Mark Owens - IG post

Rolex Senior Player of the Year – Mark Owen

One reason why Mark Owen is an exceptional senior golfer is he still thinks of himself as a regular guy.

Being older than 50 made him eligible to win a second consecutive Rolex Senior Player of the Year award in the Utah Section PGA, and that honor is really a by-product of his overall play. Owen’s fifth-place finish in the overall Player of the Year competition says just as much or more about his 2022 performance.

As he observed, “I don’t know if I’ve had too many three-win seasons in my career.”

Owen’s victories in the Section Championship and the Gladstan Open, plus a share of low-pro honors in the Salt Lake City Open, headlined his season. Mountain View Golf Course’s Head Professional also was the low senior in The Oaks Open and tied for first among seniors in the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open. For the season, he posted 7,962.5 points to 6,038.5 for runner-up Ryan Rhees.

Owen appreciates how Salt Lake County’s Golf Division supports his playing interests. “I still love it; that’s the thing,” he said. “I probably don’t practice as much as I should, but I played as much as I could.”

Rol Owen’s 68-65 performance at Toana Vista GC in September made him the Section champion by one stroke over Player of the Year Casey Fowles, thanks largely to a 2-3-3-2 sequence early in the final round and a timely eagle on his second nine.

“Just to get in contention was really fun,” Owen said. “The wins prior to that helped me finish that off.”

Owen and Fowles each shot 10 under par for two rounds at Bonneville GC in the SLC Open in August, finishing two strokes behind amateur Justin Shluker. A couple of late birdies helped him win the Gladstan Open with a 70 in May and he shot 70-72 to tie Steve Schneiter in the 36-hole senior competition within the Utah Open in August.

Written by Fairways Media senior writer, Kurt Kragthorpe.

Braydon Swapp - IG post

Rolex Assistant Player of the Year – Braydon Swapp

Braydon Swapp shares at least one trait with PGA Tour star Justin Thomas: He’s not afraid of declaring a goal and making himself accountable.

The former Utah State golfer and 2017 State Am runner-up wanted to become the Utah Section PGA’s Rolex Assistant Player of the Year in 2022. That’s exactly what he did, and decisively so. Swapp posted 2,938.5 points in the season’s competition to 1,701.5 for runner-up Haley Sturgeon.

Swapp’s victory in the Section’s Assistant Championship sent him to the Assistant PGA Professional Championship in Florida in November, where he tied for 37th place in a big field. That was another step in the career arc of the assistant pro at The Barn GC, near his hometown of Ogden, and his Section award is more proof of progress.

“It’s starting to come together, and that’s nice,” Swapp said. “The cool thing for me is just setting a goal and accomplishing it. … If I say that and don’t follow up on it, then that’s on me.”

Swapp earned big points in the Assistant Player of the Year race by finishing first in the Palisade Open, tying for second in the Gladstan Open and placing third in the North Salt Lake Open. In the Section’s Assistant Championship, he shot 70-72 at the Talisker Club at Tuhaye and outlasted Clint Godfrey in a playoff.

Written by Fairways Media Senior Writer, Kurt Kragthorpe

Haley Sturgeon headshot

Haley Sturgeon 4x Rolex Women’s Player of the Year

One of Haley Sturgeon’s most memorable performances of 2022 didn’t even count toward her fourth straight Rolex Women’s Player of the Year award in the Utah Section PGA.

Sturgeon’s showing in the Utah PGA Match Play Championship, ending with a 23-hole semifinal loss to eventual champion Matt Baird, was another example of her ability to compete. Playing an 85-percent course length in those matches, she defeated the likes of Zach Johnson and Mark Owen.

“Any tournament, any field I can get in, I want to play,” said Sturgeon, an assistant pro at The Country Club in Salt Lake City who finished second in the Assistant Player of the Year rankings. 

In the Women’s Player of the Year competition, Sturgeon was credited with first or second place in all seven events. She posted 4,275 points to 2,750 for runner-up Xena Motes after winning the RMT/EZGO Winter Classic, the North Salt Lake Open and the Valley View Open. In the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Women’s Open, she shot 71-70 at Thanksgiving Point Golf Club to tie for third place overall and finish second among the pros.

The Women’s Match Play victory also highlighted Sturgeon’s season. As the No. 4 seed, she needed only 44 holes to win her three matches, including a 3-and-2 victory over Carly Dehlin-Hirsch for her first title in the event since 2019. Sturgeon labeled it “redemption for last year,” when she lost to Sue Nyhus in the final match.

Sturgeon credited her father/caddie, Mark Dunn, for his help that week. They also teamed up during her second appearance in the Epson Tour’s Copper Rock Championship in Hurricane via a sponsor exemption.

Playing is “still a high priority,” said Sturgeon, who appreciates the way her bosses and the members of The Country Club support her pursuits. Sturgeon intends to play some Cactus Tour events in Arizona this winter.

Feature written by Fairways Media Senior Writer, Kurt Kragthorpe

For the second year in a row Sunset View PGA Professional Casey Fowles has been named the Utah Section PGA Rolex Player of the Year.

Casey Fowles Named Utah PGA Rolex Player of the Year

Casey Fowles may forever wish that an appearance in the PGA Championship would have highlighted his 2022 golf season. He’ll also be proud that a tough finish in the PGA Professional Championship didn’t define his year.

