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Award-Giving Clubs: How Clubs Celebrate Excellence in Amateur Athletics

Since their inception, private clubs have showcased the best in the country—whether it’s golf courses, facilities, architecture, amenities or art. Clubs have also showcased and honored the best in their class with some of the nation’s most notable awards, such as the former Downtown Athletic Club’s Heisman Trophy, which annually honors college football’s top performer.

The National Club Association (NCA) interviewed several clubs to learn more about their most prestigious and nationally

How the Awards Came About at Clubs

NYAC: The NYAC Winged Foot Award first came into being in 1996, the brainchild of then-NYAC Vice President Jim O’Brien and the club’s Athletic Director Ray Lumpp. Lumpp was a gold medalist in basketball from the 1948 Olympic Games in London, following that success with a professional career in the NBA with the New York Knicks. O’Brien and Lumpp’s concept was to pay tribute to the winning coaches from the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament while simultaneously illustrating the NYAC’s support of amateur sport at the highest level. The first recipient of the Winged Foot award was Kentucky Head Coach Rick Pitino. In 1999, the scope of the Winged Foot Award was expanded to also recognize the winning coaches from the burgeoning women’s tournament. The first recipient was Carolyn Peck from Purdue. In the years since, many of the most celebrated coaches in NCAA history have been honored at the NYAC, among them Geno Auriemma, Mike Krzyzewski, Kim Mulkey, Jay Wright and Pat Summitt.

UC: Lacrosse is one of the oldest team sports played in North America. Rooted in centuries of Native American tradition, the game took on many variations before reaching its present-day form. “Tewaaraton,” is the Mohawk name for their game and the progenitor of present-day lacrosse. The game is commonly viewed as founded by the Iroquois Nation, or Haudenosaunee. The Iroquois say that lacrosse was a gift from the creator. They believe lacrosse is a holistic process that binds communities and the nations of the Haudenosaunee together. Lacrosse is also considered a “medicine” game because it promotes the health and strength of the Nation, ensuring a continuance of tradition and an understanding of their ways.

In 2000, a group of members from the University Club came up with the concept for the “Heisman Trophy of Lacrosse.” They enlisted the assistance of Tom Vennum, a lacrosse historian, and several top NCAA coaches. They commissioned the trophy design to Fred Kail, a renowned sculptor. The first award was presented in 2001.

MAC: The MAC has a storied history of celebrating athletic excellence dating back to its founding.

  • In 1903, in preparation for the Olympic Games to be held the next year in St. Louis, members helped officiate the games and MAC athletes even participated in them.
  • In 1970, MAC member and Hall of Fame Sports Broadcaster Jack Buck created the Sports Personality of the Year Award to honor the best St. Louis-area sports figure as voted on by MAC members. The award’s banquet is held at the club, and now in its 52nd year, the Jack Buck Sports Awards Banquet is regarded as the “Oscars” of St. Louis sports. Distinguished athletes and coaches like Bob Gibson, Joe Torre, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Ozzie Smith, Albert Pujols and Kurt Warner are just a few who have been in attendance.
  • In 2018, the United States Basketball Writers Association’s (USB-WA’s) basketball player of the year award selected the Missouri Athletic Club to host their award banquet. In prior years, the USBWA awards were announced at the Final Four, but typically there was not an awards banquet. Established in 1959, the Oscar Robertson Trophy has been presented to some of the biggest names in basketball including Lew Alcinder, Bill Walton, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan. Over the years, the USBWA has voted and presented additional awards including the female player of the year, freshman of the year and coach of the year awards.

The Hermann Trophy, celebrating college soccer’s best player, was established in 1967 by Bob Hermann, president of the National Professional Soccer League and future Chairman of the Executive Committee for the North American Soccer League.

In 1986, the MAC expanded its sports banquets with the creation of the National Collegiate Soccer Player of the Year Award. Dennis Long, president and COO at Anheuser-Busch and a MAC member, was instrumental in the creation of the award. Fittingly, St. Louis has a strong soccer tradition with St. Louis University winning the most collegiate soccer championships with 10. Long envisioned the award was most suited to be hosted at the MAC, similarly to the Heisman Trophy at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York.

