Plata, Howe Earn 2021 Patriot All-America Titles After Stellar Final Round at the Wigwam Golf Club
LITCHFIELD PARK, Ariz. – Michigan State University senior Valery Plata and Georgia Tech University senior Connor Howe went low in Friday’s final round of the 11th annual Patriot All-America to win their respective divisions. Plata birdied 18 for a -4 (66) to finish off a three-shot win at -12 overall on The Wigwam Golf Club Blue Course, while Howe tied the Patriot All-America low round mark of -7 (63) to finish -15 overall on Golf Course, also good for a three-shot victory. View the final leaderboard here.
“I didn’t know where I stood with the rest of the field coming up 18, so I just wanted to give myself a good look and not make any big numbers, and that’s what I did,” said Howe, whose 255-yard albatross on the par-5 10th hole shot him to the top of the leaderboard, part of a -7 (28) back nine. “I knew I needed to get something going – I didn’t know how much – but the albatross really kicked things into gear.”
“It feels really special – I’m just really happy to be able to get it done,” said Plata, a native of Floridablanca, Colombia, and a former Big 10 Player of the Year. “It was a hard day today at the beginning so I’m just happy that things worked out my way today.”
Plata came into the final round tied for the lead, but a double bogey on the par-5 3rd hole of The Wigwam Blue Course dropped her down the leaderboard. She would rebound to make six birdies in her last 15 holes to win the inaugural Women’s Division, three shots clear of Clemson University junior Ivy Shepherd at -9. Arizona State University sophomore Ashley Menne finished alone in third at -8, with Sabrina Iqbal of Texas Christian University, Caley McGinty of Oklahoma State University and Natasha Andrea Oon of San Jose State University tying for fourth. But no one could catch Plata.
“I was pretty confident on my approach shots,” said Plata. “I wasn’t hitting it all that great, but I hit a couple good ones, and then the putter was rolling in pretty well so I think that helped me a lot.”
Over on The Wigwam Gold Course, Howe made the turn at -8, two shots off the lead, before landing a 3-iron just short of the hole, finding the cup after one hop. He would go on to make five more birdies to finish the back nine at -7, the lowest closing nine in Patriot All-America history.
“I just started putting well – I made some putts on 12 and 13 and I had some good looks at birdie – and I capitalized,” said Howe. “Howe quote.”
Palmer Jackson of the University of Notre Dame shot a second consecutive -3 (67) to finish alone in second at -12 overall. Nick Lyerly of UNC-Greensboro, first round leader Chase Sienkiewicz of the University of Arizona, Mason Andersen of Arizona State University and 36-hole leader Hunter Eichhorn of Marquette University all tied for third at -11 overall.
The Patriot All-America honors fallen or severely wounded soldiers in partnership with the Folds of Honor Foundation. The golfers received a golf bag donated by PING Corporation at the event’s opening ceremony this past Sunday emblazoned with the name and branch of service of a fallen or injured military member whom they shall represent. Participants also received a card with the soldier’s story so they can be familiar with that soldier.
For all information on the Patriot All-America, visit patriotallamerica.com. For in-depth extended coverage of the Patriot All-America, follow on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
About The Patriot All-America Invitational
Featuring golf’s stars of tomorrow, The Patriot All-America is regarded as a top amateur event nationally, attracting PING All-America golfers from all three NCAA Divisions, NAIA and NJCAA rankings as well as from universities outside the United States. The Arizona Golf Association (AGA), JDM Partners and the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) partnering with the Folds of Honor Foundation to host the tournament. For more information visit patriotallamerica.com.
About Wigwam Golf Club
The Wigwam’s three 18-hole championship golf courses offer a diversity that cannot be matched by any other Arizona resort, with 54 holes of championship golf including two courses designed by the legendary Robert Trent Jones, Sr. The Gold Course has hosted many signature tournaments over the years, including numerous U.S. Open Qualifiers, U.S. Amateur Qualifiers, several NCAA Regional Championships and the annual Patriot All-America Invitational, one of the top amateur competitions in the world. The 7,430 yard, par 72 track has also received various industry awards and accolades since opening in 1965, including being named one of the “Top 100 Golf Courses in America.” In December 2009, The Wigwam (including the golf courses and resort property) was purchased by JDM Partners, led by sports icon Jerry Colangelo. For more information, please visit www.wigwamgolf.com.
