Northern California PGA Recognizes 2018 Section Award Winners

19 Recipients Recognized at NCPGA Awards Ceremony & President’s Dinner

The Northern California PGA recently honored the 19 recipients of its 2018 Annual Section Awards. These awards are given to PGA Professionals and industry leaders who have excelled in the game and business of golf.

PGA Master Professional Ward Sutton of Reno, Nev. has been named the 2018 NCPGA Golf Professional of the Year. This is the highest honor the Section can bestow upon a working club professional, awarded to those whose dedication, values, and leadership embody the consummate PGA Professional. He has authored numerous articles and been featured in publications such as PGA Magazine, the Reno Gazette-Journal, Northern Nevada Business Weekly, BizNevada Magazine, and the Sierra Sun, in addition to appearing in multiple segments for KRNV NBC Reno.

Sutton has worked tirelessly to grow the game at his facility through initiatives aimed at developing young players and veterans. These initiatives include fundraisers, PGA Jr. League, Drive, Chip and Putt, PGA HOPE, the Fred and Judy Alexander Clinic, The First Tee of Northern Nevada, U.S. Kids, and high school/university golf programs.

Several of Sutton’s colleagues in the area stand out for their contributions to the local golf scene. PGA Director of Golf Gus Jones of Martis Camp Club (Truckee, Calif.) was selected as the 2018 NCPGA Bill Strausbaugh Award winner for his outstanding integrity and commitment to mentoring fellow golf professionals, and fellow Martis Camp Bryan Pate, PGA Director of Instruction, has earned the 2018 Club Fitter of the Year award for his expertise in fitting golfers with the proper equipment.

A certified PING, Titleist, and Callaway fitting specialist, he conducts around 25 fittings a year and provides training and demo day support to golf professionals at many facilities to assure each person gets equipment that reacts just how they want it to. Club Fitters like Pate often fit for the entire bag from driver to putter and educate customers on how to select a ball that reacts the best for their swing to help with their playing ability and enjoyment of the game.

For his expertise in the maintenance, operations, and management of golf courses in the area, Mitch Jonas of Tahoe City (Calif.) Golf Course has garnered the 2018 NCPGA Golf Course Superintendent of the Year award. Jonas has heavily influenced those who aspire to become horticulturists and landscape managers as an instructor at Reno’s Truckee Meadow Community College by helping students achieve their degrees in landscape management, developing an internship program at Hidden Valley C.C., and teaching junior golfers proper techniques for ball repair, filling divots, and cultural and mechanical processes on the golf course.

The Sacramento Area is Rich with Outstanding Golf Industry Professionals

In recognition of his overall performance, leadership, and service to the NCPGA Section, and his promotion of the game of golf, PGA Assistant Professional Chris Galvin of Sierra View Country Club in Roseville, Calif., has been named the 2018 NCPGA Assistant Associate of the Year. Galvin is the director of junior golf programs at Sierra View C.C., and is responsible for their Junior Players’ Club, week-long summer golf camp and clinics, annual Parent-Child Tournament, and Junior Club Championship. He also donates golf lessons for a number of fundraisers throughout the year and is active in supporting the golf program at his alma mater, Sonoma State University.

PGA Director of Instruction Will Robins of Will Robins Golf in Citrus Heights, Calif., has been presented with the 2018 NCPGA Youth Player Development Award for his exemplary contribution and achievement in youth player development. “Will has the unique ability to blend instruction with fun, all the while creating an engaging and rewarding atmosphere for his students that really works,” said Eric Jones, PGA director of instruction and 2014 NCPGA Teacher of the Year. “His curriculum and innovations are leading the field.”

At the local level, Robins has partnered with a number of fellow PGA Professionals to develop successful after school and coaching programs across the Section and rebuilt the shuttered junior program at Empire Ranch G.C. which now attracts more than 100 students week after week. His WRGolf Junior Program offers his more than 70 students a path to continue on to more competitive events, and a chance to spend time with their parents who caddy for the players.

For his service to NCPGA Professionals, their merchandising team members, and to the Northern California Section, Greg Ciavarelli has been named the 2018 NCPGA Sales Representative of the Year. Starting in Ohio in the cart barn when he was 15, Greg has been a PGA Class A member since 2008 and is a PGA certified professional in both retail and instruction.

