This article originally appeared in the March issue of Utah PGA Monthly digital magazine. To see the whole issue, click here.
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The tradition of holding the Utah Section PGA Annual Meeting and Awards Banquet between rounds of the RMT/EZ-GO Winter Classic looked a little different this year. The meeting and banquet were held virtually the week prior, leaving members three days in Southern Utah to compete at Copper Rock, Sunbrook and Sand Hollow golf courses.
Sunset View Head Professional Casey Fowles stole the show with a final-round (-10) 62 at Sand Hollow Resort on February 11th to win the Winter Classic with 98 stableford points.
Not only did he start the final round five points behind first round leader Chris Stover, Wasatch Golf Course head professional, he passed the leaders and then some, winning by a total of 10 points. Riverside Teaching Pro Matt Baird and 2020 Player of the Year Joe Summerhays finished tied for second with 86 points.
“It’s funny,” Fowles said, “I started off on a par five, hole seven, barely ticked my drive, worm-burned a three wood up to the green, chipped it up and made a put. From there on I hit it really well and made some putts, it was fun. I just made a lot of those 10-12 footers you need to make to play well.”
Fowles round of 62 tied the Sand Hollow course record. His 41 points at Sunbrook and 57 at Sand Hollow were more than enough for the win to begin the new season.
“I’ve always kind of struggled in this tournament, so to come down and start the year like this is fun.”
The 2020 Utah PGA Omega Women’s Player of the Year Haley Sturgeon continued her stellar Section play with rounds of 72 – 71 at Sunbrook and Sand Hollow to win the Women’s Division with 81 points – which was also good enough to finish tied for fourth in the overall field.
“It’s always great, it’s a confidence boost especially,” Sturgeon said of her win. “I play in the winter so I think it’s a great way to lead into those events and coming back into the spring hopefully I can keep it rolling.
“Being one of my home courses, I feel like I was able to take advantage of that. I took advantage of the drivable par fours, and things like that.”
To top off the excitement of a win, Sturgeon was surprised by Copper Rock Head Professional John Horton with an exemption into the Symetra Tour Copper Rock Championship on April 19-24th. As a member of the Cactus Tour, Sturgeon will look to gain some status on the Symetra Tour with a good performance.
New Section Associate and Hubbard Assistant Pro Xena Motes finished runner up with 50 points while Utah Section Assistant Executive Director Annie Fisher finished third with 39.
Doug Roberts also took advantage of a “home turf” tournament with a win in the Senior Division with 83 points, a six-shot win over 2020 Utah PGA Senior Omega Player of the Year Scott Brandt.
“I was able to make six birdies yesterday and five today – that was the difference because I had some bogies thrown in there. But with stableford you just have to make a lot of birdies and I was fortunate enough to do that,” Roberts said.
“My friend Scott Brandt, he won player of the year and I see that as motivation for us St. George guys, to see if we can play in more events and get right up there with him and the guys up north.”
Meadow Brook Professional Stu Nelson bested the Super Senior division with steady play. He earned 41 points each day to win with 82 – racking up his first victory since the 2017 Winter Classic, also contested at Sand Hollow.
Rounding out the event in the Legends Division was Don Branca and Chip Garriss, who finished tied at the top with 69 points each. Ron Branca finished third with 67 points.
Thank you to Chad Kartchner of EMT/EZ-GO and Mike Stanger of Under Armour for sponsoring the event and supporting the Utah Section.
Thank you to John Horton at Copper Rock, Reed McArthur at Sunbrook and Adam Jasperson at Sand Hollow for hosting the Section membership and kicking off the 2021 season.
The board of directors and staff members of the Utah Section PGA prefer to give awards, rather than receive them. Yet from his vantage point as the Section president, Valley View Golf Course Head Professional Dustin Volk recognized that one of 2020’s awards needed to stay in-house.
Volk nominated the Section staff, led by Executive Director Devin Dehlin, for Governor’s Golf Industry Service Award. He didn’t have to do much convincing of the other voters.
“I think we have the best Section staff in the country, for all that they do,” said Section Vice President Kent McComb. “As Section officers, they just make our job so easy. It’s pretty impressive.”
The Section staff’s defining trait of 2020 is how so many PGA programs and events were staged in normal fashion, or as close to it as possible amid a pandemic. Two undertakings, in particular, reflected both the staff’s determination to stay on schedule and willingness to make adjustments.
In the absence of sanctioned high school girls golf tournaments, the Section conducted an individual competition (two separate events, actually) for players in each classification. And with the innovation of off-site pro-am events at Thanksgiving Point Golf Club, the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open stayed on track at Riverside Country Club.
Dehlin’s staff includes Annie Fisher, assistant executive director; Aaron Goodman, tournament director; Cecily Bloxham, office manager; Jesse Dodson, media and communications; and Cassie Campos, junior golf.
