Greg Leicht Honored as the Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Greg Leicht, PGA Director of Golf for the City of Phoenix, has been named the 46th recipient of Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year Award, the highest annual honor bestowed by the Southwest PGA on a PGA Professional.
“Words can’t describe how honored I am to be named the Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year,” said Leicht. “Being a PGA Professional in the Southwest Section means everything to me. I have been blessed to work at great facilities for outstanding individuals who supported me along the way. Throughout my career I have worked hard to always give back the community, fellow PGA Professionals and the Section and to be recognized by my peers with this tremendous honor means the world to me.”
Leicht heads the 2019 Southwest PGA Awards class for “qualities of leadership, strong moral character, and a substantial record of service” to the Southwest PGA and the game of golf. He will be honored at the Southwest PGA Awards Ceremony on February 20, 2020. The evening’s program will feature all 2019 Southwest PGA Award winners:
The Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year – “Leadership is not about being the best; it’s about making everyone else better” is a quote Greg Leicht has used for inspiration during his career. Leicht, PGA Director of Golf for the City of Phoenix, is the 46th recipient of Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year Award, the highest annual honor bestowed by the Southwest PGA on a PGA Professional.
Born in Anderson, Ind., Leicht, 52, was introduced to golf at the age of nine by his grandfather in the small Indiana town. Although he was immediately drawn to the game, Leicht’s passion was on the baseball diamond. His family moved to Arizona when he was 11. Leicht attended Scottsdale High School, and after it closed, spent his final two years at Saguaro High School, where he was a three-sport standout in baseball, football and basketball.
Choosing to focus on baseball, Leicht attended Scottsdale Community College and Phoenix College, playing baseball at both schools. Following college, Leicht was in search of a new career path but wanted to remain in sports so he reverted to the game his grandfather taught him many years earlier.
Leicht began his career in golf at Coronado Golf Club in Scottsdale, working on the maintenance crew for PGA Professionals Milt Coggins and Southwest PGA Hall of Famer, Tom Lambie. He would work his shift in the morning and return in the evening to practice and hit balls on the range. During his time at Coronado he would ask Coggins and Lambie “a million questions” on having a career in golf and becoming a PGA Professional. Their guidance and support helped him earn an outside services attendant position at TPC Scottsdale. During his six years at the club, he worked his way up to an assistant golf professional, and finally, tournament director overseeing 400 events per year including working closely with the Thunderbirds and the PGA Tour for the Phoenix Open.
After gaining valuable experience at TPC Scottsdale, Leicht was hired in 1997 by another Southwest PGA Hall of Famer, John Jackson, to serve as the Tournament Director at The Phoenician in Scottsdale. During his time at The Phoenician, he achieved his membership in the PGA of America in 1998.
Leicht earned his first PGA Head Golf Professional position after the Thunderbirds hired him to oversee a new course under construction – Thunderbirds Golf Club. The course was renamed Vistal Golf Club and over the next 14 years Leicht served as the PGA Head Golf Professional, PGA Director of Golf and the PGA General Manager. It was at Vistal that Leicht realized another passion – Special Olympics.
Former Special Olympics Arizona CEO Chris Hite was looking for volunteers and Leicht immediately stepped up to help, despite not really knowing what he was volunteering for. After attending one Special Olympics Arizona golf practice he was hooked. He coached teams in Mesa, encouraged the growth of unified golf and unified sports in the entire Special Olympics community, developed the off-season Friendship Golf League, traveled the country as the head of the Arizona delegation for Team Arizona and recruited numerous PGA Professionals to get involved with the organization. He took the lead for the Special Olympics Arizona State Golf Championships and made it an Olympic-style competition. The first year he had 85 athletes competing, and at the peak, had over 425 athletes participating. While at Vistal Golf Club, Leicht hosted the Special Olympics State Golf Championships for 12 years and continues to be a driving force with the Championships now at Sun City (Ariz.) Country Club.
In 2015 Leicht accepted the PGA General Manager position at Cascata in Boulder City, Nev., a high-end golf course owned by Caesars Entertainment. Under his leadership during the two years he was at Cascata, revenues grew to all-time highs. At this time he also earned PGA Certification in General Management.
