TUCSON, AZ — After he flew his final F-16 training mission in 1991, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Edward Britton followed the advice golfing legend Arnold Palmer had given him six years earlier. He started practicing his short game. If Britton did that, Palmer assured him in 1985 as he flew Palmer around Miami, he had a chance of becoming a PGA member.
Last week, the PGA awarded the retired F-16 training instructor, who now teaches others to golf at the PGA Tour Superstore in Tucson, with the highest educational designation a member can earn: PGA master professional certification in teaching and coaching. Britton has joined a fairly elite group with only about 370 other members.
When Palmer died in 2016, Britton said he owed his second career to the man who is generally regarded as one of the greatest and most charismatic golfers in the history of the sport. “He is the absolute sole reason I’m where I am today,” Britton wrote of Palmer.
Britton had gotten an unusual assignment in 1985 to fly to Miami to escort “some VIP around for a week while he hung out with every general in the world and then lead a mission while he got to fly the Viper (the unofficial nickname for the F-16 Fighting Falcon).”
The VIP turned out to be Palmer, and the two spent most of the week together.
Palmer wasn’t a novice. Next to marrying his wife, Winnie, and pursuing his golfing career, learning to fly was the smartest decision he ever made. He logged more than 18,000 hours of flight time, and also had notable accomplishments such as flying alongside the Blue Angels in his Aero Commander and landing a military jet on the aircraft carrier Eisenhower.
Before Palmer took control of the Viper for his training, the two joked affably about what Britton planned to do when he hung up his flying boots.
“After a few negative responses from me about hauling trash for an airline, he said if I practiced my short game I could become a member of the PGA of America,” Britton wrote of his encounter with Palmer. “So I did; I’ve been a member since 1994.”
Britton began his golf career as a golf shop assistant and moved up to PGA head professional and general manager. Prior to his role at PGA Tour Superstore, Britton served as the PGA teaching and coaching instructor at Quail Canyon Golf Course in Tucson spent five years (2009-2014) running the Ed Britton Golf School in Poznan, Poland; and worked as an instructor at the John Jacobs Golf Academy in Scottsdale.
“Becoming a Master Professional and being part of a fraternity that includes so many respected PGA Members is incredibly humbling,” Britton said in a statement.
Prior to becoming a PGA master professional, Britton earned PGA certified professional status in teaching and coaching, in 2014. He also became a certified Level 2 putting onstructor under the guidance of Phil Kenyon, the European Ryder Cup Team’s putting coach.
PGA members Richard Prange, PGA assistant head golf professional and director of instruction at Desert Mountain Golf Club, in Scottsdale; and Kevin Compare, PGA Master Professional in Palm City, Florida, served as mentors during Britton’s golf career
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