By Rubin E. Grant
Eric Eshleman rarely had a moment to himself during the final week of July.
That’s because of the flood of congratulatory messages Eshleman, the director of golf at the Country Club of Birmingham, received after news broke that he is the recipient of the 2019 PGA Golf Professional of the Year Award.
The award is the highest annual honor given to a PGA of America professional. It is awarded for qualities of leadership, strong moral character and a substantial record of service to the PGA and the game of golf.
“I had more than a few folks reaching out to me,” Eshleman said when he finally had a few minutes to talk about the prestigious honor. “I’ve had friends and family from all over the world sending me well-wishes.”
Eshleman was a semifinalist for the award in 2018 before being selected this year. He had to fill out an in-depth, 12-page questionnaire listing his accomplishments and why he was deserving.
A 24-year PGA member, Eshleman has demonstrated a passion and commitment to training and mentoring fellow PGA professionals throughout his career and has served in advisory roles on several golf committees.
He is honorary president of the Alabama-NW Florida PGA Section, after a two-year term as president. During his time as a section officer, he helped raise the image and status of the section and established a fundraising program for its foundation. His stint as president included the approval of a name change for the section, formerly called the Dixie Section.
He has trained many PGA professionals to become golf instructors, stemming from his devotion to bettering the golf community and fostering strong relationships with the individuals he mentors. Under his leadership, the Country Club of Birmingham has averaged more than 2,400 lessons annually since 2014.
Eshleman is also a member of the PGA adjunct faculty, teaching golf to beginners and assisting students and staff in developing their skills and shaping their career paths.
Additionally, Eshleman oversees one of the largest junior golf programs in the country, with 200 kids playing in the club’s Junior Club Championship in 2018.
Well known as a teaching professional for students such as Graeme McDowell, Patton Kizzire, Paul Dunne and former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Eshleman has been honored by the Alabama-NW Florida PGA Section on several occasions. He received the section’s PGA Golf Professional of the Year Award in 2010 and 2017, the Teacher of the Year Award in 2000 and 2004, the 2011 PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award and the 2014 Youth Player Development Award.
But the 2019 PGA Golf Professional of the Year Award tops them all.
“I’ve been honored before, but this is really something special for us,” Eshleman said. “I was blown away when (PGA of America President) Suzy Whaley called me to let me know, and I’ve known her for years. I started reflecting on my career and all the things I’ve done. To be No. 1 this year out of 29,000 golf professionals is remarkable.”