Brentwood native takes over for longtime Tri-State PGA executive director
March 3, 2017 12:00 AM
Dave Wright, the new executive director of the Tri-State PGA, is taking over for long-time director Dennis Darak.
By Gerry Dulac / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Dave Wright is sitting in a chair in the conference room at the Tri-State PGA office, wearing a blue wind vest with the PGA of America logo and a pink-and-white striped golf shirt. Behind him, pictures of winners of past tournaments hang on the wall. To either side are poster-size mountings listing officers and board members of the section.
This is where Wright comes to work, overseeing and orchestrating an organization of PGA professionals from four different states, the majority from Western Pennsylvania. The conference room, the office space, the pictures and plaques on the wall, even the ball washer in the hallway, are more than just the new home for Wright and his two full-time assistants.
They are the final and most significant contributions of his predecessor, Dennis Darak, whose final act as executive director was to convince the section’s club professionals a permanent office was needed, for more reasons than one.
Darak, though, did not need to convince them of his successor. Wright, 41, a Brentwood native with a long history in golf, was the proverbial no-brainer.
“I had a unique position with Dennis,” Wright said. “I always had it in my mind that he was the best in the business when it came to the executive director position. I got to learn under that.”
Wright brought the Tri-State section into the technological age with online registration, computerized scoreboards and up-to-date scoring on the website. Now he hopes to continue what Darak wrought — expanding the section’s tournament purses and sponsor base — while also growing the game through junior development.
Wright already has been a part of the latter, helping to the run the national Drive, Chip & Putt competition at the start of Masters week at Augusta National Golf Club last year.
“We played for $530,961 in prize money last year and that’s all attributed to Dennis’ relationships with sponsors throughout the years,” Wright said. “He taught me that you can only do so much as a section for our partners and sponsors, but it’s more about relationships and growing relationships. I learned how to do that, dealing with people and creating those special relationships, under Dennis.”
Darak retired in December after 43 years as executive director — the longest tenured executive director among the 41 nationwide sections of the PGA of America. But, despite being one of the smallest sections in the country— there are approximately 300 members from Western Pennsylvania and portions of Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland — Tri-State PGA professionals play for more money than nearly every other section.
Wright, a Brentwood native who tutored under Darak for 14 years as tournament director, has stepped in as his replacement. In the process, he found a new home.
The 1,100-square-foot office space, located on Broadhead Road in Moon, was developed as part of an exit plan for Darak’s retirement. For most of his tenure, Darak and his wife, Karen, who served as administrative assistant, worked out of a 1,600-square-foot addition to their house in Center. For 14 years, that meant Wright had to make the 35-mile drive to Darak’s house to go to the office.
Now the travel time is cut nearly in half. Plus, committee and board of directors meetings no longer have to be held at area country clubs. They are held in the board room at the conference table with 12 chairs at the Moon headquarters, just a lengthy putt down the hall from Wright’s office.
“The membership now has a location if they want to come in and look up history,” Wright said. “It’s on our walls. It’s neat that all our history is in one place.”
Wright played golf at Brentwood High School (class of 1993) and for three of his four years at Bethany College in West Virginia, where he was part of the first sports management graduating class. Ironically, he went to college to run track and cross country, but that quickly took a back seat to the game he began playing as a kid with his grandfather at Holly Hill Golf Course, a nine-hole layout in Baldwin that no longer exists.
“When they put me in the 10,000 meters,” Wright said, “I went back to golf.”
Wright worked as an assistant golf professional before joining the Tri-State section in 2003. He spent three years as a second assistant at Green Oaks Country Club, where he decided his game wasn’t good enough to compete against “the Bob Fords and John Mazzas, the guys who were winning everything at the time.” Wright wanted to get involved with the operational side of the game, and he got his wish when the position for tournament director opened at the Tri-State section. He got the job and never left.
The Tri-State section runs approximately 70 events a year, the bulk of those being the tournaments for the golf professionals. This year, 48 of the events will be the professional tournaments. Junior tournaments (17) — formerly part of the King’s Summer Junior Series — and five Drive, Chip & Putt qualifiers comprise the other events.
Wright gets his help from two full-time office assistants — Andrew Papalia and Matthew Lightner — plus part-time helpers Larry Piroli and Bob Cimarolli at tournament sites.
“We’re really happy with the challenge and the offer that was given to me by the officers,” Wright said. “I’m looking forward to serving the membership and the game.”
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