AGA Announces 2009 Player Awards
Michael Wog II of Scottsdale earned AGA Player of the Year honors, while David McDaniel of Tucson captured the Mayfair Award for lowest stroke average. In addition, Divisional Player of the Year awards were garnered by Pat Geare (Masters) of Tucson, Frank Ellenburg (Senior) of Chandler and Jamie Gough (Legends) of Phoenix. The awards will be formally presented at the AGA Spring Meeting and Awards Banquet on March 4. Wog II, 28, started off strong and had a banner year finishing the season as the top ranked player in the AGA Performance Points standings. Making his presence early, he started 2009 with a four-tournament win streak that included his first AGA major championship with a stunning nine-stroke victory at the Arizona Publinks. He also captured wins at the East Valley Short Course, San Tan Amateur and Phoenix City Amateur. “This is a huge honor and now I’m only nine behind Ken Kellaney,” Wog said. “It really means a lot to me. The players that have won it in years past are phenomenal golfers. The last two years have been a nice progression from being a decent player, to being one of the better players and hopefully I can build upon that and keep getting better.” Two years ago, Wog decided to focus his energies on golf full time with a plan to make a run at turning professional. He quit his accounting job in Tucson and relocated to Scottsdale, working at P.F. Changs at night, so he could devote the days to his passion. Joining Moon Valley Country Club last year afforded him another opportunity to improve his game with the high-level of competition he was able to find on a daily basis. The hard work paid off right out of the gate in 2009. “My initial goal was to win a tournament, which I had never done before in an AGA event,” he said. “I did that at the East Valley Short Course and it gave me a lot of confidence. Then I won the Arizona Publinks and really played awesome that week.” He followed that up with a 10-shot victory a few weeks later at the Phoenix City Championship and a playoff win at the San Tan Amateur. In contention for the Arizona Champions Stroke Play, he posted a second place finish, breaking his winning streak. But he rebounded with a victory at the Mesa City Amateur and posted the low amateur finish (and 8th overall) at the Arizona Open Championship. In post-season play he was an integral member of the winning AGA Goldwater Cup team who regained the trophy after a lengthy losing streak of 25-years. Wog won all three of his matches and also participated on the victorious team in the Arizona-Utah Shootout. In addition, he made two USGA appearances: Qualifying for the US Mid-Amateur Championship and also as a representative of the Grand Canyon state at the USGA State Team Championship. He also finished in the top 15 at the Pacific Coast Amateur Championship which was played at The Gallery Golf Club. “The highlight of the year had to be winning the AZ Publinks by nine shots and the Phoenix City by 10,” he added. “Those were really big victories and I won by a lot. Those wins gave me the confidence that I was improving and getting better. To win those tournaments by those numbers was amazing and I look back and think how did I do all of this?” Like his predecessors before him, it was a lot of work and dedication that paid off with the ultimate golfing award for amateurs in the state. Already focused on 2010 he has his goals set for next year. “I plan to play one more year of amateur golf and work on doing better in national events,” Wog said. “I still have a few things to work on and have a few months without many tournaments to get primed for March and April. I really want to play in the U.S. Amateur that will be played in my home state of Washington and then if all goes well, go to PGA Tour Qualifying school in the fall and see what happens.” McDaniel, of Tucson, a former golfer at the University of Arizona had a breakthrough year with an impressive 67.96 stroke average for the year along with a thrilling finish on the 18th hole to win the Arizona Amateur Championship. He also notched a second consecutive runner-up finish at the Arizona Publinks Championship. “I played pretty good last summer,” he said. “Winning the Mayfair Award just tells me I played really consistent last year. But my stroke average wasn’t something I was thinking about, I just went out there to play. Now, I think it shows that my golf swing got better over the last few years and I was able to score consistently.” One of the longest drivers in the field, McDaniel picked up a victory at the Falcon Amateur by posting rounds of 65-66. He also earned medalist honors at the US Amateur Public Links Championship qualifier at Aguila Golf Course, with rounds of 68 and 63. He went on to successfully make match play in the US Public Links Championship in Oklahoma, finishing tied for eighth in the stroke play portion with rounds of 72 and 71. After a number of second place finishes over the last two years in AGA major championships, the crowning achievement for McDaniel was the Arizona Amateur victory. “I played pretty good in every single match,” he added. “Winning the Arizona Amateur was the best part of the summer for me. I believe that if you just put yourself in contention enough you will eventually win and that’s what I wanted to do. You can’t win if you aren’t consistently up high on the leader board. Those second places showed me how to play under pressure and helped me in the end, by having been there before and knowing what I needed to do to win.” Masters Division Geare, 47, an attorney, who only recently started taking competitive golf seriously, is making his presence felt and enjoying the competitive spirit the game has to offer. Among his accomplishments was a victory at the Northern Divisional