Thomas Barksdale

Thomas Barksdale: Merchandiser of the Year – Private

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Thomas Barksdale makes selling sound simple. In purchasing products for the pro shop of Talisker Golf Club at Tuhaye, he asks himself one question: “What do the members want?”

Barksdale obviously has found the answers. By concentrating on “brands that make sense for the mountains,” he has become the Utah Section PGA’s Merchandiser of the Year for private facilities.

The award stems from what Barksdale labels “a three-year build” in his job at Tuhaye, tied into a new ownership group and “added enthusiasm from the membership,” he said. Barksdale came to Utah in 2019 from a country club in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and has thrived.

He views the group of PGA Professionals in the Park City area as an informal chapter of the Utah Section PGA, bonded by working at clubs with distinct memberships, compared with other courses in the Section.

Barksdale treats merchandising as an extension of the membership experience. If members like the way they’re being treated, they respond loyally. “There’s no magic to it,” he said. “It’s everybody getting together and turning our shop into a special place.”

The timing of his arrival at Tuhaye was good. As many pros would attest, the pandemic has been “probably the best thing that ever happened to our industry,” Barksdale said. Talisker members, including owners of second homes, have been eager to visit and play golf, coinciding with ownership’s commitment to “making the club what it should have been, the whole time,” he said.

Increased merchandise sales are just one of those effects.

1 Brett Watson and Kean Ridd

Brett Watson: Merchandiser of the Year Public

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Anyone who walks into the pro shop of Timpanogos Golf Club in Provo for the first time is likely to feel somewhat out of place. That’s the goal, anyway.

“We want to be different,” Head Professional Brett Watson said.

The vintage, rustic feel of the golf shop is part of the renovating and rebranding of the former East Bay Golf Course, giving Timpanogos an entirely new look. Or maybe an “old” look is a more accurate description, as the redesign of just about the whole property celebrates the city’s golf history of nearly 100 years.

Watson has maximized the rebranding opportunity, a major reason why he’s the Utah Section PGA’s Merchandiser of the Year for public courses. “It’s been an absolute blast,” said Watson, who credits many staff members for pitching in with merchandising ideas, even borrowing some concepts from ski resorts.

Timpanogos already has an iconic logo that incorporates a tree, arrowhead and mountain to varying degrees, depending on one’s perspective. Several versions of custom sweatshirts have been popular, and Watson has tried to go beyond “typical golf stuff” in his offerings. He figures that tournament players who receive shop credit can accumulate only so many hats, shirts and balls, so he targets “something that’s different.” One example is an old-fashioned camp mug.

“If you go to any public golf course,” Watson said, “you see the same stuff.”

Not so at Timpanogos, where, as Watson noted, “We found a niche.”

Charley Carlson

Charley Carlson: Jon Unger Salesperson of the Year

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Charley Carlson hardly makes his job sound like work. As he said, “I basically get to go around and talk to my friends.”

He’s good at both traveling and talking, resulting in his Utah Section PGA award as the Jon Unger Salesperson of the Year.

Carlson is a non-traditional winner of the award, as one of relatively few independent manufacturers’ representatives in the golf industry. He likes the freedom that comes with that job description, while considering himself more of a partner to PGA professionals than a salesperson.

“If I could say one thing that has helped me do a better job, it is teaming up with the pros,” Carlson said. “How to improve their shop sales; that’s all I want. … We just decide what to order for (their) shop.”

That requires considerable flexibility, while working with some of Utah’s least pretentious public courses, the most exclusive private facilities and everything in between.

Having grown up in Ogden as a son of a manufacturer’s rep, Carlson started in the business nearly 30 years ago after attending the University of Utah. Aligned with JC Golf Accessories and Bushnell, among several other companies, Carlson is committed to Utah and other nearby states that tend to be overlooked, he said.

“Independent lines have never really concentrated on Utah,” he said. “I just try to do a good job with all the little guys.”

Stacey Camacho Tee

Stacey Camacho: Assistant Professional of the Year

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Stacey Camacho readily acknowledges having some moments of disappointment during his professional career, while missing opportunities for other jobs. Yet some good advice and a health issue along the way have given him an outlook that led a golf student to describe him as “one of the happiest people I know.”

The attitude of making the most of his current job is validated by Camacho’s 2021 Assistant Professional of the Year award in the Utah Section PGA.

Having learned to play at Nibley Park Golf Course, where he would spend the first three years of his golf career, Camacho has worked for more than a decade in the Salt Lake City Golf operation. He’s in his second stint at Mountain Dell GC, where Head Pro Jeremy Green is “such a great mentor,” Camacho said. “He works with me and takes my input. We work together to make decisions.”

