Gary Lewis1

Gary Lewis: Presidential Service Award

By Kurt Kragthorpe

One of the Utah Section PGA’s annual awards couldn’t wait until the traditional presentation in February. The Section Championship in September was the appropriate occasion to recognize Gary Lewis as the Presidential Service Award recipient.

As the vice president of Wendover Hotels & Casinos, Lewis has provided nearly $500,000 in sponsorships and accommodations to Section members. The Section Championship has been conducted at Toana Vista Golf Course in West Wendover, Nevada, since 2004; the Utah Senior Open has been staged there almost as long.

Lewis is known as a lover of golf and an advocate of PGA Professionals and a friend to many Utah pros. His involvement started with former Toana Vista Head Professional Reid Goodliffe.

“Luckily for us, he loves our group,” said Devin Dehlin, the Utah Section PGA’s executive director. “It’s been a great partnership.”

Lewis has helped make the Section Championship a destination event. “The camaraderie and time that our professionals spend together at that event is just priceless,” Dehlin said.

Longtime friend Terry Outzen, a Titleist representative and Section member, describes Lewis as “just a good dude … very loyal; great for the Utah Section, obviously.”

Outzen added, “He loves his family and he loves to golf. Those are the most important things to him.”

Lewis said he was surprised to receive the “totally unexpected” award, and the honor means everything to him, coming from the Utah Section PGA. 

Mike Stanger

Mike Stanger: Doug Vilven Distinguished Service Award

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Mike Stanger’s passing at age 57 in August, as his two sons were playing in the first round of the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open, undoubtedly was untimely.

As some consolation, though, the Utah Section PGA was able to honor Stanger that weekend at Riverside Country Club in Provo. That will happen again in February, when the Section’s professionals will play in the “EZ-GO Utah Winter Classic in Memory of Mike Stanger” in St. George.

As a Section member and longtime manufacturer’s representative, Stanger was a three-time winner of the Section’s Jon Unger Salesperson of the Year. He’s the second recipient of the Doug Vilven Distinguished Service Award.

“I don’t think Mike realized how many people that he touched and how many lives he affected in the golf world and in the world in general,” said Devin Dehlin, the Utah Section PGA’s executive director.

During the last two rounds of the Utah Open, Section pros wore ribbons on their caps in honor of Stanger and Dehlin recognized him during the presentations on the 18th green that Sunday.

Dehlin, a longtime friend of Stanger, was consoled “because we were able to do something for him immediately,” he said. “It made it special in a lot of ways.”

Among other contributions to Utah golf, Stanger had been instrumental in the Utah Open’s growth by arranging for pro-am gifts through the on-site Nike tent, during his affiliation with that company.

Devin Dehlin headshot

Devin Dehlin: Jeff Beaudry Golf Ambassador Award

By Kurt Kragthorpe

As the Utah Section PGA’s executive director for the past six years, Devin Dehlin does his job well. Where he really succeeds, though, is in looking beyond the boundaries of his job description.

As much as Dehlin loves golf, he loves golfers even more. That’s true of his Section professionals and everybody else he comes across in the game.

The interest he shows in other people is a trait he shares with Jeff Beaudry, the Section’s first executive director and a member of the Utah Golf Hall of Fame. So it is fitting that Dehlin is the 2021 winner of the Section’s Jeff Beaudry Golf Ambassador Award.

“It makes me feel good that I would be recognized as somebody that is an ambassador of the game, that is a friend to the allied associations and parents and golfers,” Dehlin said. “To be recognized as someone that touches people in all different areas of the game is very humbling.”

Dehlin during the opening ceremonies of the 2021 Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open

One of the distinctions of the Utah golf community is the way the amateur and professional governing bodies get along, which is not the case everywhere else. That’s partly an institutional working relationship, but more of a case of personal touch as reflected in Dehlin and Jacob Miller, executive director of the Utah Golf Association.

Dehlin cites a personality trait that is “my strength and my weakness,” of wanting everybody to feel satisfied with his work in various golf programs. “If there’s 99 happy parents and one that’s not,” he said, “I worry about the one that’s not.”

