Congratulations to the 2023 Utah PGA Rolex Players of the Year. It has been another fantastic season of championship golf and we applaud your efforts and excellent accomplishments throughout the year.
CASEY FOWLES-UTAH PGA ROLEX PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Casey Fowles occasionally checked the standings, although he never put any pressure on himself to win a third straight Rolex Player of the Year award in the Utah Section PGA.
He just kept playing good golf, and the results again went his way in what evolved into a healthy, three-way competition in 2023. Fowles finished with 5,752.5 points to 5,327.5 for Zach Johnson and 5,189.67 for Tommy Sharp.
The latest title “means a lot,” Fowles said, “because those guys have been good for a long time.”
They would say the same about Fowles, the Head PGA Professional at Sunset View Golf Course in his hometown of Delta. At age 39, the former UNLV golfer (who started his college career at the University of Utah) was proud to finish 2023 strong, amid the usual ups and downs of a golf season.
After winning The Oaks Open in May, Fowles tied for first (with Johnson) in the Mountainland Valley View Open in August. He then finished second among Section pros in the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open (70-68-69) and tied for first in the Willow Creek Open, posting a 70.
“Valley View’s treated me really well over the years,” Fowles said. “Willow Creek was a big one too. Willow Creek was set up really good and tough. That was one of my best rounds all year.”
As a head pro trying to maintain an elite-level golf game, “It’s tough to balance everything,” Fowles said. A supportive family helps make it possible; so does his ability to focus on what he’s doing at the moment.
MARK OWEN-UTAH PGA ROLEX SENIOR PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Mark Owen is not being greedy when he mentions the biggest tournament title that got away from him in 2023. At this point, as a three-time winner of the Rolex Senior Player of the Year award in the Utah Section PGA, he’s allowed to have high standards of performance.
So he’ll keep thinking about the final round of the Mel Duke Utah Senior Open at Toana Vista GC, where Joe Summerhays stormed ahead of him with a closing 66 to top Owen’s 72 after they were tied for the lead.
Otherwise, Owen was the one dusting the competition throughout the season. He finished with 7,741.83 points to 5,450 for runner-up Steve Schneiter, during a year when his game “all kind of came together,” Owen said.
Owen, the Head PGA Professional of Mountain View GC, tied for first place in The Oaks Open. He won the Senior Match Play Championship in a great duel with Scott Brandt at Willow Creek Country Club, took the Senior Section Championship by posting 69-70 at Hobble Creek GC and was the low senior in the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open at Riverside CC (71-71-73).
”It’s always fun to win the big ones,” Owen said. “That’s kind of what I shoot for, mostly.”
And that’s why Owen appreciates the Section staff and host pros who stage such high-level events, keeping him motivated to maintain a sharp game. He also has figured out how to do that, while being devoted to his job in Salt Lake County Golf, while being thankful for his two assistant pros, including Dustin Pimm, the Section’s Assistant Professional of the Year.
HALEY STURGEON-UTAH PGA ROLEX WOMEN’S PLAYER OF THE YEAR
For once, Haley Sturgeon had some competition in the race for the Rolex Women’s Player of the Year award in the Utah Section PGA. She also had some accompaniment.
In the Sturgeon family, 2023 will be remembered as the year when Haley played some great golf as a twosome. Her expected delivery of a child in December created an interesting dynamic, while she won a fifth straight season title.
Emily Jones, her colleague at The Country Club in Salt Lake City, made a strong challenge to Sturgeon’s reign. Do the math: The duel came down to the final match of the Women’s Match Play at Alpine Country Club in mid-October. If not for Sturgeon’s 6-and-5 victory, Jones would have become the Player of the Year. Sturgeon finished with 4,375 points to 4,162.5 for Jones.
Playing so well during her pregnancy was “very special,” Sturgeon said. “It was a constant reminder that no matter what happens in your golf game, just let it go because bigger things are ahead.”
Sturgeon was happy to stay healthy enough to play regularly in tournaments and she was at her best in the Women’s Match Play, dominating all three opponents.
”Playing good golf while being almost eight months pregnant was incredible,” she said, “and I will keep that feeling with me when I play while I’m not pregnant.”
Sturgeon also finished first in the Brigham City Open, the Mountainland Valley View Open, the Willow Creek Open and the Intro-Lend Davis Park Open.
BRAYDON SWAPP-UTAH PGA ROLEX ASSISTANT PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Braydon Swapp may wish he could have saved his best round of the year for Sunday in the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open in August, instead of using it to finish the EMT/EZGO Winter Classic in February.
Even so, both experiences created some good memories of a season when Swapp repeated as the Rolex Assistant Player of the Year in the Utah Section PGA.
He’s proud of that closing 67 amid tough conditions at Copper Rock Golf Course in the Winter Classic and he loved having Keaton Woodland as his caddie while contending in the Utah Open. Swapp earned 1,200 points for finishing as low Section member at Riverside Country Club, shooting 67-69-69. He finished with 4,396.5 points to 3,156.67 for runner-up Aaron Purviance.
In addition to the Winter Classic, Swapp finished first in the Southern Utah Open in November 2022, launching his Player of the Year run. He tied for second in The Oaks Open and tied for third in the Utah Section PGA Assistant Championship at Hobble Creek GC.
In the Utah Open, “I couldn’t get the putter hot enough the last day,” Swapp said, “but it’s always exciting to be in contention in one of the biggest tournaments we play all year as Section pros.”
As he pursues a playing career while working as an assistant pro at The Barn GC, Swapp appreciates the support of his family and friends. And the opportunity to play in tournaments amid his work schedule is “something I don’t take for granted,” he said. “I’m grateful to be able to play the game I love and compete against other high-level players in the Section.”
2023 Utah PGA Rolex Player of the Year profiles written by Fairways Media senior writer Kurt Kragthorpe. Photos by Fairways Media.