Leicht returned to the valley for similar positions at Bear Creek Golf Club and Encanterra Country Club before accepting his current position with the City of Phoenix, overseeing all aspects of operations for the city’s seven golf courses.
In addition to his passion and commitment to Special Olympics, Leicht has been very involved with the Southwest PGA. He has chaired and served on virtually every committee in the Section and for the Southwest PGA Foundation. His service culminated in 2014 when he was elected the 22nd President of the Southwest PGA. Prior to that, he served as Vice President (2013-14), Secretary (2011-13) and, following his term as President, became Honorary President of the Section (2017-19). He continues to volunteer his time with the Section on committees and as a rules official at Southwest PGA events.
Leicht was the driving force behind the Southwest PGA License Plate in Arizona. With the help of lobbyists and Leicht’s navigation of the legislation process, taking two different sessions, the license plate was approved and on the roadways in 2016. Proceeds from the license plate sales go to the Southwest PGA Foundation and all the initiatives it supports.
Among his many honors, Leicht was recognized with the 2006 Southwest PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award for his work in mentoring fellow PGA Professionals, the Southwest PGA Player Development Award (formally the President’s Plaque) in 2008 & 2009 and the National Special Olympics Conrad Rehling Award in 2011. Rehling was the founding father of the Special Olympics Golf movement and spearheaded The PGA of America’s efforts to introduce golf to Special Olympics. It is presented to PGA Professionals who give back to those with intellectual and physical disabilities.
Leicht and his wife, Carol, live in Gilbert, Ariz., and are the parents of daughters, Alexis, Sara, Ellie and Megan.
The Southwest PGA Assistant Golf Professional of the Year – Reed Black, PGA Assistant Golf Professional at Paradise Valley (Ariz.) Country Club, has been named the Southwest PGA Assistant Golf Professional of the Year.
Born in Saginaw, Mich., and raised in Frankenmuth, Mich., Black, 30, learned the game at an early age from his father, PGA Master Professional Mark Black, at The Fortress Golf Course. After high school, where he was a two-time All-State selection on the golf team, Black enrolled into the Professional Golf Management program at Arizona State University. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the WP Carey School of Business in 2012, and following graduation, became a member of the PGA of America.
Shortly after earning his membership, Black accepted a PGA Assistant Golf Professional position at Pinnacle Peak Country Club in Scottsdale, where he remained for three years before returning to his home state for the same position at Spring Meadows Country Club in Linden, Mich. In the fall of 2018, Black returned to the valley in his current role as the First Assistant PGA Golf Professional at Paradise Valley Country Club.
Among his duties at Paradise Valley, Black oversees four other assistant professionals by monitoring their progress and growth in the industry. Whether he’s helping PGA Associates with completion of the program or involvement with other PGA Members, Black tries his best to instill the love of the game in everyone he knows.
As an active member of the Southwest PGA, Black prides himself on competing in numerous tournaments throughout the year. He finished tied for third in the first major of the 2019 season – the Southwest PGA Match Play Championship, had numerous top 10 finishes and ended the year in 13th place in the 2019 Southwest PGA Player of the Year race. His playing accomplishments have been monumental in providing quality instruction and clinics. In addition to teaching, Black prides himself in membership development and tournament management.
Black and his wife, Alyssa, live in Scottsdale, Ariz., and are the parents of a son, Beau, and a daughter, Emma.
The Southwest PGA Teacher of the Year – Susie Meyers, PGA Director of Instruction at Ventana Canyon Golf & Racquet Club in Tucson, Ariz., has been named the Southwest PGA Teacher of the Year for her outstanding performance as a golf teacher, innovator and coach.
Born in Fort Walton Beach, Fla., Meyers, 59, was raised in the Phoenix area and played on the women’s golf team at Agua Fria High School in Avondale. Following high school, she continued her athletic career at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where she earned the number one spot on the woman’s golf team as a freshman. She earned All-America honors that year and again as a senior in 1982, graduating the same year with a Bachelor of Science degree in Finance.
