John Kennedy Jr. of New Canaan has been named the recipient of the 2012 Patriot Award, which honors a PGA professional who personifies patriotism through the game of golf and demonstrates a commitment and dedication to the men and women of the U.S. armed forces.
The 61-year-old Kennedy is in his 22nd year as PGA head professional at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., and is a 36-year member of The PGA of America. He will be recognized by The PGA of America in November at the PGA 96th Annual Meeting at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore Inner Harbor in Baltimore.
"Our talented 2012 class of national award winners span more than four decades of service to our association and to the game of golf," PGA of America President Allen Wronowski said in a release. "They are PGA professionals of impact to their section, their respective communities and in many cases they have influenced others throughout the country. We are proud of how they daily go about their business of inspiring young and old, and grow the game through innovation and their passion. By their dedication to serving others, we are proud to declare that they are truly experts in the game and the business of golf."
Kennedy established Golfers in Support of the Troops Foundation in 2008, which has raised more than $90,000 over a four-year period to distribute more than 20,000 articles of clothing to U.S. troops and their families. Clothing was sent to Baghdad, Iraq; Fort Benning, Ga.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Collins, Colo.; and Fort Drum, N.Y. Kennedy contributed 50 percent of the clothing that he purchased for his own golf shop.
The Westchester Country Club has supported Kennedy's efforts to build an alliance between the New York VA Hospital Prosthetics Device Department and 2010 Patriot Award recipient Jim Estes of Olney, Md., founder of the Salute Military Golf Association. Together with 2011 Patriot Award recipient John Hines, the group is working to expand training of PGA Professionals to give golf instruction to disabled veterans.
"I think that certainly anyone growing up in America should have great appreciation for those who serve our country in uniform," Kennedy said in a release. "I have great respect for those that served and have served and the sacrifices they have made. It is a great feeling that by our efforts such as Golfers in Support of the Troops that we may help our veterans and particularly their families. Additionally, we have built a relationship with the New York VA Hospital to help spread training of PGA Professionals to encourage more disabled veterans to have the opportunity to learn and play golf. It gives those who have been in hospitals, sometimes for months, something positive for which to look forward. If I can succeed in this project, then more around the country can follow."
Born in Fairfield, Kennedy graduated from Fairfield University in 1972 and turned professional that year. He gained PGA membership in 1976, during which time he was an assistant professional at Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Scarborough, N.Y. In 2010, he became the third member of the Metropolitan PGA Section to be named a recipient of the Horton Smith Award, which recognizes an individual PGA member for outstanding and continuing contributions to professional education.
Kennedy also was the 1997 Metropolitan PGA Golf Professional of the Year; recipient of the 2005 Section Bill Strausbaugh Award and the 1985, 1988 and 2009 Section Horton Smith Award; and the 1983 and 1991 Section Merchandiser of the Year for Private Facilities.