Throughout his long and illustrious golf career, Darrell Kestner, of Glen Cove, has tried to maintain a modest disposition. And, much like the decorated director of golf at Deepdale Golf Club does in his sport of choice, he excels at this as well. He probably won’t say it, but he was just named the PGA’s Professional of the Year, an honor presented to the top golf pro in the nation for each of the last 64 years.
The first thing you notice about him is his polite demeanor and slight southern twang, influenced no doubt by his humble roots in the small, coal-mining town of Welch, West Virginia, in which he learned to swing the club.
At 64, he counts among his accomplishments numerous accolades and tournament victories both local and national, appearances on the cover of Golf Magazine and on the Golf Channel, and participating in 21 major championship across five decades. In fact, it was at the 1993 PGA Championship where he scored a double-eagle, the first to ever occur throughout the history of the major. He even received a hearty congratulations from Arnold Palmer, with whom he played a practice round the day prior.
But, he calls the PGA’s honor as the most significant and most “thrilling” award he has ever accepted. “To be voted for Professional of the Year among your peers,” Kestner began, “...it’s the highlight of my career, that’s for sure, and the biggest honor.”
As an instructor and as a player Kestner stresses the importance of staying current and is constantly educating himself about the ever-evolving techniques and technology with which the sport has been inundated. He has cultivated something of a give-and-take relationship with his assistant pros, sharing his old-school knowledge and receiving, in return, education about some newer approaches to golf — imperative to his game is surrounding himself with the right people, he says.
“Having a really strong staff is key to running a good operation,” he said, adding that it is his staff that allows him to maintain his own high level of play and remain competitive.
He coined a motto for putting — “respect the pace” — a reference to both the speed of the golfer and the speed of the undulating, hilly greens of the North Shore. But this tagline is also indicative of his humility and great appreciation for golf, recognizing that no one is bigger than the game. It is these qualities that have helped him become the polished professional of the year he is today.
While he works at Deepdale G.C. in Manhasset, he enjoys playing at many of the courses in the nearby area, including Glen Cove Municipal Golf Course. He often would play practice rounds there in advance of major championships, and even lent his likeness to a commercial for the course a few years back.
And even though he is the PGA’s Professional of the Year he still works to improve his game.