Meyers has gotten where she is today through the past 45+ years of educating, teaching, coaching and playing golf in high school, college, and her three years on the LPGA Tour. Every experience has added value to what is offered to her students. With a unique and somewhat unorthodox career path, Meyers believes that is what makes her teaching so special. The experiences of playing on the LPGA Tour and competing in major championships has allowed her to offer that knowledge to players at the highest levels. The ability of knowing what a player is going through when preparing for Qualifying School, U.S. Opens, PGA Tour events and high school championships helps the relationship between the player and coach.
Her insights, intuition, and ability to communicate with each player is the core of her coaching and is required for a player’s own personal development. Knowing that each player is different, has their own set of strengths and weaknesses, and requires a program tailored to their individual needs comes naturally from her past of finding out what works and what does not.
After gaining her PGA membership in 1994, Meyers began teaching in the Metropolitan Section PGA without any experience on how to convey ideas or how to help people learn the game. After attending PGA education seminars with notable instructors Jim McLean, Michael Hebron, Darryl Kestner and Hank Haney she developed a way of coaching that is unique, personal, and meets the player right where they are. Having the ability to share ideas with Michael Hebron has been one of the most valuable experiences in her professional career. His insight into how students learn has been the basis for her coaching style. Meyers has the insatiable appetite to learn and has gone to great efforts to keep current and fresh with new ideas.
Meyers has served the members of Ventana Canyon for over 25 years helping golfers from beginner to professional and has a great knowledge of how the mental game affects a player’s performance. Her way of coaching allows golfers to enjoy the game more and improve their skills in a manner that does not bog them down with unnecessary details.
In every session with her students, Meyers’ approach comes from the “Point A Golf” method that she created. A personal quote of hers is, “Your point of view about the game will make it so. If you believe golf is difficult, it is. If you believe the game to be complex, it is. I believe golf is one of the simplest games of any games to play. Because it is so simple, it can be a difficult game to learn.” Point A Golf was created to organize the principles that she has coached over the years, making the game simpler and helping others learn in the easiest manner. Point A is a term that is used to allow a golfer to play one shot at a time. At Point A, there is no past or future, there is only the present moment.
As an accomplished player and coach, Meyers still has the love for competition. She plays in Southwest PGA Southern Chapter events while maintaining a very busy teaching career that earned her recognition as one of the Top 100 Teachers in America by Golf Magazine, Golf Digest Best Teachers in Arizona, and PGA Southwest Southern Chapter Teacher of the Year in 2012.
She recently published her first book, Golf from Point A which puts the spotlight on the mental approach to the game. Golfers of all levels have been influenced by Susie’s philosophy of staying positive and playing each shot as a brand-new beginning.
She was honored with induction in the first class in the Agua Fria High School Sports Hall of Fame.
Meyers and her husband, Dan, live in Tucson, Ariz., and are the parents of a daughter Carly, and a son, Christopher.
The Southwest PGA Youth Player Development Award – Doug Hammer, PGA Director of Instruction at Troon North Golf Club of Scottsdale, Ariz., is the recipient of the Southwest PGA Youth Player Development Award. The honor recognizes a PGA Professional who has displayed extraordinary and exemplary contributions and achievement in the area of youth player development.
Born and raised in Donnellson, Iowa., Hammer, 42, began his junior golf career at his home club and credits golf for the lifestyle he lives today. He relocated to Arizona in 1997 to enter the golf business with Troon Golf as an assistant professional at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale. It was at Kierland where Hammer began teaching and found his passion for helping others.
Hammer earned his membership in the PGA of America in 2001, and, after a stint as the PGA Head Golf Professional at the Westin Mission Hill Resort in Rancho Mirage, Calif., he decided teaching was what he was most passionate about. To focus on teaching, Hammer returned to the Midwest after accepting the PGA Director of Instruction position at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa in Galena, Ill. At Eagle Ridge he began working with Troon Golf Director of Education, and Top 100 teacher, Tim Mahoney. Armed with the knowledge passed down from Mahoney, Hammer decided to move back to Arizona where he spent four years as a PGA Teaching Professional at Talking Stick Golf Club in Scottsdale before accepting his current position in 2007 at Troon North.