Greg also finds time for charity supporting The First Tee of Greater Sacramento, Morton Golf Foundation, Patriot Golf Day and more. He is a founder and board member of the Mark McEvoy Legacy Foundation whose three golf tournaments have raised nearly 100,000 dollars. Greg says the keys to success are to put customers first, be available, and be passionate.

Honorary NCPGA Member Frank LaRosa has garnered the 2018 NCPGA Sports Media Person of the Year award. He was previously recognized as the NCPGA Sports Media Person of the Year in 2005 and 2010, was declared an A three-time recipient of the NCPGA Sports Media Person of the Year, Frank LaRosa has been called the “Voice of Golf in Northern California” for his work promoting and reporting the story of PGA Professionals in the Northern California PGA Section. He produces and hosts daily on-air golf reports for ESPN Radio in Sacramento, Calif., which run three times a day and provide great exposure all in prime hours. He also writes occasionally for NCGA Magazine and Sacramento Magazine. He has hosted a series of seven 30-minute golf magazine television shows called Tee Time: Golf in Northern California.

In his interviews with PGA Professionals, LaRosa connects their jobs and how they relate to the NCPGA to demonstrate their value to the public. Topics he has covered include awards won by PGA professionals, golf course reviews, instructional tips, and the importance of PGA professionals as integral parts of their facility.

LaRosa was previously recognized as the NCPGA Sports Media Person of the Year in 2005 and 2010, was declared an honorary member of the NCPGA in 2013, and was inducted into the Sacramento Golf Hall of Fame in 2017.

PGA Teaching Professional Bob Epperly is the recipient of the 2018 NCPGA Patriot Award. In 2015, Bob “Expertly” (as he is now affectionately known by our veterans) signed up to become an Instructor for the Section’s PGA HOPE, “Helping Our Patriots Everywhere” program to offer free golf instruction to military veterans who are new or returning golfers. Since the first PGA HOPE clinic of three participants, Bob has worked tirelessly in conjunction with the Section office to promote the program, recruit NCPGA members as instructors, and work with facilities to become partners of PGA HOPE Northern California. Due in large part to Epperly’s efforts, the program has grown to serve over 750 veterans at 8 different facilities across Northern California and Northwestern Nevada.

Monterey Bay Area Professionals Teach and Inspire

Kevin Hanssen, PGA Teaching Professional at Pebble Beach Golf Academy, has garnered the 2018 NCPGA Teacher of the Year Award. Hanssen is being honored for his contributions to golf instruction for players and professionals at the facility, PGA Section, and National level. PGA Golf Instructors like Hanssen

Hanssen has coached golfers of all ages and playing levels, from PGA Tour professionals, celebrities, CEOs, to amateurs and juniors. His work with the Robert Louis Stevenson High School Golf program, Santa Catalina Girls Summer Golf Camp, First Tee of Monterey, and other groups has helped many local players improve their golf skills.

Donn Achen, PGA Assistant Professional of Del Monte Golf Cours in Monterey, Calif., is being recognized with the 2018 NCPGA Horton Smith Award for his contributions in developing education opportunities for PGA Professionals. Continuing education ensures that PGA Professionals consistently stay abreast of the game and business of golf, which makes them an excellent resource to golfers throughout the area as they improve their game, or to those who aspire to work in the industry.

PGA Tournament Director Aaron Hartesveldt of the Northern California Golf Association (Pebble Beach, Calif.) has been selected as the 2018 Player Development Award recipient. Hartesveldt is the director of the Junior Tour of Northern California (JTNC), a competitive golf program consisting of 28 yearly events for approximately 850 members ranging from entry level to advanced level competition. The program not only helps to teach and give juniors the opportunity to play competitive golf, but they also teach and develop leadership skills, integrity, and knowledge of the rules of golf, as well as etiquette.

Almost 80 percent of the members are also Youth on Course members which helps participation at the club level. In 2018, the organizers focused on growing girls and beginner participation by offering events specifically targeted towards those groups. The effort has already generated hundreds of new golfers and their almost 50/50 split with boys and girls championship flight participation is almost double national and state averages.

