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February 24, 2011 by Bruce Sandig

2010 AGA Player of the Year and Mayfair winners announced

by Bill Huffman

AGA PLAYER OF THE YEAR/MAYFAIR AWARD WINNER


  It is not unusual in the world of golf for an outstanding player to give up his amateur career and turn professional. But when an up-and-coming player actually holds off turning pro so he can remain an amateur, well, that’s a different story.

Kyle Kallan said he began the 2010 season with only one goal in mind: To become the Arizona Golf Association’s Player of the Year. And when he got to the end of the season and still had a chance for such an honor, he did what most players in a similar situation probably wouldn’t have done.

“The plan was to turn pro in January, but when January got here and I still was in the running for what had been my goal for the past year, I held off because I wanted that amateur award more than I’d ever wanted anything,” said Kallan, 23, a former Scottsdale Community College player who grew up in Peoria, where he still lives.

“It was the first time I’d ever set a goal in my life and it came true. And when it finally became official, I’ve never been more excited.”

Not only is Kallan the AGA’s POY he’s also the Mayfair Award winner after posting the lowest stroke average for the season. Kallan edged out Tucson’s David McDaniel for the honor by eight one-hundredths of a point.

“That was a complete surprise, because I didn’t even know I was in the running for that award,” said Kallan, whose 69.84 average for 18 holes bettered McDaniel’s 69.92.

“But getting that honor named after Billy Mayfair, that’s special, because Billy Mayfair represents everything that is great about amateur golf in Arizona.”

Kallan also is an excellent example of how hard work leads to success. He certainly got off to a humble start playing for Sunrise Mountain High School in Peoria, where he and his team finished third at the Class 4-A tournament, a finish he was unable to duplicate his last three years. But it got a whole lot better at Scottsdale CC, where his team won a national championship in 2007 and was runner-up in 2008.

“College did go well, with the team championship and a couple of top-20 individual finishes at nationals,” Kallan recalled. “The only problem was, academically, I was a little challenged and that ended up costing me a scholarship to the University of Arizona. . . .

“Losing that scholarship really bothered me, but in retrospect I was immature and had some bad study habits. I had always given golf 100 percent, but not 100 percent to school. I guess that’s the way it goes in life and in golf: You learn from your mistakes and move on.”

Kallan certainly made that part of his battle cry in 2010, as he posted seven top-10s in AGA play, including wins at the Arizona Four Ball and Northern Amateur, as well as “Ws” at the Phoenix City Amateur and Phoenix City Team Championship. He also was a co-medalist at the Arizona Amateur, where he lost in the second round, and at the Arizona Stroke Play Championship, where he finished sixth on the strength of a final-round 67.

“To be honest, the wins were good but setting out with a goal in mind to start the season – to be player of the year – and actually accomplishing that goal means more to me than anything else I’ve ever done in my life.”

Yes, being POY and the Mayfair winner are definitely building blocks for the future, which looks brighter every day for Kyle Kallan.

“It was a great season, a turning point that I’ll always look back on,” said Kallan, who plans to launch his pro career at Canadian PGA Tour Q-School in March.

“It’s why I’m working hard and practicing every single day.”

MASTERS DIVISION CO-PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

Patrick Geare backed up his 2009 season as the Masters Division Player of the Year by sharing honors for the same award with Rusty Brown in 2010. Both players had outstanding seasons, Brown winning the Match Play Championship while Geare took Stroke Play honors.

“It was a good year: I played well in the divisional events and ended up third in Open points,” said Geare, 48, a lawyer from Tucson who has been a dominant player in the 45-54 age division.

“Obviously, winning the Senior Stroke Play and Southern Amateur were highlights, but the biggest might have been making the AGA state team that got to play in the USGA national team competition. Even though I missed the Senior Match Play because of it, it was a thrilling experience to be on that team that played at beautiful Mayacama Golf Club (in Santa Rosa, Calif.).”

Geare, who was born and raised in the Old Pueblo and loves to tee it up at The Gallery when the opportunity arises, mostly plays public golf courses with the club he founded called Nine ’n’ Under (you must be a 9 handicap or better).

“We’re just a bunch of single-digit public golfers with no age limit who play the back tees and have some great weekly competitions,” said Geare, who didn’t start playing competitively until he was in his 40s.

Geare said the latest honor has him looking forward to the start of the divisional season, which comes May 9-10 at The Gallery.

“I told Rusty, I’ll see you in May for Chapter 3,” said Geare of the good-natured competition.

Brown, 54, also is a lawyer with a lot of game. A former member of Phoenix Country Club, where he captured the club championship six times, Brown has been a force in the public arena for the past three years.

As for the award Brown will share with Geare, well, that was just “a bonus” from winning the Match Play along with several other top finishes, like a runner-up in the Phoenix City Amateur, “where Kyle Kallan drummed everybody.”

“To be honest, I didn’t play all that well last year,” he said. “But for some reason, my best golf has come late in life, probably because I’m a better ball-striker and, I’m sure, because of modern technology.”

Brown certainly has had an interesting career. Besides his ASU days, he won the 1980 National Putting Championship in Las Vegas, a feat that earned him television exposure on ESPN and a check for $10,000. Just as notable, he and his father, Cap, captured the Arizona Father-Son back in 2002 on his father’s 80th birthday.