Hammer enjoys working with juniors and seeing how much they enjoy the game. He is involved with all the youth player development programs at Troon North, including his youth instruction programs, PGA Junior League, Drive, Chip & Putt qualifiers, and PING Junior Interclub teams. On a national stage, Hammer is involved with the Troon Junior Club initiative which gives kids opportunities to play Troon course for cart or walking fees, and in some cases, no charge at all. The most important aspect of his competitive youth teams has been the growth within the community. All the juniors that play and compete at Troon North have been there since the beginning of the introductory youth programs.
At Troon North, Hammer structured a junior development program that consists of levels of achievement that players must complete to advance to the next level, beginning with the entry level “cadet program.” Participants are required to show proficiency in 12 sets of skills before advancing to the next level. The “cadet masters” level features a weekly 45-minute range and 45 minutes of on-course practice to help juniors achieve practical playing experience before advancing to the “elite masters” program.
Hammer’s devotion for teaching and growing the game is evident, especially when working with junior golfers. He created a culture and environment at Troon North where juniors of all ages can cultivate their passion for the game of golf. His commitment goes beyond teaching the basic fundamentals but rather focuses on impacting the life of numerous boys and girls in the community in a positive way.
Hammer and his wife, Jane, live in Chandler, Ariz., and are the parents of sons, Carson and Charlie, and a daughter, Hannah.
The Southwest PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award – Garrett Wallace, PGA General Manager at Troon Country Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., is the recipient of the Southwest PGA’s Bill Strausbaugh Award, presented to a PGA Member who demonstrates exceptional character, integrity and leadership by way of teaching and mentoring other PGA Professionals.
Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., Wallace, 47, played golf collegiately at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business. Immediately after college, an opportunity was presented to him to serve as the head golf professional at Connemara Golf Course in Nicholasville, Ky., the same course he worked and practiced at during his college days.
During his time at Connemara, Wallace, then 21, always made the extra effort to a mentor to everyone who worked for him, regardless of what their career aspirations were, whether it was in golf or in another field. He continues to operate with that same philosophy by passing on all his learned knowledge and experience in the golf industry to help those he mentors better their own careers.
Wallace earned his membership in the PGA of America in 1997 and spent three years as Director of Golf at Greenbrier Golf and Country Club in Lexington, Kentucky. In 2001, Garrett moved to the TPC of Scottsdale and then to Southern Dunes Golf Club in Maricopa, Ariz., as the PGA Head Golf Professional, where he would ultimately serve as the PGA General Manager, a position he held for 10 years. Wallace was retained by Troon Golf while at Southern Dunes and relocated to become the PGA General Manager at The Gallery in Marana, Ariz., from 2012 through 2015. In 2014 he was recognized as Troon Golf’s General Manager of the Year. Wallace has been the PGA General Manager at Troon Country Club since 2015.
Wallace draws energy from making a difference in people’s lives and states that the best part of his job is “not only the beautiful facilities that he has had the fortune to manage, but the people that he’s been able to lead.”
He is most proud of the number of the former assistants and apprentices he has helped mentor that have gone on to become head golf professionals, directors of golf and general managers. He continues to stay in touch with many of them and offers any assistance they require.
Giving back to the Southwest PGA is very important to Wallace. He encourages his staff to get involved with the Section and volunteer their time to help their fellow Professionals and the community. He leads by example offering Troon Country Club as host to numerous Southwest PGA events, including hosting the state open – the Arizona Open Championship – a record 11 times.
Wallace and his wife, Marni, live in Scottsdale, Ariz., and are the parents of a daughter, Ellie, and sons, Zach and Zane.
The Southwest PGA Horton Smith Award – Chris Cain, Ph.D., PGA Golf Administrator of the Professional Golf Management program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is the recipient of the Southwest PGA Horton Smith Award. The award is presented annually to a PGA Professional who exhibits commendable additions to the education of PGA Professionals.
