With the AT&T Celebrity Pro-Am was again upon us, it seems fitting to look at the young up-and-coming golfers that have dreams of someday playing in the tournament themselves.
That’s why after 24 years as the AT&T Pebble Beach Junior Golf Association’s executive director, it’s also appropriate to acknowledge the recent retirement of Linda Tunney.
The announcement was made inadvertently at a recent reception dinner and awards ceremony that took place at Monterey Peninsula Country Club celebrating 30 years of junior golf. The event, which also served as a fundraiser in conjunction with the TaylorMade Pebble Beach Invitational, honored CBS Sports commentator Jim Nantz as 2018’s golf ambassador of the year and Brad Cursio as PGA golf professional of the year.
It was also Tunney’s last big event serving as the association’s executive director.
Tunney, 75, said it was time for her to spend more time with her family and to devote efforts to her campaign to raise awareness and funds associated with Parkinson’s disease. Tunney’s daughter has early onset of Parkinson’s disease.
Tunney, who is the wife of former National Football League official Jim Tunney, was first hired part-time by Pebble Beach Academy Director of Instruction Laird Smith in 1995 to work for the local nonprofit organization. It was created in 1988 to introduce the game of golf to young people between the ages of 6 and 17 who live and attend school in Monterey County. Since its inception, the association has gained approximately 1,300 junior golfers who have benefited from the various activities and scholarships it offers.
She said the program has been a meaningful and huge part of her life as she’s watched and been part of the lives of hundreds of junior golfers helping them develop their golf skills and personal characteristics for almost 24 years.
“The most important thing is watching the children go through the program and a lot of them receive scholarships, go on to college and even become pros. So it goes full circle,” she said.
PGA professional Justin Russo, who founded the Justin Russo Golf Academy in 2014 and was the first recipient of the AT&T Pebble Beach Junior Golf scholarship of $5,000 in 1993, said that if it weren’t for her influence, he wouldn’t be in the profession.
“She was very active in introducing me to the local professionals like RJ Harper and producing a bond that facilitated what I do today,” he said.
Today, the AT&T Pebble Beach Junior Golf Association has six scholarships including the RJ Harper Memorial Scholarship, the Payne Stewart Memorial Scholarship and the Johnny Miller Memorial Scholarship.
During Tunney’s tenure, nearly $1 million in scholarship money has been granted. She was inducted into the Northern California PGA Hall of Fame with the Jim Langley Award for professionalism and leadership.
Marc Pritchard, president of the association’s board of directors, credited the Tunneys with an ability to get support for the program from the heavy hitters in the community.
“It’s their absolute commitment to this area and the kids. What they do is out of the goodness of their hearts and desire to make sure the kids in this area have a chance to go into golf,” he said.
Pritchard noted the numerous kids who have gone on to play golf in college because of the scholarships that are given out.
“Last year, one student played golf at Harvard, another at Brown and the year before, one at another Ivy League school. It’s phenomenal what we get with these folks,” said Pritchard.
“Linda Tunney is just a caring and giving, wonderful person,” added Russo. “She and her husband have been great ambassadors for junior golf.”
Said Tunney, “I have to pinch myself when I think about how grateful I am to have had a career with this outstanding organization. It’s been a labor of love of which I’ve always been proud to be a part of.”