Sales and Merchandising Awards

The NCPGA Merchandiser of the Year awards span three categories: Public, Private, and Resort. PGA Golf Director Abbas Qabazard of Presidio Golf Course in San Francisco, Calif. is the 2018 NCPGA Public Merchandiser of the Year. Olympic Club PGA Golf Director Will Hutter is the 2018 NCPGA Private Merchandiser of the Year, and PGA Retail Professional Marianne Zabbo of Pebble Beach Company has acquired the title of 2018 NCPGA Resort Merchandiser of the Year. The three winners and their merchandising teams have excelled in golf shop operations. Golf shops are an excellent way for the general public to get individualized attention and expertise from trained staff that is familiar with the array of golf products because they use them every day.

Players of the Year

PGA Head Professional Jason Schmuhl of Windsor Golf Club in Windsor, Calif. earned top honors as NCPGA Player of the Year (Regular Division) for his exceptional performance on the course this season. The coveted award comes with a $3,000 stipend sponsored by Yamaha, and an exemption into the PGA TOUR’s ATT National Pro-Am played at Pebble Beach G.L., Spyglass Hill G.C., and the Monterey Peninsula C.C. to be played February 4-10th, 2019. The format for the ATT National Pro-Am is 72 holes, with a cut after 54 holes to the low 70 professional and ties. Jason will be competing with the world’s finest players which include Phil Mickelson, Jordan Speith, Dustin Johnson to name a few. The players will be competing for a $7.4 Million purse.

PGA Director of Instruction David Carr of Teal Bend Golf Club in Sacramento, Calif. garnered the NCPGA Senior Player of the Year Award (50-64 years) honors. His fine play qualified him for the Senior National Professional Championship, played at the PGA National Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla. and for the Senior USGA Open Championship played at the famed Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Carr wrestled the Senior Player of the Year crown from past winner Shawn McEntee, who had won the award the previous four years. He adds the senior award to his two Player of the Year awards won in 2013 and 2014. Carr became a Class A PGA Professional in 2011.

PGA Life Member Dave Bingham of Elk Grove, Calif. was named NCPGA Super Senior Player of the Year (65+ years) after competing in 12 events and winning titles in three. One might expect Bingham to compete for the Player of the Year honors; after 20 years as head professional at the Valley Hi C.C. in Elk Grove, Calif., his extra free time has translated into top level golf. Bingham edged out his pal Glen Stubblefield, who laid claim to the Super Senior Player of the Year honor the last three seasons.

PGA Associate Professional Donnie Baucom of Morgan Creek Golf Club in Roseville, Calif. attained the Assistant Associate Player of the Year award presented by Omega and GT Golf Supplies. Baucom competed in 15 events throughout the season, and his finish in the Assistant’s Championship qualified him to compete in the Assistant Professional National Championship at the PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida. The Assistant Professional National Championship consists of the top 132 Nationwide Assistant Professionals from each of the 41 PGA Sections, competing in a PGA TOUR like setting, a 72-hole tournament with the field being cut to the low 70 players and ties. Baucom continued his fine play at the National Championship by making the 36-hole cut and eventually finishing tied for 30th overall.

Players of the Year are determined by the amount of points accumulated in official Section or division tournaments during the tournament year and are recognized for representing PGA Professionals with distinction in competition.

Awards Ceremony
The NCPGA held its Special Awards and President’s Dinner at Silver Creek Valley Country Club in San Jose, Calif. The event, a highlight for the year, was presented by Omega and Yamaha, with support from PGA National Resort and Spa.

About the Northern California Section of the PGA of America (NCPGA)
Organized in 1920 to promote interest in the game of golf, the birth of this association was heralded as an important step to the advancement of the game in this district. The Northern California Section is one of the forty-one designated Sections of the PGA of America, the world’s largest working sports organization. With over 1,100 dedicated PGA Professionals and apprentices at over 500 golf facilities in Northern California and Northwestern Nevada, the association continues to have a positive impact on the game of golf and communities both regionally and nationally. For more information, please visit or call us at (707) 449-4742.

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