George Jonson of Seattle and Ben Stodghill of Kirkland, Wash. were honored as recipients of the PNGA Distinguished Service Award at the 115th PNGA Annual Meeting Banquet on April 25at Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland.
Every two years a committee comprised of PNGA Past Presidents reviews nominees made by the golfing public and the media and then selects recipient of the PNGA Distinguished Service Award in recognition of meritorious service to amateur golf, not necessarily as a competitive player. This prestigious award is considered the Association’s highest honor, as it recognizes some of the selfless volunteers who have donated their time and treasure simply for the betterment of golf.
Bellevue Golf Course
If you have ever played in a PNGA championship, chances are you have been fortunate to have had Ben Stodghill as your starter. His slow southern drawl – born and bred in him from his youth spent in Kansas, Tennessee and Texas – eases the first-tee jitters and makes the players feel as though they are part of something special.
Ben and his wife Marilyn moved to Kirkland, Wash. in 1982, and he has been a volunteer at PNGA championships since the early 1990s. He has been the PNGA Championship Committee Chairman since 2006, and for 15 years he has served as the treasurer of the Bellevue (Wash.) Golf Club men’s club.
Ben started as a PNGA (and WSGA) Club Representative in 1988. “I got asked by the PNGA office to volunteer at a championship being held at Bear Creek CC (in Woodinville, Wash.),” Ben said. He worked the event with Jackie and Joel Belsvik (who themselves received the Distinguished Service Award in 2003), and they encouraged him to volunteer at the next championship. “And it just kind of grew from there.”
Stan Bishop, who was the WSGA Volunteer of the Year in 2006, took Ben under his wing as a Starter at championships.
Ben grew up “on the Kansas side” of Kansas City. As a teenager, he worked as a caddie at a local country club. “I got lucky, because I got to caddie for some great players when they played in local tournaments, such as Gene Littler, Jim Colbert and Carol Mann.”
His family moved to Tennessee when he was a senior in high school. There, he worked in the pro shop at Fox Meadows Golf Course, before going on to college at the University of Memphis.
Since 2007, Ben has been on the PNGA Board of Directors, and since 2010 he has served on the PNGA Executive Committee as a vice president. In 2008, Ben received the WSGA’s George Holland Award as their Volunteer of the Year.
When asked how he’s been able to volunteer for so long, Ben said, “I get asked that a lot. Every place I go, in every championship, the players always tell us how well-run the event is, and it feels good to be part of that. I know that if the event goes smoothly, it leads to greater participation. Also, I like to see the progression of the players as they grow – from the junior events, to the men’s and women’s, on up to the senior divisions.”
Ben has watched some great players come through the PNGA championships – Richard Lee, Kyle Stanley, Travis Matthews, Andres Gonzales, Michael and Andrew Putnam, Paige Mackenzie, Renee Skidmore, among many others.
- PNGA Club Representative – 1988-present
- WSGA Club Representative – 1988-present
- PNGA Board of Directors – 2007-present
- PNGA Executive Committee, Vice President – 2010-present
- Chairman, PNGA Championship Committee – 2006-present
- WSGA Volunteer of the Year – 2008
- Treasurer of Bellevue GC Men’s Club – 15 years
- Very frequent PNGA and WSGA championship volunteer
- Regular attendee at PNGA and WSGA Annual Meetings
Broadmoor Golf Club
“Growing up,” George says, “all I ever heard in my house was ‘PNGA.'”
And now, as an adult, George continues to hear the call. He has been instrumental to the PNGA in so many ways, his expertise as a CPA providing invaluable service to the Association. He has served on the PNGA Finance Committee since 2002, and on the PNGA Board of Directors since 2006.
It’s in his blood.
In 1963, George’s father Ernie Jonson moved his CPA office to the lower Queen Anne district of Seattle, and the PNGA, which was struggling at the time, moved into the office, and Ernie converted the office’s library into the PNGA office. Ernie’s employees all became PNGA volunteers.
George remembers as a kid in the early 1960s going down to his dad’s office and helping to open envelopes for championship entries, or stuffing envelopes, or running errands, or drawing pairings. “I remember it was a lot of fun.”
George served in the Navy from 1967-1971 (the only time in his life he’s lived outside of the Seattle area). During this time he did three tours of Vietnam during the war. He fixed electronics on airplanes.
While attending Seattle University, George walked onto the golf team. He needed to get the scholarship, and during the qualifying rounds to make the team there were 28 players trying for just two spots on the team. George was the medalist in the field, winning by 27 strokes over the second-place finisher.
In 1972 George won the individual title in the West Coast Athletic Conference championship, helping Seattle University to win the team title. Seattle University would win the team title again in 1973, and this time George’s brother Ed was also on the team.
After graduating from Seattle U., George went to work as a CPA in his father’s office. “Other than my time in the Navy, it’s the only job I’ve ever had.” Fortunately for the PNGA.
Among the significant contributions that George has made to the PNGA was being instrumental in achieving 501(c)3 status for the Association, in 1998.
Content to work “behind the scenes” (as he himself says), perhaps George’s most high-profile accomplishment will be forever known as “Substitute Senate Bill 6615-2004,” a bill that was passed after three years of work that enabled golf courses to continue to donate rounds to school golf teams, and to charities for fundraisers. Essentially, George saved the golf programs of every high school in the state of Washington.
“I was able to explain to charitable organizations how much they needed golf, and golf courses, in order to carry out their fundraisers,” George said. “I got them organized to speak with a single voice, and to take that voice to Olympia.” George essentially carried out his own economic impact study, and was instrumental in hiring a lobbyist (Heather Hansen) who still works for the PNGA today, watching for legislation that impacts the golf community. “My dad never allowed us to quit in anything we did,” he said. “So we just kept going.” He never gave up, and the bill includes language that is labeled “George’s Paragraph,” because he was so insistent in how the wording should be.
The bill was signed into law in 2004 by Washington Governor Gary Locke.
George’s father Ernie and his uncle Carl both have previously received the PNGA Distinguished Service Award, and both are members of the Pacific Northwest Golf Hall of Fame.
- PNGA Club Representative – 1996-present
- WSGA Club Representative – 1996-present
- PNGA Board of Directors – 2006-present
- WSGA Board of Directors – 2004-present
- PNGA and WSGA Finance Committee – 2002-present
- Co-Chairman of PNGA Centennial – 1997-1999
- Volunteers significant time as an accountant to PNGA and WSGA
- Instrumental in lobbying Department of Revenue and State Legislature regarding Use Tax Legislation
- Consistently volunteers time to Associations regarding tax issues affecting member clubs
- Obtained 501(c)3 charitable status for PNGA in 1998
- Recipient of “Local Legend” award from Northwest Golf Media Association – 2013
- Longtime supporter and contributor of Evans Scholarship program
- Participant in PNGA and WSGA championships
- Won individual conference championship at Seattle University
- Has been a club champion at every club he has belonged to
- Served four years in the Navy, during which he did three tours in Vietnam