Dehlin also was honored in 2020, when the Utah Section PGA staff received the Golf Industry Service Award.

Colby Cowan

Colby Cowan: Bill Srasbaugh Award

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Colby Cowan now has two Bill Strasbaugh Awards to frame his tenure of nearly a decade as St. George City’s director of golf.

In connecting the dots of his career, it would be fair to say that the first award for club relations stemmed from his involvement in golf statewide and the latest honor recognizes his work within the city.

Cowan was the Utah Section PGA’s president in the era when the Golf Alliance For Utah was being formed, putting him in a position of working governmental agencies to promote the game. As his job in St. George has evolved, he’s part of the bureaucracy himself, yet also the advocate for golf. No wonder he labels it “kind of an interesting role.”

He’s eager to serve a voice in the city government for the head professionals of St. George’s four golf venues: Reed McArthur, Allen Orchard, Eron Deming and James Hood, as well as the golf course superintendents. Clubhouse renovations at Southgate GC and St. George GC are major improvements at a time when public golf again is booming in St. George.

“We’re way ahead of last year,” Cowan said. “We didn’t think that was possible.”

Cowan was the head pro at four St. George-area courses before moving into current job in 2012, when St, George City reestablished the administrative position.

While serving in that role, Cowan also was named the Section’s Professional of the Year in 2014.


Wesley Ruff Golf Citizen of the Year: Eric “Doc” Iverson

By Kurt Kragthorpe

The 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links has a place in history as the first United States Golf Association event staged in Utah. The match-play bracket included future PGA Tour winners Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele and Talor Gooch.

And there’s much more lasting significance. The Publinks at Soldier Hollow Golf Course served as Eric “Doc” Iverson’s introduction to volunteer opportunities in golf. Now immersed in the game as a rules official, Iverson is the 2021 winner of the Utah Section PGA’s Wesley Ruff Golf Citizen of the Year award.

It all started when Iverson noticed a call for Publinks volunteers in Fairways magazine. After retiring as a high school principal in his native California, he had moved to Orem, where his mother and sister lived.

His primary role during the tournament was as a shuttle driver, taking golfers from the hotel to the course. “It was good fun,” he said. “That’s what got me hooked on the golf thing.”

“Hooked” means Iverson spends 50-plus days on the golf course as a rules official from March through September in a role he relishes. He’s “amazed how appreciative the players are of you being out there … from high school all the way up to the professional level.”

Iverson added, “Golf is a fraternity of people, men and women. It’s not that way in a lot of sports. You meet lifelong friends in the game.”

Now, about that nickname. It turns out that the former principal and current rules official skirted a requirement as a high school cross country runner, signing a doctor’s name on the form for a physical exam. His coach played along, calling him “Doc” in what became a permanent moniker.

Jake Ebner-7-min

Jake Ebner: Superintendent of the Year – Private

By Kurt Kragthorpe

The recent renovation of Alpine Country Club gave Superintendent Jake Ebner and his staff renewed direction in their care of the golf course, but that’s really nothing new. Ebner’s crew outlines an area of emphasis every year.

“We always come up with something new,” Ebner said.

The strategy is working. Ebner is the Utah Section PGA’s Superintendent of the Year for private facilities in 2021, a year after receiving the same award from the Utah Chapter of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America.

Alpine was showcased this year as the host of the 123rd Utah State Amateur, giving contestants a glimpse of Ebner’s standards. He strives to create “tournament conditions every day,” so that an event such as the State Am doesn’t require extraordinary preparation.

Alpine is known for an avid golf membership that expects high-level conditioning. Ebner is no different. “I’m a fairly decent golfer,” he said, “and even when I go out to play, I want it to be the best possible conditions.”

Advances in technology and equipment have aided Ebner during his 15 years as Alpine’s director of agronomy. The challenge stems from wind that blows down American Fork Canyon and disrupts overnight watering patterns. “It takes a lot of hand watering to keep everything consistent,” he said.

The staff’s biggest innovation in 2021 was regulating the growth of the greens during the day, because afternoon players want the same, fresh-cut speed of the morning. One wrinkle for 2022 will be the use of wetting agents on the fairways.

