Southwest Section PGA Names Annual Special Award Recipients

The Southwest Section PGA announced its 2009 Special Award Winners at its Annual Awards Dinner on January 15 at Firesky Resort & Spa in Scottsdale.  Brett Upper, 51, Director of Golf at Arizona Country Club since 1998, was named 2009 PGA Golf Professional of the Year, one of the highest honors the organization bestows on a working club professional whose total contributions to the game best exemplify the complete PGA Professional. An integral part of Arizona Country Club’s success for the past decade, Upper has served the club through renovations of its golf course and clubhouse facilities. A “traditional” PGA Professional, he has succeeded as a competitive player as well with several important accomplishments. The 1990 PGA National Club Professional Champion, 1991 European PGA Club Professional Champion and a former PGA Tour player, Upper has continued his stellar play while representing Arizona Country Club at the local and national level. However, it has been Upper’s exemplary representation as a member of the Executive Committee of the Southwest Section PGA that has distinguished him through the years. A Member of its Board of Directors since 2002, Brett has served the section in a number of different ways, including acting as tournament chairman from 2000-2005. Among Upper’s peers, leadership skills brought him the most respect while he served as President of the Southwest Section PGA from 2007-2009. During this period the section transitioned executive directors, revamped its tournament program and became more visible on the national scene. Terry Carlson of The Estancia Club says Brett Upper is one of the elite PGA professionals in the United States. Dean C. Vomacka, PGA, of Oro Valley and the Stone Canyon Club, was named 2009 Bridgestone Player of the Year. Vomacka, 39, won six events in 2009, including the PING Southwest Section PGA Championship at Mesa Country Club, and the Southern Chapter Championship at Golf Club Vistoso. He earned nearly $20,000 in 25 events, finishing inside the top 10 in all of them. Ralph West, PGA, of Avondale and the lead instructor at Drew Reid Golf located at Hillcrest Golf Club in Sun City West, was named 2009 Bridgestone Senior Player of the Year. West, who won four times in 2009, tied for fourth in the Southwest Section Championship and was second in the Southwest Section Senior Championship. He was fourth in the Bridgestone Player of the Year race won by Vomacka. Bill Grove, PGA, won the Bill Strausbaugh Award, which recognizes PGA Professionals “who by their day-to-day efforts have distinguished themselves by mentoring their fellow PGA Professionals in improving their employment situations and through service to the community.” Grove serves as a Regional Director of Operations and Revenue Management for Daily Fees for the PGA TOUR’s TPC Network as well as General Manager/Director of Golf at TPC Scottsdale. In 2006, he was awarded the Network’s General Manager Service Excellence and Platinum Awards. Grove was appointed General Manager of TPC Scottsdale in 1991. A Class A Member of the PGA of America, Grove began his golf management career after graduating from East Carolina University in 1969. He turned pro the following year but was unsuccessful in qualifying school. Combining his golf teaching and playing abilities with his desire to pursue a career in business management, Grove served as an Assistant Professional at several high-profile golf clubs throughout South Carolina including The Country Club of North Carolina in Pinehurst before being appointed Head Golf Professional in 1974 at Willow Creek Golf Club in High Point, North Carolina. He left in 1985 to found Gromark Incorporated, a golf management company focusing on new golf developments and golf course refurbishment. At the same time, Grove developed a popular instructional program throughout the Southeast called “Drills for Skills.” YouTube: John Jackson presents Bill Grove with the 2009 Bill Straughsbaugh Award. Christopher P. Cain, M.S., PGA, of Las Vegas won the Horton Smith Award, which recognizes the PGA Professional who is the model educator of PGA Golf Professionals. The award is designed to give special recognition to an individual PGA Professional for outstanding and continuing contributions to professional education. Cain, who has a B.S. and M.S. from The