About Arizona Golf Association
The Arizona Golf Association has been serving amateur golfers in Arizona since 1923 when it held the first State Amateur Championship. Today, it is licensed by the United States Golf Association to provide handicapping and course rating services to member clubs, to provide tournament and rules expertise and to oversee the application of amateur status.
About Golf Coaches Association of America
Established in 1958, the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA) is the professional organization of golf coaches. The GCAA’s mission is to support its member coaches by creating educational opportunities, providing resources, and promoting its members with the purpose of enhancing their overall performance as coaches, mentors, and teachers. The GCAA also recognizes the excellence and achievements of its members and their student-athletes in academic, athletic and civic endeavors.
About The West Valley Mavericks
The West Valley Mavericks Foundation (a 501(c)(3) non-profit) was born of the imagination and vision of a group of community leaders late in 2012. The West Valley Mavericks (or just ‘Mavericks’) is a group led by gentlemen who believe that the West Valley is an incredible place to live, work, and play. The Mavericks’ charter is to advance charity, culture, community, and commerce in the West Valley of Phoenix. As an organization, we use individual contributions, fundraising events, business sponsorships, ticket sales donations, as well as hands-on community service to raise money to assist children and families, help people in need, and improve the quality of life in our West Valley communities. For more information please visit westvalleymavericksfoundation.org.
Meet the Newest Arizona Golf Hall of Fame Inductees
SCOTTSDALE, AZ – On November 23rd, the Arizona Golf Hall of Fame recognized and inducted four exceptional individuals into the 2020-2021 Hall of Fame Class. Those honored at the induction ceremony were John Gunby, Tina Tombs, Mark Woodward and the Desert Mashie Golf Club.
These individuals were chosen because they have distinguished themselves by going above and beyond the norm in golf in the state of Arizona, whether they are players, professionals, managers, administrators, industry leaders or volunteers to the allied associations. The Hall of Fame is a means to perpetually honor their legacy, continue reading to learn about the newest inductees and their contributions.
John Gunby, Southwest Section PGA Professional
A 2017 recipient of the AGA Champion of Golf Award recognizing “Selfless lifetime service to the Game of Golf in Arizona,” John Gunby’s dedication to serving the game for the last 40+ years is well-documented and recognized by his peers. He has orchestrated a fundraising golf tournament for the Wounded Warriors Foundation on Veterans Day and has been very involved from the outset with the Southwest PGA’s and the national PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) initiative including orchestrating a PGA HOPE Comedy Show to raise funds for PGA HOPE programs.
In 2019, Gunby received the Southwest PGA Patriot Award, which bestows special recognition on a PGA Professional who personifies patriotism through the game of golf and demonstrates unwavering commitment and dedication to the men and women who have valiantly served and protected the United States. The 2013 Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year, Gunby was recently announced as an enshrinee into the 2019 Southwest PGA Hall of Fame.
Tina Tombs, Professional Golfer and Instructor
A two-time NCAA All-American in 1984 and 1985 at Arizona State University, and an ASU Hall of Fame inductee in 2006, Tina Tombs competed on the LPGA Tour after graduation and won the 1990 Jamie Farr Toledo Championship. She has been a member of the LPGA ever since, as a competitive player on the tour and now on the Legends Tour, and as an accomplished teaching professional.
In 2014 and 2018, Tombs was named the LPGA National Teacher of the Year. She earned the Arizona Golf Association’s Updegraff Award in 2017, given annually to the person who “… by his or her actions and accomplishments exemplify the Spirit of the Game.” Other awards include 2014 and 2018 LPGA Central Section Teacher of the Year; 2015 Marilynn Smith Service Award; Golf Digest’s Best Teachers in Arizona, 2017- 20; Teaching and Club Pro’s Top 50 LPGA Teachers, 2017-20; and GOLF Magazine Top 100 Teacher since 2019.