Photo: Bradford Schaub, Alpine Country Club

Steve Carter

Steve Carter: Superintendent of the Year – Public

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Steve Carter walked away from his interview for the superintendent’s job at Cedar Ridge Golf Course fearing that Cedar City administrators were seeking someone with much more experience.

Now, 18 years later after landing the job, Carter probably has enough material to fill a book about his experiences at Cedar Ridge.

The main characters in that story? Prairie dogs and sprinkler pipes. The path that has taken Carter to the Utah Section PGA’s Superintendent of the Year award for public courses has been riddled with holes of various shapes and sizes. Everything looks much smoother now on a layout that Carter describes as “one of the hidden gems of the state of Utah.”

Carter initially worked at Logan River Golf Course while attending Utah State and spent four years as an assistant to Randy Oldham at the Logan Country Club. Oldham won this award in 2020.

If he were a PGA professional, Carter would be a great candidate for the Bill Strasbaugh Award for club relations, based on his work with city and state agencies in addressing Cedar Ridge’s issues with irrigation and prairie dog infestation. The shorter version of those stories is that Carter’s cooperation with government entities, including the Utah Dept. of Natural Resources, has steadily increased Cedar Ridge’s playability level.

Carter cites “just a great opportunity to work with all those organizations.”

He’s also thankful to veteran pros John Evans and Jared Barnes for being so supportive of the superintendent’s role at Cedar Ridge.

AC Cox Photo

AC Cox: Professional Development Award

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Ashley “AC” Cox is a marketing expert, making him a valuable resource to his fellow PGA professionals.

Even though he’s no longer working directly in the golf industry, he’s committed to helping other pros. That explains why he’s a member of the Utah Section PGA board of directors and how he earned the Section’s PGA Professional Development Award as a Salt Lake Community College associate professor of marketing and marketing department coordinator.

While immersed in the academic world at SLCC for six years, Cox has been determined to stay involved in golf. That’s partly because he recognizes the importance of diversity in the profession, and believes he can inspire other Black golfers to pursue PGA careers. He wants them to know, “This industry is OK for you, too.”

Having attended Mississippi State, Cox was the second Black person in the country to have graduated from a college’s Professional Golf Management program. He received an MBA from Campbell University and is pursuing a doctorate.

As a former GolfTEC manager in Colorado, Cox said his 20 years as a PGA member have been “rooted in educating professionals.” Along the way, he was nominated for the PGA Professional Development Award (formerly called the Horton Smith Award for education) in both the Carolinas and Colorado sections.

His expertise is in “understanding consumer behavior,” which obviously relates to the golf industry and why golfers make certain choices in deciding where to play and what to purchase. He’s eager to share that information.

Rob Krieger

Rob Krieger: Player Development Award

By Kurt Kragthorpe

Considering how Rob Krieger started teaching golf as a teenager, it seemed likely that he someday would launch his own business. The name of Red Rock Golf Instruction is the twist in the career arc of the Ohio native, who’s the Player Development Award winner in the Utah Section PGA.

Krieger headed west in 2009 while working for Troon Golf’s operation in Mesquite, Nevada, and remained in the area. His headquarters is the driving range of Southgate Golf Course in St. George, the city-owned facility where he works with students of all ages and abilities.

Even in high school, Krieger became “intrigued by why certain people learned certain things in golf and other people didn’t learn,” he said. “As a junior golfer, I wondered why I didn’t play the same way every time; what every golfer goes through. I like to help people figure out the ‘why?’”

His teaching philosophy is captured by the “Swing your swing” slogan, emphasizing that there’s not just one way to hit the ball. He’s a technology devotee, using 3D motion sensors, launch monitors and video software. “I have so many different programs that I’m teaching right now,” Krieger said. “It’s fun; it adds a lot of variety.”

The Player Development Award recognizes Krieger’s efforts to promote the game, beyond teaching advanced golfers. He’s involved with programs such as PGA Hope and The First Tee of Utah and appreciates the support of other southern Utah pros, notably Colby Cowan, St. George City’s director of golf.