Honored for Their Recognition of Significant, Enduring Accomplishments and Contributions to the Game, and the Association
VACAVILLE, Calif., June 28, 2019 — The Northern California Section of the PGA of America (NCPGA) has announced the 2019 Class of PGA Professionals inducted into the Association’s Hall of Fame, including: Rick Jetter, the late Jim Langley, Steve Menchinella, Ken Morton, Sr., Gary Plato and the late Ken Venturi
“The NCPGA Hall of Fame was created to enshrine PGA Professionals from the Section in recognition of their significant, enduring accomplishments and contributions to the game and to the PGA of America,” said Len Dumas, Executive Director, Northern California PGA. “This year’s class, which includes the late Jim Langley and Ken Venturi, are judged to be of historical significance to the game of golf and we are proud of their career-long accomplishments while representing the NCPGA.”
Jim Langley, 41-Year PGA of America Member
Highlighting the 2019 NCPGA Hall of Fame Class is Jim Langley, a former long-standing PGA Head Professional at Cypress Point Club, and a member of the famed 1959 University of California at Berkeley basketball team that won the NCAA Championship. After serving a brief stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, he began his golf career as a tour player, obtaining his PGA card in 1965 – at the very first tour school. He was best known however, for his 34-year tenure as the PGA head Professional at the Alister MacKenzie-designed Cypress Point Club-where he held the rare distinction as an honorary member following his retirement.
Langley’s career spanned 41 years as a dedicated member of the PGA of America. A consummate professional, Langley was loved and respected by those who came in contact with him through the game of golf, his volunteer work with his church, or his tireless charitable efforts. In 2003, Langley was inducted into the California Golf Writers Hall of Fame, and in 2005 he was named Golf Professional of the Year by the Northern California PGA. In 2008, the Northern California PGA Foundation created an event named specifically in his honor: The Langley-A Tribute to Legends, which today, continues to recognize golf legends while also raising funds for worthy programs including youth scholarships.
Ken Venturi, PGA Member, 14-Time PGA Tour Winner and 1964 U.S. Open Champion
Born and raised in San Francisco, Ken Venturi’s amazing golf career started as a young boy playing at Harding Park GC. As his own game evolved, Venturi started gaining attention. He won the San Francisco City Championship as well as the State AM, and he was eventually recruited for the San Jose State University golf team. Following a two-year stint in the U.S. Army, he received an honorable discharge and then decided to pursue a golf career by turning professional.
Venturi went on to enjoy a decorated PGA Tour career, amassing 14-wins, including the 1964 U.S. Open Championship at Congressional Country Club in Washington, DC. His success in ’64 earned him the PGA of America’s Tour Player of the Year honor, while Sports Illustrated recognized him as their coveted Sportsman of the Year. He also played on the winning 1965 Ryder Cup team, while serving as captain of the wining 2000 President’s Cup team.
After winning the San Francisco Lucky International Open in 1966, Venturi retired from competitive golf and began what would be an impressive 35-year career with CBS Sports, where he served as a mentor and for many years and shared the booth with Jim Nantz. The duo was highly regarded for their incredible coverage of PGA Tour golf, and The Masters.
In 2002, Venturi was recognized by the NCPGA as an Honorary Member. He received the special distinction not just for his playing and broadcasting accomplishments, but for his contributions to the game and to the association. In fact, hi fine work as a golf analyst not only brought him the Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism from the PGA of America, as he was also a staunch supporter of growing the game, trailing back to the inception of Play Golf America. In 2009, he was recognized as recipient of The NCPGA Foundation’s Langley Legends Award, named after his good friend (and best man), PGA Professional Jim Langley. In 2013, (just two weeks before his passing) Ken was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Rick Jetter, PGA Professional and Co-Owner, Spring Valley Golf Course, Milpitas, CA
Rick Jetter was introduced to the game by childhood friend and fellow PGA Professional, Rich Stewart. After earning a spot on the James Lick High School golf team in San Jose, he was recruited to play at San Jose State University. During his journey as a PGA Professional, Jetter was guided by great mentors, including Pat Markovich at Richmond CC and Ray Anderson at Hillview GC. Following a 17-year stint at Cambrian GC, Jetter took a short hiatus from golf, but the game beckoned and in 1983 he took a teaching position at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex, working for legendary PGA Professionals Tom Lopresti and Ken Morton, Sr. When he turned 50, Jetter also attempted every golfer’s dream…playing on the senior PGA Tour. Jetter’s recollection of his early days in golf includes rolling up his sleeves to lay pipe and build greens at Spring Valley GC. Today, decades later, he is co-owner at the very same facility. However, it is Jetter’s volunteerism that truly defines his contributions to the game. He has served as chair of the NCPGA Tournament Committee, NCPGA Board President, President of the NCPGA Senior Division, and in 1996 he was awarded the Association’s prestigious Lyle O. Wehrman Award. As an accomplished player who often represented the NCPGA events, Jetter finds his greatest pleasure in bringing joy to others. He has championed programs and projects like Food for Families, working with the American Heart Association and the “I think I can” program in support of children with muscular dystrophy, among many other philanthropic initiatives during his accomplished career.
