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March 28, 2016 by Joselyn

2015 Year in Review

Updegraff Award: John Souza

Established in 1990, the Updegraff Award is the AGA’s highest honor given in recognition of those who, by their actions, exemplify the spirit of the game. The award is named for Dr. Ed Updegraff of Tucson, honoring his lifetime contributions and dedication to amateur golf in Arizona.

John Souza, who began working for PING when he was still in high school and has been with the equipment maker for 35 years, is the 2015 recipient of the AGA’s highest honor - the Ed Updegraff Award When he was playing on the Grand Canyon University Golf Team, John Souza had the privilege of teeing it up twice with Dr. Ed Updegraff, never thinking that one day he would receive an award bearing the good doctor’s name.
“It was a shock,” Souza said. “You don’t do things to try to win awards. I don’t expect recognition for anything I’ve done, and it just really caught me off guard."
“Dr. Ed is an icon and not just here in Arizona. He’s a true gentleman, and I was fortunate to be able to play golf with him many years ago, which was an absolute pleasure. This is very humbling.”

Souza began with PING by working on a test range where Cave Creek Golf Course later was built, and now is head of the company’s WRX (Works) Division. In that role, he helped design clubs for their Adaptive Fitting Program, a program that custom-fits physically challenged golfers, many of whom are severely wounded veterans, with specialized PING technology built exclusively for them. PING is currently the only major golf club manufacturer with an organized adapting fitting effort.

In 2008 Souza, as a member of Moon Valley Country Club, established the Junior Golf University. Starting with fundamentals, the JGU provided junior golfers at Moon Valley CC with classroom and on-course instruction pertaining to the sport's history, rules, etiquette, agronomy, fitness, club fitting and the golf swing. As early participants learned the fundamentals of the game, they became eager to have a competitive aspect added so in 2009, they created the Arizona Junior Interclub Series which is now the PING Junior Interclub. This functions as a graduate level program within the original curriculum. What started as a program for a handful of kids at Moon Valley Country Club has now touched over 2,000 young golfers in four states.

Ed Updegraff is recognized as Arizona’s greatest golf ambassador. John Souza is another whose efforts follow in that path, helping grow more golfers who love the game in the spirit of Dr. Ed.

Doc Graves Volunteer of the Year: Roger Waterer

Each year the AGA staff honors an individual (other than an executive committee member) who most exemplifies volunteerism through his or her commitment of time and effort to the association. In 2010, this award was named after Robert "Doc" Graves, a long-time AGA volunteer who exemplifies the selfless contributions of time and dedication to serving golf in Arizona.

In 2015, we honor Roger Waterer as the Volunteer of the Year. Back home in England during the 60’s and 70’s, golf was viewed as an elitist sport that wasn’t an activity for individuals of his background. It wasn't until after Roger moved to Connecticut in the late 1970’s that he had his first golf experience at a corporate outing that ended up igniting his passion for the game. He spent 25 years in Connecticut, and wanting to learn more about the game, attended a rules workshop. This was his first formal introduction to the Rules of Golf.

Moving to Phoenix in 2011, his involvement in the AGA began a couple years later with an email to Courtney Smyser asking about any volunteer opportunities as he needed something to do in his retirement. Be careful what you ask for. Roger has since become one of the top Rules Officials in Arizona.

One of his favorite memories officiating with the AGA occurred a short time after he began volunteering. In the 89th Arizona Amateur Championship at Pinnacle Peak in 2013, he worked as an observer with Robin Farran in the quarterfinal and semifinal matches. Match play is a format that has always intrigued him, and watching players of such a high caliber compete against each other was something he had not experienced before. To this day, being a match play referee is one of the most enjoyable assignments for him.

Nowadays, you will find Roger expanding his role outside of just being a Rules Official. He is teaching workshops for junior golfers on the basics of the Rules and helping the AGA with golf course set-up prior to events. Even though he has scored 95 twice on the Rules of Golf test, he admits that there is still a lot to learn.

It seems as though it was just last year the guy with the accent and bucket hat came out to find something to do, but in a short amount of time Roger has become an integral part of the AGA and beyond.

Player of the Year: Ken Tanigawa

Ken Tanigawa’s name became synonymous with AGA Major Winner this season, thus earning him the honor of the AGA Player of the Year in 2015. One of the most consistent and talented amateur golfers in the state, Ken proved his skill by winning both the 91st Arizona Amateur and AZ Mid-Amateur Championships this season. He also represented the AGA as a member of the victorious Goldwater Cup Open Team and was 9th on the Players Cup Points list.

2015 Accomplishments: Winner- 91st AZ Amateur Championship, Winner- AZ Mid-Am Championship, Winner- 2014 Player's Cup, 2015 Goldwater Cup Team Member

Masters Player of the Year: Rick Bojalad

Rick Bojalad won his first ever AGA Tour event at the beginning of 2015 which helped set the tone for the rest of his successful 2015 season. He finished in the top 10 in 6 other events, including being a semi-finalist at the Senior Match Play Championship and tied for first at the Southern Amateur. He finished 4th on the Masters Players Cup Points list in 2015.

2015 Accomplishments: Winner- Short Course, T1- Southern Amateur, T9 - Tempe Amateur, 10th - 2014 Players Cup Championship, Semi-finalist- AZ Senior Match Play

Senior Player of the Year: Murphy Mitchell

Murphy Mitchell had a fantastic 2015 season posting numerous top-5 finishes in both divisional and open events. Known for his easy-going attitude, Murphy earned the title of Match Play Champion in the Senior Division and tied for 1st at the Southern Amateur. He almost added a second divisional major victory when he placed 2nd at the Senior Stroke Play Championship. He was a member of the Goldwater Cup, the AZ vs UT Shootout teams and finished 5th on the Players Cup Points list.

2015 Accomplishments: Winner- AZ Senior Match Play Championship, T1- Southern Amateur (Sr. Division), T2- AZ Senior Stroke Play, T3- San Tan Amateur, 2015 Goldwater Cup Team Member, AZ/UT Shootout Team Member

Legends Player of the Year: Terry Beels

Terry Beels was a newcomer in the Legends division in 2015 and he didn’t waste any time making a name for himself. After winning the AZ Senior Stroke Play Championship in a playoff at the beginning of May, Terry almost went on to win the Senior Match Play Championship before falling short in the championship match. Terry finished 5th on the Players Cup Points list in the Legends Division.

2015 Accomplishments: Winner- AZ Senior Stroke Play, Runner-up- AZ Senior Match Play

Mayfair Award: Blaine Staggs- 70.86 Scoring Average

The Mayfair Award is presented to the AGA member with the lowest stroke average from selected events during the season. To qualify, a contestant must: 1) Compete in at least one USGA qualifying round in AZ AND at least two AGA individual major championships, or 2) Compete in at least one USGA qualifying round in AZ AND at least one AGA individual major championship AND the NCAA Finals. Additional individual competitions that count toward this award are the Pacific Coast and Southwestern Amateurs (when contested in AZ), AZ Open, PING AZ Intercollegiate, ASU Thunderbird Invitational and the U.S. Open, Amateur, Mid-Amateur & Junior Amateurs. A contestant must return a minimum of twelve 18-hole scores from all above listed competitions and all rounds will be used to determine the scoring average.

Blaine satisfied the eligibility requirements for the Mayfair Award by posting 14 rounds from the following tournaments: AZ Publinks Championship, San Tan Amateur, AZ Stroke Play Championship, Southern Amateur, Northern Amateur, US Mid-Amateur Qualifier