Camacho credits Keith Soriano, a career consultant with the PGA of America, for encouraging him to “take your situation and make it better” as he sought to move up in the profession. He also points to golf as a driving force in his recovery from a stroke seven years ago at age 36. The game helped him “find myself again,” said Camacho, who has helped other survivors learn or relearn to play in the Saving Strokes program.

Summarizing his career as an assistant pro, Camacho said, “The best part about it is the learning. I’ve been lucky to be around a bunch of great head pros.”

Tele Wightman

Tele Wightman: Youth Player Development Leader

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Tele Wightman’s role in building the PGA Jr. League program in Utah already made him deserving of the Youth Player Development Leader award. Winning a national championship only added to his credentials.

As the captain of Utah’s 13U team, Wightman helped produce one of the Utah Section PGA’s biggest stories of the year. The eight-player squad that included his nephew, Jordan Ofahengaue, won the PGA Jr. League national title in a Golf Channel-televised event in October at Scottsdale, Arizona.

That achievement was far beyond anything that Wightman pictured six years ago when he put together a team of 10 players representing The Ranches Golf Club in Eagle Mountain, competing against three other groups. “It slowly started to get bigger and bigger,” Wightman said.

As a son of Via Wightman, a revered golf professional in Massachusetts, Tele was modeling his father’s commitment to junior golfers, with a twist via the PGA Jr. League program.

“Being part of a team can be really fun,” Wightman said. “Golf is an individual sport, but (a two-person scramble) is a fun format where there’s less pressure. Playing a scramble is a fun way to learn the game.”

In 2019, Wightman took the program to Thanksgiving Point Golf Club as director of golf. His bosses at Troon Golf are supportive. So in 2022, he expects to expand his oversight of the PGA Jr. League from 64 to 72 golfers in two leagues. “It’ll be a busy summer,” he said, and that’s the way he likes it.

Photo: PGA of America

Emily Jones Tee

Emily Jones: Utah Section Teacher of the Year

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Even before she became a Class A PGA Professional, Emily Jones was labeled a “success story” in the business. The latest chapter includes a Teacher of the Year award.

The former Emily Copier is young enough to have participated in a pilot program for girls high school golf in Utah after competing for the Skyline boys team in the fall season. And now she’s part of the vanguard of female golf pros in the Utah Section PGA.

Jones, who played in college for Weber State and BYU, is the second woman to be named the Section’s Teacher of the Year, following Melanie Van Delden in 1999. She joins Section staff member Annie Fisher and PGA Professional Darci Olsen among more recent award winners.

She was featured in a 2016 Golf Channel segment that highlighted successful programs in the country’s sections during the PGA of America’s centennial observance. Jones has worked for six years on the teaching staff of The Country Club of Salt Lake City, having started with youth programs and women’s clinics. “I have a passion for golf and I want other people to have that passion, so they can enjoy it like I have for a lifetime,” said Jones, whose approach is to encourage students and build their confidence.

Her golf career pursuits stemmed from a feeling that “I’m not ready for this to be over” when she finished playing in an NCAA Regional tournament for BYU in 2011. Ten years later, she’s thriving in this phase of the game.


Dustin Volk: Utah Section Professional of the Year

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Dustin Volk will remember the 2021 golf season for multiple reasons, including a new job description, a meaningful victory and a Professional of the Year award in the Utah Section PGA.

Those major developments came 10 years after Volk’s remarkable season of 2011, when he became the Section’s Player of the Year and was named the Assistant Professional of the Year while working for Brad Stone at Davis Golf Course.

Volk, having served as the head professional at Valley View GC, now oversees both of those facilities as Davis County’s director of golf. He’ll always have some trophies to commemorate his career checkpoints of 2021.

Volk winning the 2021 Utah PGA Match Play Championship
Photo: Garrit Johnson/Fairways Media

“It’s been a great year, a busy year,” Volk said.

Volk’s Professional of the Year status is deep rooted. He’s a son of Wayne Volk, formerly the longtime pro at Hill Air Force Base’s Hubbard GC, and Dustin has been immersed in the Utah Section PGA’s operation. The award is dated “2021,” yet there’s no doubt that his work as the Section’s president in 2020 contributed to this recognition.

Volk remembers “hundreds of phone calls back and forth, all trying to do what we could for the golf industry and make good, sound business decisions,” he said. Section members worked together in developing courses’ protocols to deal with the pandemic.

Having competed in the 2014 PGA Championship, Volk maintains a solid game in his late 40s. He beat Zach Johnson, who’s now the Davis Park head pro, to win the Section’s Match Play title at Hubbard GC in May.