Born and raised in Summit, N.J., Cain, 44, enrolled in the Professional Golf Management program at Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pa., where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1998 and Master of Science degree in 2004.
Following college Cain served as an PGA apprentice, and after earning his membership in 1999, a PGA Assistant Golf Professional at TPC Las Vegas. He returned to Pennsylvania after accepting the PGA Head Golf Professional position at Penn State University Golf Course, remaining for five years before accepting his current position at UNLV in 2004.
In addition to his duties at UNLV for the PGM Program, Cain is an Associate Professor for the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality. As a UNLV Teaching Academy Fellow, he received his Ph.D. in Higher Education with a focus on Educational Leadership.
Cain’s industry experience includes: serving on the board of directors for regional and national professional, amateur, and junior golf associations, such as the PGA of America, Southwest PGA, The First Tee, Southern Nevada Golf Association, and Nevada Golf Alliance; PGA Magazine Advisory Board member; past president of the Southern Nevada Chapter of the Southwest Section PGA.
Cain became a PGA Member in 1998 while in the Philadelphia Section. His diversity of experiences gained through traditional and non-traditional roles as a PGA Professional have fueled his passion for leadership through education and mentorship.
When Cain began his career at UNLV the PGA program was only in existence for two years and required a change in leadership. He immediately supported a new curriculum and focused efforts on creating a culture of effective leadership that would live in each student and foster alumni success. Cain takes great pride in where the program is today—a model PGA University program in the country led by the success of students and alumni. His teaching of ethical leadership and management strategies focus on producing a sustainable business.
The PGM program at UNLV is centered around philanthropy and engaging with the local community. The practice provides PGM students with opportunities to grow the game of golf and be involved in the communities in which they work and live.
Among his numerous awards, Cain was the recipient of the 2009 Horton Smith Award and the 2011 Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year award, the highest honor bestowed upon a PGA Professional. In addition, he was recently presented with the Southern Nevada PGA Chapter Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.
Cain and his wife, Lisa, live in Las Vegas, Nev., and are the parents of a son, Henry, and a daughter, Juliet.
The Southwest PGA Player Development Award – Le Ann Finger, PGA, LPGA, Senior Director of Tournaments for the Arizona Golf Association (AGA) in Scottsdale, Ariz., is the recipient of the Southwest PGA Player Development Award, which recognizes a PGA Professional for extraordinary and exemplary contributions and achievements in the area of player development.
Born and raised in West Des Moines, Iowa, Finger, 56, is a 1985 graduate of St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn., where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications & Education and was captain and a four-year letter winner on the women’s golf team.
Shortly after graduating from St. Olaf, Finger took her first job in the industry, serving as an Assistant Golf Professional at nearby Northfield Golf Club. Her devotion to player development began when she returned to St. Olaf to coach the women’s golf team for seven seasons while coaching the men’s team for four seasons.
Throughout her career, Finger has continuously proven her dedication to player development, through her involvement with the game’s governing bodies. She has more than 20 years of experience in golf administration, operations, as well as serving as a liaison with allied golf associations. Finger is currently responsible for managing over 50 AGA golf tournaments and championships, accounting for roughly 75,000 amateur golfers in Arizona.
Since the induction of the Play Golf America initiative, Finger has gained the respect of many PGA and LPGA Professionals by supporting nearly every program to help promote the game. While working in Florida at the PGA of America Headquarters, she managed, recruited, and reported on, a variety of Play Golf America National Promotions including: PGA Free Lesson Month, Women’s Golf Month, Family Golf Month, and Patriot Golf Day. Additionally, Finger has presented at numerous PGA and LPGA functions, meetings, and conferences being able to share her practices and programs designed to assist PGA & LPGA Professionals grow their businesses.
While being a prominent figure for player development on a national level, Finger has found similar success here within the state of Arizona. Within the AGA, she managed key initiatives to help grow the game through the following programs: The AGA Build A Team, Golf 101, Grads to Golf, AGA Just 4 Fun, in addition to many other educational programs that shed positive light on the game, and encourage people to get out and play, regardless of skill or experience.