Steve Menchinella, PGA Director fo Golf Emeritus & General Manager, Sunnyside CC, Fresno, CA
Steve Menchinella’s life in golf began at age 8, and was followed by a stellar career at Roseville High School. After playing collegiately at Chico State, he started his PGA life and became an Assistant Professional at Sierra View CC. He earned his PGA Tour card in 1962 and competed in a handful of events before being called to serve in the military. After the service, he enjoyed a short stint working at Tahoe Paradise GC before accepting a position at Sunnyside CC, where he was quickly promoted to Head PGA Professional. In the mid 80’s he was promoted to Director of Golf at Sunnyside and today he serves as an Ambassador for this busy central valley club, further honored with the creation of Menchinella Plaza.
Affectionately known simply as Mench, he continued to play competitively over the years and developed close ties to his fellow pros and with amateur players too. He also hosted numerous events at Sunnyside, including the popular Piccadilly Pro-Scratch, now in its 40th year.
Menchinella also served as President of the NCPGA from 1975-1976, where he helped find the San Joaquin Valley Chapter of the NCPGA. Perhaps his greatest distinction throughout his career, he has mentored scores of PGA pros, many who have gone onto manage their own courses or clubs. He has also been recognized with numerous high profile awards and accolades. In 2009, he was recognized by the NCPGA with the Jim Langley award for his lifetime contributions to the PGA. In 2004, he received the Golden State Award for his contributions to golf in California. In 1999, he received the Bill Strausbaugh Award from his NCPGA peers. The award recognized his mentoring of club professionals and efforts to improve employment conditions. In 1978, Menchinella was named NCPGA Professional of the Year.
Ken Morton, Sr., PGA Master Professional & CEO, Morton Golf LLC, Sacramento, CA
Ken Morton, Sr. has been called the heart and soul of golf in Northern California. He began his golf career as an 11-year old caddie at the Del Paso CC, later working in the shop, repairing golf clubs and picking the practice range. In high school, he won the Northern California High School Championship and later the California State Junior College championship. In 1958, he began working part-time for fellow NCPGA and PGA Hall of Fame Member, Tom Lopresti, at Haggin Oaks Golf Complex and remains there more than 60 years later.
During his legendary career, he became the most awarded golf professional in the PGA of America’s long decorated history, winning a record five national awards. In 2005, he was inducted into the national PGA Hall of Fame for his contributions to the PGA, the game of golf, and its members. But that’s a small part of the story. To know Ken Morton, Sr. is to know his tireless efforts as champion for those who couldn’t get to the links, providing them access to the game we love. In 1983, he founded SAY (Sacramento Area Youth) Golf, which became the model for today’s successful First Tee program. He also created the California Eagles, the first special Olympics golf program, and was instrumental in the formation of Saving Strokes, which uses golf as a rehabilitative tool. He was also the architect behind the Morton Golf Foundation non-profit charity, which raises nearly a quarter million dollars annually to help fund dozens of area golf programs for the disabled, underprivileged and disenfranchised.
Today, the Haggin Oaks golf complex has developed an industry-wide reputation as a facility that runs on innovation, dedication, and complete professionalism. In fact, the Haggin Oaks Golf Super Shop has been voted a top ten-retail store more than any other, while the Haggin Oaks Golf Expo is the largest annual consumer golf event in the world. Throughout his illustrious career, Ken Morton, Sr. has touched the lives of millions of golfers around the globe.
Gary Plato, PGA, Retired
Gary Plato was born in Alameda, CA and played his early golf at what was then called the Alameda golf course, caddying and learning the game from the legendary Lucius Bateman, a fellow NCPGA Hall of Fame member. Bateman also served a as mentor to Plato, which was a huge influence on his life
In 1962, after receiving an AA degree in Accounting from Merrit College, he attended San Jose State as a junior. While in college, he also worked at Blackberry Farm GC during its construction and pre-opening stage, while serving 6 months in the United States army reserve. He graduated from San Jose State in 1967 and after college began working full-time at Blackberry Farm before becoming an assistant professional at Los Altos CC.
In 1969, the lure of the professional tour was present and Plato tried to qualify for the tour in Florida, alongside high profile golfers such as Johnny Miller and Bruce Summerhays. Following his playing career, he became first assistant professional to the legendary NCPGA Hall of Famer Eddie Duino, Sr., at San Jose CC.
Among his professional accomplishments, Plato has won the prestigious Horton Smith Award in 1978 and the NCPGA Golf Processional of the Year Award in 1980. He was also a member of NCPGA Seniors Staedler/Jetter Cup Team. Inspired by Plato, 25 of his former employees became PGA Professionals while three played on the PGA Tour, and two became TV golf personalities. Famed golf TV commentator, Roger Maltbie, describes Plato as a true professional and quintessential ambassador for the game of golf and those who serve its devotees.
Adds Dumas, “The NCPGA is extremely proud of our 2019 Hall of Fame inductees, each who have made their own distinct mark on the game, this Association and golf in Northern California. They are all shining examples of the true value of PGA Professionals, both on and off the course.”
Class of 2019 Northern California PGA Section PGA Hall of Fame
About the Northern California Section of the PGA of America (NCPGA)
Organized in 1920 to promote interest in the game of golf, the birth of this association was heralded as an important step to the advancement of the game in this district. The Northern California Section is one of the forty-one designated Sections of the PGA of America, the world’s largest working sports organization. With over 1,100 dedicated PGA Professionals and apprentices at over 500 golf facilities in Northern California and Northwestern Nevada, the association continues to have a positive impact on the game of golf and communities both regionally and nationally. For more information, please visit www.ncpgalinks.com or call (707) 449-4742.
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