Joe Thiel, a 2000 inductee into the Mercer County Hall of Fame and one of the top golf instructors in the nation, will be the featured speaker at this year's banquet, Jan. 19 at the Radisson in West Middlesex.
Thiel will share the speaker's podium with Tom Donahoe, general manager of the Buffalo Bills and former director of football operations for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Doug Dieken, an ex-lineman with the Cleveland Browns and now the commentator on the team's radio broadcasts.
Lanny Frattare, radio announcer for the Pittsburgh Pirates, will return as master of ceremonies.
The class of 2002 are Bill "Willie" Alford, Harry Beil, Gerald Bodnar, Bob Leipheimer, Dr. Gary Roberts, Joe Sebestyen, Frank Erimias and Lorenza "Renzie" Hoffman.
Sharon grad: Thiel, a 1966 graduate of Sharon High, was also a member of the golf and basketball teams. He won the district golf title in 1965 and qualified for the PIAA state championships. He once shot an unofficial 60 at Tam O'Shanter Golf Course in Hermitage.
He was a professional from 1971-77 but discovered he was very adept at teaching the game.
Thiel, who lives in Olympia, Wash., has served as a golf pro at several courses in the Northwest and became the first PGA Master Professional in that area. His in-depth knowledge of the game also led him to a writing career. He has had articles published in Golf Tip, ParGolf and Golf Digest in both Korea and Japan. He has also conducted many clinics and made teaching videos while coaching his techniques at many high school and colleges.
His students have included over 200 PGA and LPGA professionals, including Se Ri Pak, Val Skinner, Sally Little, Vicky Furgon, Penny Pulz, Patty Liscio and Loretta Alderete.
Another highlight of the banquet will be the presentation of the Si Lyman Award, won this year by Grove City High School.
The award goes to the Mercer County school district with the highest combined winning percentage for all sports. Greenville High was the recipient of the award in 2001.
Lyman was a long-time sports editor and a past inductee into the Mercer County Hall of Fame.
Academic award: Another award will be the Tom Burns Academic All-Star Awards, presented to the senior male and female athletes in each school district in the County with the highest academic standing. The awards are U.S. Savings Bonds.
Burns, a popular radio announcer, coach and teacher before his death, was a former president of the Mercer County Hall of Fame. He led the Hall of Fame from 1968-77.
Thus far, 374 Mercer County athletic standouts have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. The organization has been in operation for 55 years and has touched the lives of thousands as it continues to grow and prosper each year.