However, after years, it became clear that two “player of the year” awards for college soccer were unnecessary. The Hermann Award did not have an awards banquet or any presentation, so over time the MAC award was held in higher regard, even though the Hermann had more history.

The National Soccer Coaches Association, who represent Division I soccer coaches, encouraged both parties to merge into one award. Since the MAC was already hosting a banquet, it didn’t change the club’s preparation. And for Hermann, it let them keep that name on the Player of the Year trophy and honored their long-time commitment to college soccer. Both organizations coincidentally were based out of St. Louis, and the merger was seamless.

Colonial: The Ben Hogan Award was created in 1989 by Tom Harmon, a Friends of Golf (FOG) board member and 1940 Heisman Trophy winner, and golf legend Ben Hogan to recog-nize the collegiate golfer who exhibited excellence in academics and in the game. The following year, FOG and Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) began presenting the award. Unfortunately, the Ben Hogan Award did not have the prestige it set out to achieve as, in some years, the winner would not show up to receive the trophy.

In 2001, then-Chairman of Colonial Charities and current Chairman Emeritus of the award Bill Barnes began inquiring whether there was a golf award that was an equivalent to the Heisman Trophy. Barnes was put in touch with Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) President Greg Grost, who intro-duced him to the Ben Hogan Award. Barnes made the case that the

Ben Hogan Award would be a great fit for Colonial. Fort Worth is Hogan’s hometown and the golf legend won five times at Colonial, Colonial is home to Hogan’s Alley, and a statue is there in his honor. Grost was receptive to the idea and felt it was a good fit with FOG. Barnes received approval from the Colonial board to pursue the award and created a partnership between Colonial, FOG, and the GCAA to sponsor the award and formed the Hogan Award Committee.

How the Award Came to Prominence
NYAC: The NYAC Winged Foot Award is recognized in the world of collegiate basketball as one of the sport’s premier accolades. Among Division I coaches, it has become coveted, and a highly anticipated complement to the winners’ trophies. This renown has come about due to the unstinting volunteer work of the Winged Foot Award Committee, spear-headed by the aforementioned Jim O’Brien, plus Gene DeSoiza and Milton Lee, all former NYAC board members and each of whom gives freely of their time to ensure that the Winged Foot Award retains its prestige. Throughout the year, the committee strategizes for the coming collegiate season, with arrangements moving into high gear during March Madness. At the Final Four, committee members work tirelessly to engage with coaches and administrators from the attending colleges, with a view to solidifying arrangements for the impending Winged Foot Award Banquet while also reinforcing and heightening the profile of the award for the years ahead.

UC: The Tewaaraton Award sought approval from the Mohawk Nation Council of Elders for the use of the word Tewaaraton for its award. This relationship is critical to the ongoing recognition of not only the top players but also the heritage of the game. The award is now in its 22nd year and integrated other elements, including The Tewaaraton Legends, which celebrates great players who would have won the award prior to its founding, and The Spirit of Tewaaraton, which recognizes individuals who have lived the values on which the game was built.

The selection committees, which are made up of the top college coaches, are responsible for the quality of selection that has gained great admiration and respect. The Tewaaraton Foundation has been instrumental in defining and maintaining the guidelines for selection. The lacrosse world pays close attention to the winners, and also the finalists and nominees, as a measuring stick for the game’s top players.

MAC: The MAC has honored some of the biggest names in

American soccer history. Tony Meola, John Harkes, Claudio Reyna and Alexi Lalas are a few of the past winners to claim the prestigious crystal soccer ball trophy. In 1991, the Missouri Athletic Club became one of the first national collegiate awards sponsors to also recognize a female recipient with the creation of the Women’s National Player of the Year Award. The legendary Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Tisha Venturini, who helped grow the popularity of women’s soccer in the U.S. in the 1990s, all won the MAC Award. A new generation of female soccer stars including Kelley O’Hara, Crystal Dunn and Christen Press have won the trophy before going on to lead the U.S. Women’s National Team to World Cup and Olympic championships.