Pennsylvania State University, is director, PGA Professional Golf Management College of Hotel Administration, at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Cain, Vice-President, Southwest Section Southern Nevada Chapter since 2007, is an assistant professor and Ph.D. candidate at UNLV. Mark J. Croft, PGA, of Cocopah Golf Resort in Somerton, Ariz., won the Junior Golf Leader Award given to a professional who is a leader in junior golf and who reflects the ideals of those who work with youth. Croft demonstrated involvement in the promotion and development of junior golf at the club level, supported national junior golf programs and had a proven interest, concern and ability to provide opportunities and experience for junior to learn and play golf. Mike Malaska, PGA, of Mesa, was named Teacher of the Year, an award that is designed to recognize a PGA Professional who is an outstanding teacher of golf among the ranks of PGA membership. Malaska, Worldwide Director of Instruction for the Nicklaus Golf Academies, is one of the world’s most innovative golf instructors. Malaska, based at Superstition Mountain Golf & Country Club in Superstition Mountain, Ariz., has earned many of the industry’s top honors including being named among Golf Digest Magazine’s 50 Greatest Teachers and GOLF Magazine’s Top 100 Teacher lists. His decades of study of how the body functions during the golf swing and his outstanding playing credentials have made him a leader in combining physical fitness with golf swing mechanics. This award is based on a professional’s overall performance in teaching; unusual, innovative and special teaching programs initiated or implemented; articles published; as well as outstanding golfers the professional has instructed. Donald H. Rea Jr., PGA, and Gregory S. Leicht, PGA, were given the President’s Plaque, which is designed to recognize a PGA Professional for extraordinary and exemplary contributions and achievements in the area of player development. This award considers the PGA Professional’s growth of the game leadership commitment at the Section level and the impact made at the facility. Rea, of Gilbert, is based out of Augusta Ranch Golf Club and is co-founder of Your Source Golf, where he oversees operations for all managed facilities, business development and long term strategic planning. Leicht, of Chandler, is director of golf at Vistal Golf Club in Phoenix. Leicht hosted the 2009 Special Olympics State Golf Championships. And both men were instrumental in the success of “PGA Golf Day,” an event held at several Arizona golf courses in late May to benefit two worthy charities, including Arizona Special Olympics and the SWSPGA Golf Foundation. Other award winners were Kyle Jones of Snowflake and Dana Finkelstein of Chandler, both of whom won Junior Player of the Year honors. Jones and Finkelstein were the overall winners of the inaugural FBR Junior Open. Pamela D. Drake, PGA, of Randolph Golf Course in Tucson, Pat J. Miller, PGA, of Omni Tucson National Resort, and Ross L. Farley, PGA of Yuma Golf & Country Club won Merchandiser of the Year in public, resort and private categories, respectively. Preston O. Otte, PGA, of Sahuarita, was named assistant golf professional of the Year. He works at Heritage Highlands Golf Club in Marana. Southwest Section PGA 2009 Annual Award Winners 2009 Bridgestone Player of the Year—Dean Vomacka (The Stone Canyon Club) 2009 Bridgestone Senior Player of the Year-Ralph West (Hillcrest Golf Club) Girls Junior Player of the Year (Arch Watkins Award) — Dana Finkelstein (Chandler) Boys Junior Player of the Year (Bill Farkas Award) – Kyle Jones (Snowflake) President’s Plaque –Don Rea and Greg Leicht (Augusta Ranch and Vistal GC) Horton Smith Award —- Christopher Cain (University of Nevada Las Vegas) Junior Golf Leader — Mark Croft (Cocopah Golf Resort) Bill Strausbaugh Award — Bill Grove (TPC Scottsdale) Merchandiser of the Year (Public)—Pam Drake (Randolph Golf Course) Merchandiser of the Year (Resort) —- Pat Miller (Omni Tucson National Resort) Merchandiser of the Year (Private) —- Ross Farley (Yuma Golf and CC) Teacher of the Year — Mike Malaska (Superstition Mountain Golf & CC) Assistant Professional of the Year—Preston Otte (Heritage Highlands GC) Professional of the Year —- Brett Upper (Arizona Country Club) For more information call the Southwest Section PGA Office at (480) 443-9002.