Finger’s other notable involvements within the game include her role as the current President of the Women in the Golf Industry organization, having served as Secretary from 2016 to 2018. She currently serves on the Southwest PGA Education Committee, a role she took on in 2018. She has written curriculum for the Executive Women's Golf Association (EWGA) Business Golf Connection – a program designed to help women learn the various components of business golf. Her literature includes lessons on teaching women how to network through the game of golf, communicate with clients on the course, and engage with new prospective opportunities. Finger draws from her own personal experiences to relay these invaluable lessons.
One of Finger’s greatest accomplishments in golf is when she recently earned the title of PGA Master Professional in Player Development, the highest classification in the PGA of America and only the second woman to earn the distinction following PGA of America President Suzy Whaley. She is the 10th woman to earn Master Professional status and one of only 375 Professionals among the PGA’s 29,000+ members. Finger is also one of the 210 women nationwide who are both a member of the PGA of America, and an LPGA Class A Professional.
The PGA Player Development Award is Finger’s first award in the Southwest PGA and second in her career, earning the Southeast Chapter of the South Florida PGA Player Development Award in 2014.
Finger and her husband, David, live in Phoenix, Ariz., and are the parents of daughters, Kelsey and Brooke.
The Southwest PGA Patriot Award – John Gunby, PGA Life Member, is the recipient of 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.
Born in Tucson, Ariz., Gunby, 64, has remained a native to Arizona his entire life, growing up in the Scottsdale area and currently living in Prestcott. While attending Coronado High School in Scottsdale, Gunby was a member of the high school golf team that won three consecutive state championships from 1971-73. Following high school Gunby attended Arizona State University in Tempe, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1977 in Business Administration.
After graduation, Gunby entered the golf industry at Mountain Shadows Country Club in Scottsdale, Ariz., and served as an assistant golf professional in Arizona, Wisconsin and Minnesota. After earning his membership in the PGA of America in 1980, Gunby served as a PGA Head Golf Professional, Director of Golf and General Manager at numerous facilities before earning his PGA Life Member status, and now focuses on teaching and coaching at Antelope Hills Golf Courses in Prescott.
His accomplishments and dedication to serving the game for the last 40+ years is well-documented and recognized by his peers. Always one to give back, Gunby served on numerous committees as well as the board of directors for the Southwest PGA and was on the PGA of America Junior Golf Committee in 2009-2010.
Gunby’s passion for working with the men and woman who serve in the military began during his time at Shalimar Country Club in Tempe, Ariz. He implemented a summer program to provide free greens fees to active and retired military personnel, veterans, emergency response personnel (fire, ambulance, police) and teachers. During the months of June, July and August, they were granted complimentary greens fees with no restrictions.
While serving as the Director of Golf at the Club at Prescott Lakes, he orchestrated a fundraising golf tournament for the Wounded Warriors Foundation on Veterans’ Day. The following year he formed a committee of Prescott Lakes members comprised of veterans and civilians to start the “Disabled Veterans Golf Program” in cooperation with the local Northern Arizona Veterans’ Administration hospital and clinic. Working closely with the recreational therapists from the VA, this program provided complimentary golf equipment and coaching for five weeks to groups of veterans facing TBI and PTSD issues as well as physical challenges.
To help raise funds for the Disabled Veterans Golf Program, Gunby and his team started an annual Disabled Veterans’ Golf Tournament which takes place on Veterans Day every year, with the tournament preceded by testimonies from veterans and color guard presentations. Raffles and drawings of memorabilia along with donated rounds of golf provide the most funding. With these funds, this group purchased green fees passes at Antelope Hills for the Disabled Veterans Golf graduates as well as golf equipment and clothing.
The group also assisted in funding a local program, Horses for Heroes, that uses horses as therapy for veterans with PTSD and TBI. This program matches a veteran with a horse that may have been abused, abandoned, or used for exclusively for medical research. Certified VA therapists and trained horse rescue workers provided their expertise to assist the veterans with their challenges.