In 2003, following the merging of the MAC Player of the Year Award and the Hermann Trophy, the banquet format expanded and was patterned after the presentation of the Heisman Trophy. Since then, the top three male finalists and top three female finalists are invited to the MAC. The winners are announced at a press confer-ence prior to the awards banquet. The head coach of each finalist is also invited to speak at the banquet. Both the male and female award recipients are voted on by the Division I college coaches.
For Alexi Lalas, the 1991 winner, the MAC Award was an important boost heading into the start of his professional career. “It made me feel good to leave college with that prestigious award. My being named the top college player really helped me prepare for my role with the U.S. National Team by giving me confidence that I could excel at that level.”

Colonial: Colonial’s rebranding and undertaking of the award has helped elevate and rejuvenate the Ben Hogan Award to its proper standing in the golf world. The strong partnership with FOG and the GCAA, as well as Hogan’s connection to Colonial, solidifies its stature. The award has been given to many of the most prominent names in golf, including Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Patrick Cantlay, and the ceremony keynote speakers are among the most reputable associated with the game.

What the Award Means to the Club and Its Members

NYAC: Since its inception, the Winged Foot Award has been embraced by the NYAC’s members as a unique ele-ment of club life, one that reflects the prestige of the NYAC as well as the club’s steadfast support for amateur sport. It is hardly a surprise, therefore, that each year, the awards banquet sells out with more than 500 attendees. It is one of the few events at the NYAC that is so large that it can only be accommodated in the club’s expansive gymnasium, which is transformed into an elegant—and appropriate—banquet space for the evening.

UC: UC has long been estab-lished for its focus on education, history and athletics. The award fits this in every way and, there-fore, is a unique extension of the club’s key attributes and enhances its reputation. The Tewaaratan Foundation has given more than 30 scholarships and its alignment with the award makes it appealing for younger prospective members to stop in and check out the club. This has resulted in new memberships and access for these members to experience the award ceremony annually.

MAC: The club has a strong sports and athletics culture that members embrace. The Hermann Trophy banquet consistently sells out and represents an important facet of club membership and the soccer world. Additionally, the club’s expansive awards programs continue to be a focal point for members. The USBWA banquet has been a hit as the club has a lot of basketball fans in its membership and features a vibrant basketball program with several leagues. MAC membership support the US-BWA awards with purchased sponsorships and tables. The event is in high demand and sells out quickly.

Colonial: The membership has been very supportive and proud of how the Ben Hogan Award has been accepted in the golfing world. They have enjoyed following the Hogan Award winners on the tour and seeing their accomplishments. During the last 21 years since the Hogan Award was brought to Colonial Country Club, the prestige of this award has risen to the top. It is truly the Heisman Trophy of golf.

How Winners Get Selected

NYAC: As the Winged Foot Award is presented to the winning coaches of the NCAA Division I Basket-ball Tournaments, they are “recipients” of the award rather than winners. Further, unlike some other awards, subjectivity is not a factor in which recipients are selected. The NYAC Winged Foot Award goes to the top coaches in that year’s tournaments. It is unequivocal: the award goes to the best.

UC: The selection com-mittees are made up of 36 college coaches: 18 each from the men’s and women’s selection committees. The Tewaaraton Foundation oversees the selection guidelines and monitors changes in conference realignment to assure that each player will be seen throughout a given year. The process begins with 100 “watch list players” (50 women, 50 men—none of which are freshman) prior to the season’s first games. As the season progresses, players are added on three occasions (including freshman). Three weeks prior to the season concluding, 50 nominees are selected (25 women, 25 men). Then, at season’s end, and prior to the playoffs, 10 finalists (5 women, 5 men) are announced and invited to the ceremony in Washington, D.C.

MAC: The MAC Hermann Trophy watch lists are com-piled by members of the United Soccer Coaches Men’s and Women’s NCAA Division I All-America Committees. Fifteen semifinalists are named for both the men’s and women’s MAC Hermann Trophy in mid-November. From those candidates, Division I soccer coaches select the three men’s and women’s finalists and winners of the coveted award.

