If, as the old adage goes, no man is so tall as when he stoops to help a child, then PGA Master Professional Danny Harvanek surely walks among giants.
A pioneer and visionary in the arena of junior golf, Harvanek established the First Golf & Literacy Elementary School Program in the Denver Metro area. His influence on junior programming extended into the Denver Public School (DPS) system, where he brought a popular golf curriculum to physical education classes. DPS estimates put the number of children he personally taught at more than 13,000. Factor in the schoolchildren he taught in Jefferson, Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties, and that number exponentially expands.
And when you recognize, as many do, that this PGA Master Professional’s work helped pave the way for the Colorado PGA’s successful Golf in Schools Program—which between 2011 and 2018 had reached more than 70,000 Colorado students and has been replicated across the country—you can only wonder why tonight’s recognition did not come earlier.
A modicum of acknowledgement came in 2008, when the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame named Harvanek its Golf Person of the Year, following his national recognition as the PGA of America’s 2007 Junior Golf Leader of the Year. He also won the Colorado PGA’s version of the junior leader award in 2006.
His program always engaged the attention of his young charges in inventive ways. Harvanek taught utilizing pizza boxes, coloring books, paints and costumes. He also published an illustrated series of kids’ books, The Golfsters, which teach golf and life lessons, with easy-to-understand instructions, including pictorial guides for adults.
Above all, his enthusiasm always carried the day.
Harvanek became a junior golf instructor not because he learned from great teacher as a kid, but because he didn’t. Growing up some 300 miles southwest of Denver in Scott City, Kansas, the self-taught golfer was scoring in the high 60s and low 70s, and winning local tournaments. But after his well-intentioned father got him a lesson, Danny struggled and never fully replicated his early success.
But the game had cast its spell. After graduating in 1974 from Fort Hays State University, Harvanek hopped a bus to Monroe, Louisiana, for an assistant golf professional’s job at Bayou DeSiard Country Club. “I was green as a gourd,” he remembers. Inspired by the club’s retired Head PGA Professional W.E. Cole (father of Colorado Golf Hall of Famer Clayton Cole), the young Kansan soon found his calling as an instructor.
In 1979, he came to Colorado, working first at Cherry Hills and, in 1984, becoming the first PGA Golf Professional at Bear Creek Golf Club. A student of the renowned teacher Manuel de la Torre and follower of his club-focused, ball-flight-oriented instructional approach, Harvanek gave lessons to members and their sons.
During his years at Bear Creek, Harvanek became president of the Colorado PGA Section in 1989 and ’90. He also won the organization’s prestigious Professional of the Year three times (’90, ’91 and ‘92). During this time, he achieved PGA Master Professional status.
He left Bear Creek in ’92, and for the next 10 years at the Riverdale and Broken Tee (nee Englewood) courses, his passion for teaching juniors began to shine. In 2002, he became the first director of instruction at The Golf Club at Bear Dance, teaching all levels of player, developing its strong junior program and spreading the gospel of golf at schools along the Front Range.
His efforts earned him the Colorado PGA’s 2003 Teacher of the Year Award and 2007 Horton Smith Award for his contributions in developing and improving educational opportunities for the PGA golf professional.
2008 Golf Person of the Year
The PGA of America had honored this Golf Club at Bear Dance PGA Professional as its 2007 Junior Golf Leader of the Year.