Thursday, Jan. 23
ICYMI — PGA Show Recap section
Eric Eshleman, the 2019 PGA Golf Professional of the Year, and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shared details of their unique partnership and friendship Wednesday during a special presentation titled “Titleist & FootJoy: A Tribute to Partnership” in the Linda W. Chapin Theater to help tee off the 2020 PGA Merchandise Show.
Peter Broome, Senior Vice President of Industry and Trade Relations for Acushnet Company, spoke of special partnerships that have enriched the golf industry and referred to the critical role PGA Professionals play in growing the game before introducing Eshleman and Rice to a large audience.
Jim Nantz of CBS Sports emceed the Titleist-FootJoy presentation, which included a quick video tour of Nantz’s replica of the signature seventh hole at his home at Pebble Beach Golf Links via video by star quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Nantz resides at Pebble Beach and has served as a spokesperson for Titleist for 25 years.
Eshleman, the PGA Director of Golf at the Country Club of Birmingham in Alabama, and a Titleist staff PGA Professional, recounted how he developed a long-term golf relationship with Rice – after Birmingham resident Rice came to him in late 2011 for a golf lesson. Rice, who served as the 66th Secretary of State under President George W. Bush in 2005-2009 and is a member of Augusta National Golf Club, wanted to tune up her game. She found a highly competent teacher and a good friend in Eshleman.
“That first golf lesson with Eric started a relationship that is emblematic of what the PGA stands for: a caring, skilled professional helping an aspiring golfer – in this case, one relatively new to the sport,” recalled Rice. “Eric has done so much for my game with his patience and insight. But he has also become a friend because he is just a good human being. We have continued to work together all these years later, much to the benefit of my game and much to my delight to have such a good friend.”
Eshleman, a 24-year PGA Member and former President of the Alabama-Northwest Florida PGA Section, has accompanied Rice to numerous special golf outings and appearances, and has caddied for and played beside the former Secretary of State at many of the nation’s finest golf courses. Eshleman has also worked with touring professionals such as 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, former PGA Championship and U.S. Open winner Hubert Green, Patton Kizzire, Smylie Kauffman and Paul Dunne. He was honored as the PGA’s Golf Professional of the Year for 2019 at a special ceremony in conjunction with the PGA Annual Meeting in November.
“We are talking about special partnerships in golf today, and Condi and I have certainly developed a great relationship through golf the past several years,” said Eshleman. “It is a partnership built on mutual respect. I remember when she first came to me in Birmingham (Rice’s hometown) for a golf lesson. I said ‘what do you normally shoot for 18 holes?’ She said she shot in the mid-90s. I told her she could continue to shoot in the mid-90s or change her swing. She has worked very hard and plays much better now.”