Fowles’ strong ending of the schedule secured his second straight Rolex Player of the Year award in the Utah Section PGA and completed a comeback from the disappointment of missing his chance to play in a major tournament. With the Golf Channel cameras following him closely, Fowles faded to a tie for 28th place in the PGA Professional Championship in Austin, Texas, falling out of the top 20.

“I’ll be honest; it took me a month or two to process that,” said Fowles, the Head Professional of Sunset View Golf Course in his hometown of Delta. “I was able to kind of battle my way through it. … I just did some reflection, trying to learn from it and facing up to it, not running from it. That was the biggest thing for me.”

He obviously succeeded. Fowles tied for low-pro honors with Mark Owen via a 10-under-par performance over two rounds in the Salt Lake City Open, then shot 65-69 to finish second to Owen in the Section Championship. Those late-season showings helped Fowles finish with 6,586.67 points to 6,082.5 for runner-up Tommy Sharp.

Fowles viewed 2022 as “a little bit of a strange year,” considering he repeated as Player of the Year while posting only one victory (the SLC Open). But the points accumulated in a bunch of second-place finishes, including a tie for second place among Section members in the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open, carried him to the top of the rankings again.

Fowles, who started his college career at the University of Utah and finished at UNLV, keeps raising his game even amid the demands of being a head pro. He has learned to maximize his practice time, with more focus and purpose.

Feature written by Fairways Media Senior Writer, Kurt Kragthorpe

Utah PGA Pro Assistants Champions 2022

Pro-Assistants Championship puts a wrap on Utah PGA 2022 season

The Utah PGA championship season came to end with the 36-hole Pro-Assistant Championship presented by TaylorMade, held November 14-15. Four-Ball teams made up of head professionals and their assistants from golf facilities throughout Utah converge on St. George to put a wrap on another successful year of Utah golf. 

“This event, to me, means the culmination of the season and a lot of hard work. That’s why I think we see the numbers we see,” Executive Director Devin Dehlin said following the two day tournament that hosts nearly a 140 PGA professionals and assistants.

“Everyone wants to kind of go (to St.George) and have one last little fun time with their staff. It’s kind of like the reward for the year; bring everyone down and just have a good time. So, it’s a fun atmosphere, but still very competitive,” Dehlin said.

Salt Lake Golf Academy professionals Corey Badger & Tommy Sharp were up to the competitive task as they shot (-15) 65-64 – 129 to win the championship division at the Championship Course at Sand Hollow Resort and Sunbrook golf course. 

The TaylorMade Net Division champions are Hobble Creek GC professionals Craig Norman and Chris Stover at (-20) 63-61 – 124.

Following the opening round of the tournament many Section members enjoyed spending time together at the recently opened Bigshots Golf facility near the southern end of the St. George City limits. 

Bigshots Golf provided the evening entertainment following play of the opening round.

Of the 36-hole championship Sharp said, “This is fun because it’s coming at the end of the season. It’s fun because it’s serious but not serious. We’re all cheering for each other in our groups. It’s just a little more of a relaxed setting than say the Section Championship.”

“For me,” Badger said, “it’s probably my only chance of winning (a Section event) so for me it is a highlight of the year. I think playing with Tommy, it’s just easy to play. I’m playing with a partner that is pretty much par of better on every hole. That takes all the pressure off.”

The two teaching professionals now look forward to a little downtime through the winter. Sharp’s plans are to get in as much skiing as he can while Badger looks forward to an annual family trip to Hawaii. They both will maintain a pretty busy teaching schedule at the Salt Lake Golf Academy through the winter months. 

Hobble Creek Head Professional Craig Norman took home the TaylorMade Net Champions trophy for the second year in a row, this time with good friend and Midway, Utah teaching professional Chris Stover. Team Norman/Stover were one shot better at (-20) 124 than the 2021 teams of Norman/Sue Nyhus and Norman/Joel Grose who were tied for the top spot last year at 19-under. A scorecard playoff was used last year to determine the win for Norman and Grose.

Full Pro-Assistant Championship leaderboard is available, CLICK HERE

A big thank you to Chris Nugent and TaylorMade for sponsoring the event and to Adam Jasperson and his Sand Hollow Staff and Reed McArthur and his Sunbrook staff, for hosting the championship.

Via Wightman Photo

Via Wightman Passing

The Utah PGA Family is sad to announce the passing of Utah PGA Life Century Member, Via Wightman. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Lynn and the entire Wightman family.

Via was the Head Professional at Holyoke Country Club of Massachusetts for 25 years before moving to Utah and joining the Utah PGA Family in 2014. Via’s children, who are accomplished players, made their way to Utah through college golf, which proved to be a blessing for all of us here in Utah.

Via’s legacy in golf will continue through his family and the lives he touched. Including his daughter Juli Erekson, current Utah Valley University Women’s Head Coach and Tele Wightman, the current Head Professional at Thanksgiving Point. Via also has numerous grandkids who are up-and-coming junior golfers (including the Wightmans, Ereksons and Ofahengaues). There is no doubt many of those grandkids will follow in their grandfather’s footsteps in the professional golf world.

He had a passion for junior golf and assisting high school and college golfers improve their game. You would find him often roaming the fairways watching his various family members compete in Utah golf events. This support will be carried on through his wife Lynn and their dog “Baby” who are just as involved as Via was.

The Utah golf community is extremely blessed to have the Wightman family and we offer them our deepest condolences.

Read Via’s obituary HERE.