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Baginski & Small Named Volunteers of the Year

November 1, 2023

TAMPA, Fla. – Donna Baginski and Joe Small have been named the 2023 Florida State Golf Association Volunteers of the Year. Baginski received the Course Rating Volunteer of the Year award, while Small earned the honor as Tournament Volunteer of the Year.

Course Rating Volunteer of the Year

Donna Baginski is captain of the Section 8 Course Rating team in Pasco and Hernando counties. She has been dedicating her time as a FSGA Course Rater for 21 years, beginning in 2002. Baginski became a captain in 2013 and now co-captains a team of five course raters with Linda Pratt.

Golf has been a part of Baginski’s life for 50 years and she began learning the game after marrying her husband, Dennis. Baginski was a native of Ohio where she had a career as a Legal Secretary and raised two sons. Volunteering has always been a part of Baginski’s life. She volunteered for The Memorial Tournament every year, raised money for the local children’s hospital, and was active in her son’s school activities.

When Baginski moved to Florida she began playing golf at Countryside Country Club. Her friends convinced her to come along to a FSGA course rating and she quickly became involved as a FSGA course rating volunteer.

“It is a great way to see all of the courses around the area,” Baginiski said.

Belleair Country Club is her favorite course to rate with the beautiful scenery surrounding the course. Her favorite things about FSGA course rating is the friendships she has made along the way and seeing how the courses have changed over the years.

Baginski demonstrates great leadership, attention to detail, and commitment to the game of golf through course rating. Her impact on the FSGA is incredible.

“I was in shock and couldn’t sleep for two nights when I found out about this honor,” Baginski said. “I felt really good about it and it was just an honor to be the Volunteer of the Year for course rating.”

Tournament Volunteer of the Year

Joe Small has been volunteering with the FSGA for over 10 years, beginning in 2011. His tremendous dedication and support for the game is evident, volunteering nearly 500 days for the FSGA in the past 13 years and spending 30 days this year alone officiating. Small serves the game off the course as a member of the FSGA Board of Directors.

The Pennsylvania native was introduced to the game by his father when he was 11 years old. He played his junior golf at The Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort in Delaware Water Gap, Pennsylvania, the same golf course that Arnold Palmer met his wife, Winnie. There was not a high school golf team and Small took to playing basketball and football.

After focusing on his family and a career as an independent insurance agent for the family owned company Small & Son, he picked the game of golf back up in his early 40’s. Small didn’t skip a beat and earned a Senior Club Championship victory at Harkers Hollow Golf Club, a competitive club in New Jersey.

In 2010, Small moved to Southeast Florida and was introduced to the FSGA Tournament Chairman in the area, Mallory Privett, at a Rules of Golf Workshop in 2011. The seminar peaked Small’s interest and after volunteering at a U.S. Open local qualifier he was hooked. Small enjoys the challenges a tournament presents from rulings to setup. He is a Certified Senior Rules Official and in 2015 became a FSGA Tournament Chairman in Southeast Florida.

Small’s commitment to the game and the FSGA is unmatched.

“By far my favorite thing about volunteering is the people who I meet who become well beyond a tournament volunteer and turn into true fellowship and friendship,” Small said. “I very much so enjoy the comradery that my fellow officials and I have”.

Small and Baginski will be honored at the FSGA’s Annual Dinner in Orlando at Shingle Creek Gold Club in November. The Annual Dinner celebrates the best players in the state, volunteers, board members and many other important individuals involved in the game of golf in Florida.