The late Doug Vilven may or may not have approved of the new Utah Section PGA annual award that carries his name, but he undoubtedly would have endorsed the first recipient.
Robert McArthur, now retired after serving as Riverside Country Club’s longtime head professional, shared Vilven’s commitment to educating PGA pros. They worked together for 25 years or more as faculty members in the PGA training program in what McArthur describes as an effort to “help people along the way; that’s what this business is all about.”
Of course, McArthur’s response to receiving an award for his service is to insist that his instructor’s role was partly self-serving.
“You kind of get reenergized, going out and teaching young golf professionals that are coming along,” he said. “It helps you to refocus on what you’re doing at your club.”
McArthur did his job well, for a long time. He was named the Section’s Professional of the Year in 1989, and his influence will be noticeable for years to come. Just look at recent Utah Section PGA awards. Craig Norman, a former Riverside assistant pro, was the 2019 Professional of the Year. Kent McComb, who succeeded Norman, is the 2020 Jeff Beaudry Golf Ambassador Award recipient. And to extend the McArthur tree, Joel Grose – Norman’s assistant at Hobble Creek Golf Course — is the 2020 Assistant Professional of the Year.
McArthur, directly or indirectly, had a lot to do with the way those pros approach their jobs. “Just knowing him has made me a better person,” McComb said.
The subject is slightly awkward. Imagine asking someone how they became a nice person.
The question is not all that silly, though. The way anyone treats other people is a modeled behavior, and that’s the case with Bountiful Ridge Golf Course Head Pro Kent McComb, who’s a product of some great examples in the golf profession.
True to his nature, McComb mentions a lot of them as a starting point, and then he keeps adding to the list. Robert McArthur, a mentor for 10 years as the former head professional at Riverside Country Club, is high on the list – not that he’ll take any credit for McComb’s personality.
“He’s probably the most loyal friend a guy can have,” McArthur said. “He genuinely cares about people. He treats everybody as if you’re his best friend; he’s that kind of guy.”
McComb adds Utah Golf Hall of Fame class of 2020 inductee Scott Whittaker and Bountiful Ridge’s Assistant PGA Professional Scott Olsen as two with major influence.
“Robert and Whitt are truly two of the greatest golf professionals I know,” he says. “More important they are even better people and friends. Their examples of professionalism is something I will always cherish. Scott has also been a great mentor and an example in my life.”
McComb says the best example is right in his own home: his wife, Jenilee. Before her, it was his parents, followed by a long list of other key influences, such as former Bountiful City Manager Tom Hardy and former Riverside General Manager Parley Peterson. Within the Utah Section PGA, he credits Robert and Reed McArthur, Jeff Jerman, Steve Wathen and the late Jeff Smith – and he’ll probably spend the rest of the year worrying about people he failed to mention.
That’s what makes McComb who he is, and that’s why he’s deserving of an award that honors Jeff Beaudry, whose kindness is among the traits that made him a member of the Utah Golf Hall of Fame.
From an outsider’s perspective, the Bill Strausbaugh Award may be the most difficult to define of any of the Utah Section PGA’s annual honors. Club relations? What does that mean?
In that sense, the Section’s 2020 winner provides a lasting example. There hardly could be a better illustration of the Strausbaugh Award’s intentions than what Brett Watson, the head professional of the renamed Timpanogos Golf Club in Provo, did in bringing all kinds of people and groups together to complete a remarkable redesign project.
It took a collaborative, community effort to maximize the property, and Watson played a major role in coordinating it. He can reflect proudly on “a five-year project for our team that has certainly had its ups and downs and is one I am honored to be associated with.”
Watson added, “We truly came together to create a golf facility unlike any other in Utah and, honestly, the world. … All of these organizations, groups and individuals are the definition of what the Bill Strausbaugh Award represents: a community working together to grow and bring the great game of golf to everyone.”
Timpanogos Golf Club (formerly East Bay) now features an 18-hole championship course, The Pasture Par 3 Course and the Legacy Trail Short Course.
In helping to make it all happen, Watson is thankful to Architect Kevin Atkinson, Superintendent Craig O’Farrell, former Director of Golf Kean Ridd and Provo City officials including Parks Director Scott Henderson. Entities such as the Wadsworth Golf Foundation, Fairways Media, Provo School District and Provo Power also played key roles, Watson said.
Devin Dehlin had a lot of people to thank on that Monday morning in August, as he addressed a Media Day breakfast to launch the 2020 Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open at Riverside Country Club in Provo.
The tournament’s title is a good clue about where Dehlin, the Utah Section PGA’s executive director, was going with his story. If the reasons the Utah Open stayed on the 2020 calendar could be boiled down to one factor, Dehlin said, it would have to be Ned Siegfried’s insistence.