He has been very involved from the outset with the Southwest PGA’s and the national PGA HOPE (Helping Our Patriots Everywhere) initiative, which introduces golf to Veterans with disabilities to enhance their physical, mental, social and emotional well-being. He orchestrated a PGA HOPE Comedy Show with the Southwest PGA to raise funds for Section-wide PGA HOPE programs.
Gunby assisted in raising additional funds for PGA HOPE programming with the PGA of America and the Antigua Group, where Antigua would donate a percentage of sales of PGA HOPE merchandise at green grass facilities going back to fund PGA HOPE Programs. He also started a program with Antigua's assistance named “Operation Keep 'Em Warm,” that distributes over 2,500 pieces of outerwear annually throughout Arizona to Veterans in need.
Among his numerous awards in the Southwest PGA, Gunby was honored as the 2013 Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year. He was recently announced as an enshrinee into the 2019 Southwest PGA Hall of Fame.
Gunby and his fiancé, Diana, live in Prescott, Ariz., and are the parents of sons, John, Jr. and Ray.
The Southwest PGA Merchandiser of the Year for Private Facilities – Pete Simon, PGA Assistant Golf Professional at Southern Highlands Golf Club in Las Vegas, Nev., is the recipient of the Southwest PGA Merchandiser of the Year for Private Facilities.
Born and raised in Colombia, Mo., Simon, 38, was an avid soccer and basketball player through high school and college, and casually played golf with his family and friends. It wasn’t until he graduated college that he decided he wanted to make a career in the golf industry.
Simon attended Rollins College in Orlando, Fla., graduating in 2004 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics. Following college, he entered the golf industry as an PGA Apprentice at Shingle Creek Golf Club in Orlando, working with the head professional on the merchandise since there wasn’t a buyer at the club. He would place and receive orders, set up new displays in the golf shop, and work with his buyer to ensure the latest and greatest was always on display at the club.
Taking the knowledge and success accrued during his time at Shingle Creek, Simon moved to California to continue his merchandising work at the famed Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. It was during his time at Riviera when he earned his membership in the PGA of America in 2010.
After stops at The Madison Club in La Quinta, Calif., and The Luxe Group, Simon accepted a PGA Assistant Golf Professional position at Southern Highlands in 2017, where he focused his efforts on unique merchandising techniques in the 1000 square feet of golf shop space. Displays in the shop are changed or refreshed nearly 100 times a year, always giving the members and guests new ideas about additions to their wardrobes.
Simon strives to give his members and guests exclusive items they can’t find anywhere else besides the golf shop at Southern Highlands. By eliminating the “big box store brands,” he caters to the high-end membership and overall feel of Southern Highlands. He uses an “open-to-buy” program to assist him in allocating his budget for the year, and once he has a plan for his purchasing, he spends most of that money on the items where he will generate the most profit for the club. Having more styles than sizes is another concept Simon utilizes, helping entice the buyer to purchase multiple items.
The implementation of a lifestyle section in the retail area is a big revenue generator for the club. With everything from swimsuits, to custom-tailored suits, to non-golf accessories as well as different gift options, the shop at Southern Highlands caters to all audiences. Simon states, “If you have something unique to offer, people will continue to come back to support the shop.”
Simon and his wife, Tara, live in Las Vegas, Nev., and are parents of son, Wyatt, and stepdaughter, Taylor.
The Southwest PGA Merchandiser of the Year for Public Facilities – Brent Lingel, PGA General Manager of Rolling Hills Golf Course in Tucson, Ariz., is the recipient of the Southwest PGA Merchandiser of the Year for Public Facilities.
Lingel, 37, was born and raised in Tucson, where he started playing golf at the age of 12 after his grandfather introduced him to the game. In order to earn free practice and playing privileges, Lingel took his first job working in the cart barn, helping clean carts and pick the driving range at the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Golf Course (now named General William Blanchard Golf Course).
At Salpointe High School in Tucson, Lingel lettered in both baseball and golf, where he was a two-time, all-city member of the baseball team and captain of the golf team. Following graduation, Lingel played college baseball at Central Arizona College in Coolidge, where the team captured the 2002 National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) National Championship. After Central Arizona College, Lingel moved over to Pima Community College and played on their golf team for two seasons. He completed his education graduating from the University of Arizona in Tucson, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Management.