Four-Ball, reaching the semifinals of the Senior Match Play Championship and a third place finish in the East Valley Divisional Four-Ball. “I am very honored and humbled to be selected this year,” Geare said. “There were several worthy candidates and it is nice to be recognized as one of the top players. Overall, I just played pretty consistent all year. In January I set certain goals and fortunately was able to accomplish them. Hopefully I will be able to do more of the same next year.” He also found success in Open events and finished fourth in AGA Performance Points rankings. At the Arizona Mid-Amateur Championship he posted a strong fifth place finish after flirting with the lead. He also had a third place finish at the Southern Amateur with two other top 10 finishes. “Two events that stand out for me this year were the Arizona Mid-Amateur Championship and the Divisional Match Play,” he said. “At the Mid-Am I was tied for the lead going into the final round. While I really enjoy the Divisional events, I still consider myself competitive against all ages and this was a big accomplishment for me. “The match play was a very fun event. The match, I lost against Rusty Brown was really good and memorable. I very much respect him and that was a very memorable day.” Another highlight for Geare was his outstanding performance in the AGA’s quest to regain the Goldwater Cup, having earned the maximum three points for his squad. “Although winning the Goldwater Cup was not a part of the equation for Player of the Year, beating the pros after losing for 25 years was a really great accomplishment and doing pretty well in those matches made it that much more special,” he said. Senior Player Ellenburg, 57, a former professional bowler, had a golfing year that many can only dream of. Having played the game most of his life, he didn’t start playing competitively until the mid 1990s and finally saw all his efforts culminate in a memorable season. “Words can’t describe how I feel, elated is the closest thing I can say,” Ellenburg said. “I never thought something like this could happen and didn’t know how to react. The more I thought about it the more excited I got about it. It’s a great honor and very unexpected.” In the five Divisional events he played, he won the Stroke Play Championship, Divisional Team Championship and East Valley Championship and finished second at the Divisional Match Play and Northern Divisional Four Ball. Never expecting to have the year that he did, things just started to fall in place. “I played okay when I would play Open events and at my age to make the cut in a major, I’m ecstatic,” he added. “In a Senior event, I feel more comfortable, playing my own age. Things starting going well in May. After the first day of the Senior Stroke Play I was five under. I said wow, that was smooth and really didn’t feel a lot of pressure. I just remembered the old cliché that it was just another golf tournament, play one shot at a time and I figured someone would go low the last day and blow me out. That didn’t happen and it got me thinking this could be the start of a good year and that was the first major I had won. And I just wanted to continue it.” Like so many before him, Ellenburg wanted a Kachina of his own, a trophy that has become the symbolic award for excellence in Arizona amateur golf. “I really wanted to get a Kachina,” he said. “I play a lot of AGA events and have had some good results, but to win a individual event that is a major means a lot since there are only two of them during the course of the year. That is always the goal, to get the Kachina and now I have one and I hope that is not the only one I get.” For any amateur golfer to qualify and participate in a USGA event can be an experience of a lifetime. To reach this pinnacle is always an accomplishment and for Ellenburg earning medalist honors to qualify for the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship was a dream come true and the moment wasn’t lost on him. “To qualify for a USGA event is something very few guys do,” he said. “Some of my buddies have, and then said ‘you just won’t believe how incredibly great you are treated and how fantastic the event is.’ It really showed me that this year was really something special, after winning the Stroke Play. I don’t know I will ever have another year like this. I hope I will, but you never know. This is my hobby that has turned into my passion.” Like so many others in the game, it was a passion he shared with his father, who he wishes could have been here to share in this joyous honor. Legends Player Gough, 66, a retired Air Force officer recently relocated to Phoenix from Virginia where he had been the Senior Golfer of the Year on a number of occasions. In just four events, he won three including the Divisional Match Play, Northern Divisional Four Ball and East Valley Four Ball. “I am very honored to have won this,” he said. “I didn’t expect to win anything. This is my first year playing in events and I really love it, especially being able to play all year long.” One of his highlights of the year also turned out to be a bit of a disappointment at the Match Play Championship, but not in the traditional sense most people would think. “I really enjoyed playing at Quintero Golf Club, but was disappointed I had a bye in the first round,” Gough said. “I really wanted to play more of the course. The highlight of the tournament was a very competitive round against Tony Petronis in the semifinals. The match came down to the final hole and I was lucky to get through.” While winning any award for performance is always an honor, it was made all that more special when he celebrated over the holidays with a reunion after his two sons returned home safely from Iraq and Afghanistan to cap off a memorable year.