That’s how Siegfried became the 2020 winner of the Wesley Ruff Golf Citizen Award, renamed this year to honor Ruff, the ABC4 sportscaster, honorary Utah PGA member and a multiple winner of the award.
As a partner of the title sponsor law firm, Siegfried believes in the Utah Section PGA and in the mission of the Utah Open – to provide a high-level playing opportunity for Section members and to make a community impact. So in the spring, when organizers started talking about the 2020 Utah Open amid COVID-19 concerns, Riverside administrators and other sponsors were understandably skittish.
During one meeting, Siegfried said, he had “a sinking feeling, a pit in my stomach, that the Utah Open would go by the wayside.”
No, that would not happen. It took some adjustments, such as a cutback from the usual eight pro-am events and the extensive use of an alternate site, Thanksgiving Point Golf Club. The purse also was reduced, due to sponsorship issues on levels below Siegfried & Jensen’s commitment.
It all came together, though, in the Utah Open’s usual first-class presentation. The tournament became a showcase for rookie pro Peter Kuest, the former BYU All-American, and for Section members such as Craig Hocknull and Riverside Teaching Pro Matt Baird, who chased Kuest.
It all stems from Siegfried’s devotion to the game in Utah. “Golf’s always been a big part of my life,” he said. “I love the people. You just develop a bond with the PGA pros.”
Randy Oldham’s biggest move covered five miles. After a lifetime of being associated with Logan Country Club, Oldham took the superintendent’s position at Logan River Golf Course in 2013.
Going from a private club to a municipal facility, even in the same town, is quite an adjustment. The city’s layers of management, Oldham says, mean that he’s more like “a spoke in the wheel” at Logan River.
What’s the same? Oldham’s standards of maintenance. The average public golfer may not be as invested in the course as a country club member, but that only makes Oldham more determined to keep Logan River as pristine as possible.
By all accounts, he’s succeeding. He’s part of the third of four generations of the Oldham family in the golf industry, having followed his grandfather, Russell Sr., and father, Bus, as Logan CC superintendents. He held that position for 32 years before moving to Logan River, having been lured by former Logan Mayor Randy Watts to upgrade the course’s condition. Maybe he was destined to do so eventually, having grown up a couple of houses away from Logan River Professional Jeff John. In 2019, the LRGC advisory board credited Oldham for the course being “in the best shape it has been throughout its entire history.”
In 2014, Oldham was honored as Superintendent of the Year by the peer group then called the Intermountain Golf Course Superintendents Association.
Working around the reality of COVID-19 is a theme of all of the Utah Section PGA’s 2020 awards. On the golf courses and in the golf shops, everyone involved has made adjustments during a unique year in the industry.
And that’s why Alan Davis of Willow Creek Country Club, the president of the Utah Golf Course Superintendents Association, is proud of the work that has been done at his facility in Sandy and throughout the state.
“Rolling with the punches would be a good way to sum it up,” Davis said. “Constantly modifying our operation throughout the year – dealing with labor issues, compliance issues and the high volume of play we received.”
Davis continued, “Our team did not back down. I owe every bit of this award to the staff; not only the grounds department, but the entirety of the staff of WCCC. We all were dealing with this unique situation and, through hard work and constant communication, I feel we rose to the occasion.”
Davis’ first job in the industry was as Willow Creek’s assistant superintendent in 2008-12. He then went home to his native North Carolina for two years, before working at Castle Pines in Colorado and Glenwild Golf Club in Park City, where he was the superintendent. He returned to Willow Creek in his current role in 2016.
Marty Bauer was not merely giving himself more chances to win when he entered six teams in the Pro-Assistants Championship. It’s true that he won the event with Craig Hocknull, and tied for fourth place with Carson Willis, and that Bauer’s holed-out approach from 93 yards for an eagle in the final round was a memorable shot.
Even so, the real significance of Glenwild Golf Club’s major presence in the field is how it reflects Bauer’s emphasis on developing his staff members. He rewarded them with the trip in St. George and is always conscious of helping them advance in the profession.
Bauer’s receiving the PGA Professional Development award stems from the way he was treated at various stops in his own career. As Glenwild’s director of golf, he couldn’t ask for a better situation. He wants his staff members to reach the point where they can say the same thing.
Bauer hopes they’ll acquire enough skills and expertise and “start looking for a better job,” he said.
The culture at Glenwild models what Bauer experienced at stops including Crooked Stick Golf Club in Indiana and Baltimore Country Club. He has returned to Park City after formerly working at Park Meadows Country Club.
Bauer “does a great job of listening to what his professionals have to say,” said Craig Hocknull, Glenwild’s director of instruction. “That’s a tremendous quality he has.”
And then Bauer helps those staff members try out those innovations, giving them more experience. “I’ve worked for some fantastic golf pros who helped me,” Bauer said, “and that’s what I want for all my team, to let them work within the system that we’ve created.”