Aaron Purviance 4

Aaron Purviance: Rolex Assistant Player of the Year

Continuing the trend of first-time Player of the Year honors is Red Ledges Teaching Professional Aaron Purviance, who earned the Rolex Assistant Player of the year with eight events played and 2,623 points. 2020 Assistant Player of the year Thomas Cook finished 415 point behind Purviance.

“It’s a very honorable thing to win,” Purviance said. “I worked hard all year. I tried to play as often as I could outside of work and I’m glad I was able to play well enough to win and glad I have good competition to play against. I get better by playing against those guys and they push me to play better.”

Purviance during the Mountainland Valley View Open
Photo: Jesse Dodson/Utah PGA

The secret to Purviance’s success this year was qualifying and competing in national events such as the PGA Professional Championship, where he missed the cut by one, and the Assistant PGA Professional Championship, making the cut in November and earning 1,000 points.

“I love playing in the Assistants Championship, I played really well last year and took 3rd and took a lot of positive vibes from that going into this year. The PGA Professional Championship was probably my favorite event I’ve ever played in. I missed the cut by one but it was a really good experience.

“Those two big tournaments are my two favorite I played in all year, probably the two biggest besides the Utah Open.”

Purviance is currently competing in the Winter PGA Tournament Series in Florida. As for his plan for the 2022 season? “Just keep learning from it, having fun and trusting my game.”

2021 Rolex Utah Section Assistant Player of the Year Results.

Haley Sturgeon H

Haley Sturgeon: Rolex Women’s Player of the Year

The Country Club Assistant Professional Haley Sturgeon has completed the hat trick when it comes to the Rolex Utah Section Women’s Player of the year, winning in 2019, 2020 and again in 2021 .

“Three years in a row is cool,” Sturgeon said. “I always want to set goals for myself and keep striving. Hopefully set records that way the women behind me, or in front of me, can break them. That way we can keep trailblazing as females in the golf industry. Hopefully it’s motivation for the other girls to come take it from me.

“Winning this award three years in a row means my hard work is paying off. I want to give my dad credit for keeping my game consistent. He is my practice buddy and has helped me around the golf course in almost every event this year.”

Sturgeon has won the award since she joined the PGA PGM Program, the first winner belongs to Glenmoor Head Pro Darci Olsen in 2018, when the category for Women’s Player of the Year began.

“It feels really good to win,” Sturgeon continued. “The ultimate goal is to win “THE” Player of the Year, so I’m going strive to that. but being Women’s Player of the Year, it feels great.”

Sturgeon during the 2021 RMT/EZGO Winter Classic final round at Sand Hollow.
Photo: Randy Dodson/Fairways Media

Sturgeon started the year with a win in the RMT/EZGO Winter Classic and would proceed to finish runner-up in the Homestead Open, Siegfried & Jensen Utah Women’s Open and the Women’s Match Play Championship.

“I would say, honestly, the Match Play Championship was the most memorable. There were a lot of great matches, playing against Sue (Nyhus) at one of her home courses and a course I know well and going head-to-head with her was really fun. I’m obviously a little upset with the ending but really happy for her with the year she had. I really enjoyed it.”

Ending the season with a win in the Pro-Assistants Championship at Sand Hollow and Sunbrook is icing on the cake for her 2021 season.

 “The Pro-Assistant playing with Wayne and getting the win was great. The camaraderie we have with each other, we can bust each other’s chops but still stay in the moment and have a good time.”

2021 Rolex Utah Section Women’s Player of the Year Results.

Mark Owen h

Mark Owen: Rolex Senior Player of the Year

In his second full season as a senior, Mountain View Golf Course Head Professional Mark Owen is the Rolex Utah Section Senior Player of the Year. He sits on top of the points list with 17 events played and 8,415 points earned – 799 points clear of 2020 Player of the Year Scott Brandt.

“Well it’s a first, it feels good,” Owen said.

“I still expect to play well enough to do well in the regular division,” Owen continued. “Every tournament I sign up for, I sign up in the regular division and then the senior division is a fall back. There are some specific events for the seniors and those are really nice, an added bonus.

“There’s three or four senior events that have a lot of weight like the Senior Section Championship, that was a big one, the Utah Senior Open was another big point-gainer, and I happened to win both of those.”

Owen during the first round of the Senior Section Championship at Logan River Golf Course.
Photo: Jesse Dodson/Utah PGA

Winning the Kean Ridd Utah Senior Open and the Senior Section Championship alone make for an outstanding season, but adding a win in the Southern Utah Open and consistent play throughout the year made it impossible to catch him.

As for Owen’s most memorable event? “Probably the Kean Ridd Senior Open, I like that one. That was kind of a three-peat for me as a professional. I won it the first year, I was low pro with Ryan Rhees the second year and the third year I was able to win again.”

For the 2021 Rolex Senior Player of the Year points results, CLICK HERE.