Matt VanCleave Earns First Southwest PGA Player of the Year Honor
Ralph West Captures Southwest PGA Senior Player of the Year
For the second consecutive season, the Southwest PGA Player of the Year award was decided by just one point. Matt VanCleave edged out Craig Hocknull in the final event of the season and captured his first Player of the Year honor. In a race that was just as close and also came down to the final event, Ralph West claimed the Senior Player of the Year title over Randy Wittig by 14 points. Both VanCleave and West will be honored at the Southwest PGA Special Awards Ceremony on February 21, 2019.
Trailing Hocknull by two points entering the Shriners Hospital Children Open Section Qualifier, VanCleave finished tied for second in the Qualifier, earning 22 points and Hocknull, 43, PGA Director of Instruction at Saber Golf, tied for sixth, earning 19 points. VanCleave eagled his final hole in the Qualifier securing the additional three points, giving him a total of 571 points for the season to Hocknull’s 570.
After a tie for fifth in the first Player Series event at Mesa (Ariz.) Country Club, VanCleave, 36, PGA Assistant Golf Professional at Superstition Mountain Golf & Country Club finished second at Moon Valley Country Club in Phoenix, first at Grand Canyon University Golf Course in Phoenix and first at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club in Fort McDowell.
In the first major of the year, the Southwest PGA Match Play Championship, VanCleave lost in the semi-finals to defending champion Michael Hopper. In August, VanCleave finished tied for fourth in the Southwest PGA Professional Championship (PPC) at Superstition Mountain and earned a spot in the 52nd PGA Professional National Championship scheduled to take place April 28-May 1, 2019 at Belfair of Bluffton, South Carolina. VanCleave finished the Southwest PGA majors with a tie for 12th in the 75th Arizona Open Championship at Troon Country Club and tie for second in the 61st PING Southwest PGA Championship at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Club.
VanCleave made the cut in every Section major he played in and finished with a total of 360 holes in Section events this year. He finished with an impressive 67.5 scoring average and carded a total of 105 birdies, averaging 5.25 per round, with 12 rounds in the 60’s for the 2018 season. He played the par 5’s at -35-under par, the par 4’s at 34-under par and the par 3’s at 3-under par.
Born in Maryville, Mo., VanCleave took the game of golf up at a young age. His high school team won the Missouri State High School Team Championships in 2000 & 2001 and he was the individual state champion in 2000. Following high school, VanCleave played golf at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., where he was selected to the 2005 All-Big 12 team and was named Academic All-American in 2004 & 2005.
Following college, VanCleave turned professional with employment stops at Troon North Golf Club and Toka Sticks Golf Club. He earned his membership in the PGA of America in 2017 and was promoted to the PGA Head Golf Professional at Toka Sticks for two seasons before accepting his current position at Superstition Mountain.
This is the first Southwest PGA Player of the Year award for VanCleave.
VanCleave and his wife, Sarah, live in Mesa, Ariz., and are the parents of a son, Max, and a daughter, Madeline.
West trailed Wittig the entire year in the Southwest PGA Senior Player of the Year race. Behind by 36 points entering the final event, the National PGA Senior Professional Championship, West finished tied for 73rd, earning 100 points and Wittig, 58, PGA Director of Instruction at Gainey Ranch G.C., failed to make the cut and earned 50 points. The additional 50 points were enough for West to secure Senior Player of the Year honors with a total of 212 points to Wittig’s 198 points.
West, 61, PGA Director of Instruction at Reid West Golf Academies, made the most of the eight events he played in during the 2018 season. His finished tied for sixth, first, 19th and tied for second, respectively, in the four Senior Player Series events. At the end of August, West finished tied for seventh in the Southwest PGA Senior Championship/PPC, which was bookended by a tie for 11th in the Southwest PGA PPC and a ninth-place finish in the 61st PING Southwest PGA Championship. He finished with a scoring average of 69.6 that included 53 birdies - an average of 4.08 per round - for the year. He played the par 5’s at 19-under par, the par 4’s at 3-under par and the par 3’s at 3-over par.
Born in Cardston, Alberta Canada, West was a multi-sport athlete in high school playing football and basketball. Following high school he attended Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho, where he was a member of the baseball team.
West earned his membership in the PGA of America in 1990 while he was a PGA Assistant Golf Professional at Progress Downs Golf Course (now RedTail Golf Center) in Beaverton, Ore. Following six years at Progress Downs, West relocated to Arizona for a position at Rolling Hills Golf Course in Tempe, where he stayed a season before accepting the PGA Head Golf Professional position at Tres Rios Golf Club in Goodyear. He taught at John Jacobs Golf Schools, Desert Mirage Golf Course and Hillcrest Golf Club before co-founding Reid West Golf Academies in 2011.
Among his many playing achievements, West competed in two United States Senior Open Championships and two Senior PGA Championships. He captured the 2007 Southwest PGA Senior Championship and numerous Senior Player Series victories.
This is the fourth Southwest PGA Senior Player of the Year honor for West (2009, 2013, 2014).
West and his wife, Lorri, live in Surprise, Ariz., and are the parents of daughters, Nicole, Crystal, Ashley and Chelsea.
About The Southwest Section PGA:
The Southwest Section of the PGA of America is a professional organization serving the men and women golf professionals in Arizona and Southern Nevada who are the recognized experts in growing, teaching and managing the game of golf. The Southwest PGA is responsible for the administration of competitive golf tournaments, junior golf programs and events, educational opportunities, support programs and growth of the game initiatives. With over 1284 members and associate members, the Southwest PGA is the fifth largest of the 41 regional entities or Sections that comprise the PGA of America. For more information about the Southwest PGA, please visit www.southwestpga.com and join us on social media at www.facebook.com/swsectionpga, twitter.com/swsectionpga and www.instagram.com/southwestpga.
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