Colonial: Colonial changed the selection criteria to identify the top collegiate golfer by considering their collegiate/amateur record. A selection committee of 30 individuals involved in collegiate golf vote in January to identify the top 30

collegiate golfers nationwide. On April 1, a vote is held to create a semifinal list of 10 and on May 1, a vote that also includes the former Hogan Award winners vote in the final round to select three golfers. On the third week of May, the selection committee sends their secret final vote to KPMG CPA for certification.

Recognition, Awards and Honors for Recipients

NYAC: The recipients of the NYAC Winged Foot Award receive a VIP membership to the New York Athletic Club, entitling them to many member privileges, including access to club events and facilities, as well as charging privileges. Additionally, the club donates to the Jimmy V Foundation in the names of the winning coaches.

UC: The winners receive The Tewaaraton Award Trophy, which was created by renowned sculptor Frederick Kail. Each winner receives a trophy and each winner’s university is allowed a replica trophy for display. The club welcomes the finalists each year, providing overnight accommodations while they are in Washington, D.C., for the ceremony and also hosts a dinner for the finalists and their families.

Colonial: The Ben Hogan Award winner is presented $30,000 in scholarship money for the golf program at his

university and an exemption into the Charles Schwab Challenge tournament on the PGA Tour held annually at Colonial Country Club. The two runners-up receive $17,500 each to their respective golf programs at their university. In the 21 years at Colonial Country Club, the Hogan Trophy Award Foundation has distributed $860,000 to support collegiate golf.

The Awards Ceremony

NYAC: The NYAC Winged Foot Awards Banquet is an unparalleled club event. With more than 500 attendees, among them many guests of the colleges, the banquet is a vibrant and uplifting display of collegiate sports. The event’s mas-ter of ceremony is Billy Packer, whose irrepressible style, coupled with the testimonies of players, administrators and friends of the coaches, creates an alchemy that is impossible to adequately de-scribe. NYAC’s members look forward to this event as a highlight of the club’s annual calendar.

UC: The annual Tewaaraton Awards recognition begins with a dinner at The University Club for all 10 fi-nalists—including the recipients of The USA Lacrosse Tewaara-ton Scholarships—and their families, as well as several special guests that will receive recognition for The Tewaaraton Legends and Spirit of Tewaaraton. The awards ceremony then takes place the next evening at The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, which is a short ride down the road near the U.S. Capitol. This draws nearly 600 people each year and has recently been televised nationally.

Colonial: The Ben Hogan Award banquet is a black-tie event held annually at the club with 230 guests in attend-ance. It coincides with the PGA Tour’s Charles Schwab Challenge, first known as the Colonial National Invitation, for 75 years, mak-ing Colonial Country Club the longest continuous host of a PGA Tour event. The event has had notable keynote speakers from the sports world to celebrate the event including sports broadcasters Jim Nantz and Pat Summerall, as well as pro golfers and legends John Rahm, Dave Stockton and Ben Crenshaw, among others.

MAC: In 2003, the Hermann Trophy awards banquet format expanded and was patterned after the presentation of the Heisman Trophy. Since then, the top three male finalists and top three female finalists are invited to the MAC. The winners are announced at a press conference prior to the awards banquet. The head coach of each finalist is invited to speak at the banquet. Both the male and female award recipients are voted on by the Division I college coaches.
The Hermann Trophy is open to the public and includes young soccer players. The awards banquet hosts 450 guests and features a high-profile guest speaker from the world of soccer. Some of the biggest names in the sport including Brandi Chastain, Bob Ley, Brian McBride and Carli Lloyd have helped make it an event to remember at the MAC.
“The MAC has created the perfect formula for presenting college soccer’s national awards,” said Bruce Arena, the most successful coach in U.S. National Team history. “The MAC does an excellent job bringing in the players, their families and coaches to St. Louis for the national press conference and the prestigious awards program.”