Following graduation, Lingel accepted a PGA Apprentice position at Tucson Country Club. During his six years at the facility, he earned his membership in the PGA of America in 2008. The following year he returned to the General William Blanchard Golf Course as the PGA Director of Golf. He then served for six years as the PGA Head Golf Professional at Keeton Park Golf Course in Dallas, Texas before accepting his current position at Rolling Hills.
Lingel believes to have a successful merchandising operation one has to take risks, which in turn, keeps customers returning. He has an everchanging mentality and understanding of what’s trending and what’s on the way out. He works closely with numerous sales representatives on a regular basis on new and exciting options which helps him provide a positive experience for his customers.
Lingel is a certified PGA Professional in Golf Operations and currently working towards a PGA Master Professional distinction.
This is Lingel’s second Public Merchandiser of the Year Award, having previously earned the same recognition in the Northern Texas PGA in 2017. He was also honored with the 2014 Northern Texas PGA Player Development Award and as the Southwest PGA Assistant Golf Professional of the Year in 2010. The Southern Chapter of the Southwest PGA recently named Lingel the 2019 Southern Chapter PGA Professional of the Year.
Lingel and his wife, Katie, live in Tucson, Ariz., and are the parents of a daughter, Lilly.
The Southwest PGA Merchandiser of the Year for Resort Facilities – Scott Scherger, PGA Head Golf Professional at Gold Canyon (Ariz.) Golf Resort and Spa, is the recipient of the Southwest PGA Merchandiser of the Year Award for Resort Facilities.
Born and raised in Glendive, Mont., Scherger, 56, was first introduced to the game at 12 years old when he was invited by his friends to Cottonwood Country Club, the local nine-hole course. Ever since that day, he was hooked on golf and started to take lessons from the local PGA Professional.
An accomplished junior golfer, Scherger lettered in golf all four years in high school and claimed many titles including the Eastern Montana Championship. Knowing he wanted to pursue a career in golf, he attended the San Diego Golf Academy in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif, where he graduated in 1986. Following graduation, Scherger accepted his first job in the industry as a first assistant at Lafayette (Ind.) Country Club. He returned to California in 1989 for a position at Morgan Run Resort, serving for five years and earning his PGA membership in 1991.
Scherger moved on to a PGA Head Golf Professional position at Carmel Mountain Ranch Country Club in San Diego, and was instrumental, due to his passion for merchandising, for record-setting revenue for the resort and was recognized for his accomplishments. He returned in 1997 to Morgan Run Resort for a season to help on the resort side of operations. The following year he accepted the PGA Head Golf Professional position at Gold Canyon.
After a 20-year run with Scherger at the helm, the golf shop at Gold Canyon underwent a major renovation and expansion in the fall of 2018. The project included permitting, architect fees, construction and materials, new fixtures and lighting as well as the overall layout. He oversaw the entire renovation as well as creating an impromptu golf shop in a meeting room on the lower level of the clubhouse. A new contemporary, modern, and industrial look with exposed ceilings, natural wood beams, new LED lighting and more windows to create additional natural light adds to the appeal of the new pro shop. Since the expansion, Scherger and his team have seen an overall 22% increase in sales.
A primary reason in the increase of sales was the implantation of a new “Dinosaur Mountain” logo. With the facility having 36-holes on property, there was never a distinct logo that highlighted the unique name of the signature course. Scherger started with logoed golf balls and after much success, started putting the design on apparel and headwear, resulting in multiple reorders throughout the season.
He believes the number one focus of his merchanting philosophy is to “know your customer.” With the customer base changing based on season, Scherger sets items in the golf shop based on the clients per season.
This is the first Southwest PGA award for Scherger, who, since 1996, is also a member of the Association of Golf Merchandisers.
Scherger and his wife, Shelly, live in Gilbert, Ariz.
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 1284 members and associate Professionals, 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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