Michael Hopper Earns Southwest PGA Player of the Year Honors
Michael Hopper captured the 2016 Southwest PGA Player of the Year in one of the closest races in Southwest PGA history after edging out Dennis Downs by 35 points. This is the fourth Player of the Year honor and third consecutive (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016) for Hopper. Jim Carter claimed the 2016 Southwest PGA Senior Player of the Year title. Both will be honored at the Southwest PGA Special Awards Ceremony on January 13 at Paradise Valley (Ariz.) Country Club.
Hopper, 32, PGA Assistant Golf Professional at Lookout Mountain G.C. in Phoenix, Ariz., began his season with a victory in the first Southwest PGA Player Series event held at Alta Mesa G.C. in Mesa, Ariz. He followed that up with a second place finish and tie for fifth in the next two Player Series events. Even with his strong start, he still trailed Downs, 34, PGA director of instruction at Reid/West Golf Academies (Pebble Creek), in the Player of the Year race.
Hopper next qualified for the national PGA Professional Championship (PPC) at Turning Stone Resort in Verona, N.Y., and finished tied for 36 in the 312 player field. He earned 100 points for that event and took the lead over Downs, a position Hopper held for the remainder of the season. He followed up the PPC with a victory in Southwest PGA Match Play Championship, the first major on the calendar and a tie for second in the Southwest PGA PPC. Heading to the final points event of the year, the Shriners Hospitals Section Qualifier, Hopper had a 28-point lead over Downs and finished tied for fourth compared to Downs’ finish of tied for 10th, which officially earned him the title.
Born in Denver, Colo., Hopper and his mother moved to Port Vila, Vanuatu, when he was a couple weeks old to be with his grandfather who was a civil engineer for Asian Development Bank. It was on the south pacific island that Hopper was introduced to golf by his grandfather who cut down a 3-wood and taught him the game on the only golf course on the island.
Hopper and his family moved back to the United States in 1993. He was a member of the Bellevue (Neb.) East High School golf team and, knowing he wanted to pursue a career in golf, entered the Professional Golf Management program at Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz.
Following graduation in 2008 from Arizona State, Hopper earned his membership in the PGA of America and was hired as the PGA Head Golf Professional at Toka Sticks G.C. in Mesa, Ariz., where he served one season before moving on to Lookout Mountain where he remains today.
Among his notable tournament accomplishments in Southwest PGA, Hopper has titles in two Match Play Championships (2011, 2016), a Southwest PGA Championship (2014), a Southwest PGA Assistant Championship (2014) and he played in the PGA Tour’s 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Hopper and his wife, Angelique, live in Phoenix, Ariz., and are the parents of a son, Aidan, and a daughter, Caidance.
The Southwest PGA Senior Player of the Year race was a wire-to-wire victory for Carter, who began the season earning 75 points after finishing second in the Tucson Conquistadores Classic, a PGA Tour Champions event, held at the Omni Tucson National's Catalina Course.
Carter, 55, PGA Life Member, earned the majority of Senior Player of the Year points in national events, including a tie for 44th in the Senior PGA Championship and a tie for 43rd in the U.S. Senior Open Championship.
Locally, Carter won the opening Senior Series event at Alta Mesa G.C. in Mesa, Ariz., finished tied for eighth in the Arizona Senior Open Championship and tied for second in the Southwest PGA Senior Championship. The Senior Player of the Year title is Carter’s second consecutive honor.
Carter attended Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz., from 1981-84, where he earned a spot on the men’s golf team. He went on to win the 1983 NCAA Championship becoming Arizona State’s first individual champion in men's golf and was twice named first-team All-American and All-Pac-10 conference. Carter was honored as ASU’s “Athlete of the Year” in 1983 and was awarded the Pac-10 Medal, the highest honor a student athlete can receive. He graduated in 1984 with a degree in Business and was inducted into the Arizona State University Hall of Fame in 1995.
Following college, Carter began his professional career in golf, first competing on the PGA Tour, and more recently, on the PGA Tour Champions. From 1985 to 2013 Carter played in 461 PGA Tour events and since becoming eligible for the Champions circuit in 2011, competed in 48 events. He had his best year on the PGA Tour Champions in 2016 participating in 17 events, finishing 47th on the Charles Schwab Money List. His has one victory on the PGA Tour, which came at the 2000 Touchstone Energy Tucson Open.
Carter won the Arizona State Amateur Championship (1981, 1984), Southwestern Amateur Championship (1983, 1984) and Arizona Open Championship (1989, 1996). He was inducted into the Mesa City Sports Hall of Fame in 2007. Carter was elected to membership in the PGA of America in 1987.
Carter and his wife, Cyndi, live in Scottsdale, Ariz., and are the parents of sons, Shane, Brant and Race.
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