“When I think about my career, I feel overwhelmed,” said Tombs. “I have put my heart and soul into this game. I am blessed to have received so much from the game of golf and its beautiful community. I wake up every morning and I am filled with gratitude, even more so after this year, that my office is the golf course. It is the honor of my career to be recognized by the Arizona Golf Hall of Fame!”
Mark Woodward, Superintendent
Mark Woodward is a Certified Golf Course Superintendent/Director of Agronomy (CGCS) who has over 50 years of experience in many facets of the golf industry, forty-five of those in Arizona. His diverse career has included both stints as a Superintendent and Administrator, most recently serving as the Director of Agronomy at Whisper Rock Golf Club in Scottsdale.
As the City of San Diego’s Golf Operations Manager in 2005, Woodward was responsible for preparing the Torrey Pines South Golf Course to host the 2008 U.S. Open, working closely with the United States Golf Association (USGA). For his efforts at Torrey Pines, Woodward was recognized by Golf Inc. Magazine as one of golf’s “Most Admired Operators” in 2006 and in the Top 35 “Most Powerful People in Golf’ in 2008 and 2009. He served as CEO of the Golf Course Superintendent Association of America (GCSAA) from 2008 through 2010, and was a Senior Vice President of Operations for Scottsdale-based OB Sports Golf Management from 2013 through 2017. Woodward served on the Cactus and Pine Golf Course Superintendents Association board of directors on three separate occasions dating back to the 1980’s, and currently as President.
“I was extremely humbled and taken a little off-guard to be selected for this honor,” said Woodward. “By far, the most rewarding part of my career in golf has been all the inspirational people I’ve met and worked with. They are the true foundation of the golf industry.”
Desert Mashie Glf Club, Industry Leader
During the years of segregation when golf was a restrictive game and most courses were prohibitive or private, a group of ten professional African American men – the Desert Mashie founding fathers – came together and challenged that limitation. The Desert Mashie Golf Club was founded in 1946 as an organization “for all persons interested in golf regardless of race, or ethnicity,” one of the oldest independent clubs in Arizona. They stated the organization did not practice, permit or condone segregation or discrimination in any form because of color, race, creed, religion, national origin or gender orientation in order to foster their love of golf and expand the sport in the community.
The club defined its purpose, commitment and outlined a program for growth, with five objectives established:
1. To provide instructions and clinics for its members
2. To provide organized competition for its members
3. To promote a golf program for youth
4. To promote a program for women
5. To develop better public relations in the total golf community
In 1948, Desert Mashie held its first annual golf tournament and in 1950, Desert Mashie joined the United States Golf Association (USGA). In 1954, Desert Mashie Golf Club became a charter member of the Western States Golf Association (WSGA) whose 30 member clubs span six western states.
A past president, Dr. William “Bill” Dickey, was one of the most decorated servants of the golf industry. Fervently believing in a college education for youth through golf, Dr. Dickey was one of the founders of the PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship, and in his own BDSA Foundation, distributed over 1,000 scholarships to college-bound minority golfers. An Arizona Golf Updegraff Awardee recognizing his spirit and service, he also was presented with The PGA Distinguished Service Award in 1999, its highest honor.
“We are so honored and grateful to be named to the Arizona Golf Hall of Fame,” said Carolyn Suttles, Desert Mashie Club President. “The mission of Desert Mashie has always been about our Junior Golfers. The fact that we have helped send young people off to college – and the alumni from our Junior Program – to work not only in golf but in a myriad of professional careers, is proof of the impact our organization has had on this community.”
You may be thinking, “How are the inductees selected?”
Well, there’s a committee for that, and it’s called: The Hall of Fame Committee. It consists of representatives from five of the allied golf associations serving golf in Arizona; Arizona Golf Association, Cactus & Pine Golf Course Superintendents, Club Managers Association, Junior Golf Association of Arizona and the Southwest Section PGA. The Arizona Golf Association created the Arizona Golf Hall of Fame in 1968 and since that time, there have been 72 individuals inducted.
You can learn more about the process at https://www.arizonagolfhalloffame.com/.