By Rubin E. Grant
Mark Blackburn was doing what he’s been doing for 20 years when the announcement came that he was receiving what he termed a lifetime achievement award.
He was in Memphis early last week, coaching one of his golfers as the golfer prepared for the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. While he was there, the PGA of America announced that he was the recipient of the 2020 PGA Teacher & Coach of the Year Award for his “outstanding services as a golf teacher, innovator and coach.”
Blackburn is a 14-year PGA member in the Alabama-NW Florida Section and director of instruction at Greystone Golf & Country Club.
“It’s a huge honor,” Blackburn said after returning to Birmingham from Memphis. “The national teacher and coach of the year award is given to one person annually. It’s the Mt. Rushmore of golf teachers. All the teaching greats have been chosen.
“It’s a career achievement award for me. I am excited to represent Greystone and the Alabama-NW Florida Section.”
Blackburn is a decorated PGA member, a four-time Alabama-NW Florida Section PGA Teacher of the Year (2008-2010, 2015) and two-time Alabama-NW Florida Section Horton Smith Award recipient (2011, 2018). The Horton Smith Award was renamed the PGA Professional Development Award this year.
Blackburn also is one of Golf Magazine’s Top 100 Teachers and one of Golf Digest’s 50 Best Teachers in America. His Blackburn Golf Academy develops and coaches juniors, club golfers, elite amateurs, and college and professional clients from around the world. Among the many PGA Tour golfers taught by Blackburn are Chez Reavie, Kevin Chappell, Charley Hoffman, Mike Weir and Heath Slocum.
A native of England, Blackburn came to the United States in 1994 on a golf scholarship to the University of Southern Mississippi, where he was a letterman and team captain. Following college, he had aspirations of playing professionally, but inconsistencies and injuries led him down a new path, studying the golf swing, teaching theories and coaching philosophies. Those findings transitioned into Blackburn’s “Coaching Codification,” which applies a holistic, sport-science approach to teaching and coaching golfers.
He founded Blackburn Golf in 2000 and continues to work with golfers of all levels, focusing on each student’s unique movement patterns to develop an efficient and repeatable technique for their desired ball flight. In conjunction with coaching, Blackburn is a passionate educator, keen to share knowledge while presenting to PGA Sections and International Federations around the world.
Since the spring, Blackburn has had to adjust the way he teaches because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve been fortunate to do a lot remotely with ladies and men,” Blackburn said. “Technology work is great, but it’s challenging.
“And when we have instruction in person, we’ve been following all the precautions with masks and social distancing. We’re doing everything outside at Greystone and doing things in line with the CDC guidelines.”
Blackburn is part of a group of 12 PGA Professionals and one PGA Section receiving the PGA of America’s 2020 national awards.
“This year’s national award winners are proven leaders and innovators in the game and business of golf, and the PGA of America salutes their accomplishments and passion for the sport,” said PGA President Suzy Whaley. “These 2020 recipients represent the best of the association and inspire our nearly 29,000 PGA professionals to reach new heights every day, as they strive to grow the game and drive our profession to a new standard of excellence.”