Like Geare, Brown said he is eager for the 2011 season to get under way.

“The last couple of years, Pat and I have just kind of gone back and forth, and that kind of competition has really been fun,” Brown noted. “And we’re not the only ones that can play in that division, which is loaded with a lot of good players.”

SENIOR CO-PLAYERS OF THE YEAR

It’s only natural that the two guys who won the two biggest tournaments of the AGA senior season – Bob Burton and Bob Munoz – are the AGA’s Co-Players of the Year. Yes, “What About Bob?” was the theme for 2010 in the 55-64 age division as Burton captured the Senior Match Play title and Munoz took the Senior Stroke Play crown.

Actually, Munoz might have done a little better had he not been felled by a problem with his liver during the Mid-Amateur Championship in August, a setback that cost him several starts in key tournaments. Then again, “I’m still alive and playing.”

“I almost died in 2004. In fact, I shouldn’t still be here,” said Munoz, 57, a financial adviser from Chandler who had to undergo a last-gasp liver transplant in May of that year after a rare form of Hepatitis A he contracted from contaminated food almost buried him – knocking him out of the game for nearly 18 months.

“Then this year, I was hospitalized when (the liver) got clogged at the Mid-Amateur, and that sidelined me out for a couple of months. But I came back strong, winning two out of three points in the Goldwater Cup, so that was a great way to end the season.”

Munoz called the latest honor “among my best” while also listing his AGA POY award in the Masters Division in 2003 and his appearance at the 2002 U.S. Team Championship as career highlights.

“I’m very fortunate to be here, to be able to walk, let alone play golf,” he said. “So every time you get something like this (award), well, you just appreciate it a little bit more.”

Burton, also 57, is a former golf club inventor from Everett, Washington who plays out of the Estancia Club. He came to Arizona in the mid-1970s on a golf scholarship at Arizona State.

“We had a great group of guys at ASU – Charlie Gibson, Tom Purtzer, Bob Gilder, Mark Sollenberger, Rocky Wade, Gary Jacobson, Rusty Brown,” Burton recalled. “After that I played various pro tours for a year or so and found out I wasn’t good enough when it came to putting the ball.”

So Burton hung around the game by creating Punch Golf, a wedge company that accounted for 14 wins on the PGA Tour without paying anybody. (“I still get calls from people wanting to know if I have any of those wedges left, and I do.”)

Burton, who once upon a time won the Insurance Youth Golf Classic (the Big I), the 1975 Washington State Amateur and several Pacific Northwest Golf Association titles, posted an impressive 71.64 scoring average last season. But remembering the details of his big win in the Match Play remain a little foggy, he said.

“I played very well in most of the AGA events I entered, and decently in a few national senior competitions,” Burton said. “And I plan to play in a lot more AGA events in 2011 because I really enjoy them.”

Not just the golf, but also the camaraderie, Burton added.

“It’s wonderful to get this honor because the Arizona Golf Association is a great organization. Plus, I have a lot of friends who are part of it, like Freddie Hickle, Dr. Ed (Updegraff) and Eddie (Gowan), who does a great job running it.”

LEGENDS DIVISION PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Tony Petronis has the formula for remaining “legendary.”

“I try to stay in shape and keep myself at a good weight,” said the 68-year-old Chicago native who captured the AGA’s Player of the Year Award in the Legends Division (65 and older).

“I work out at the health club probably two or three times a week, and I play golf another three or four times a week. I don’t hit balls any more so I spend a lot of time on my putting.”

Funny thing is Petronis’ season in 2010 all came down to putting, as he three-jacked the final hole of the Senior Stroke Play to lose by one shot to Mike Mahoney. Then in the Senior Match Play, where he was the medalist for all three divisions, Petronis holed a putt to beat Mahoney on the 19th hole of their championship match in the Legends.

But win, lose or draw, Petronis said he has always enjoyed tournament golf. That dates back to his early 20s, when he was an outstanding amateur growing up in the Windy City.

“I went to the seminary, and we didn’t have a golf team, and I also went to Loyola University, and we didn’t have a golf team there, either,” he recalled. “But every weekend, I was out there playing golf against some of the best players in Chicago.”

That lifestyle continued through his 30s and 40s, as Petronis claimed four club championships (1982, ’86, ’88 and ’94) and storied Medinah Country Club. Along the way he qualified for two U.S. Mid-Amateurs and a U.S. Amateur, while losing playoffs for the Illinois Senior Amateur and Senior PGA.

Among his other notable moments in the game, Petronis befriended Chicago golf kingpin Joe Jemsek and once took a lesson from the great Jack Grout at Muirfield Golf Club in Ohio.

“I’m not sure why, but as I got a little older my game improved a little bit,” said Petronis, who spent three years in Tucson before he and his wife moved to Phoenix in 2003, where they are members at Moon Valley Country Club. “But my best golf was probably in my 40s, when I won those club championships at Medinah.”

Petronis still has a connection, as members from Medinah and Moon Valley get together annually for the “Stroller Cup Matches,” a home-and-away series that started in the 1980s. And, of course, Petronis, who captured the club championship at Arrowhead Country Club last year at age 67, still loves the thrill of teeing it up for real.

“It’s true: I love playing in tournaments,” the good-natured Petronis chuckled. “That’s really where it’s at for me because it brings out the best in you, and it also brings out the worst.”