Both the Alabama Golf Association and the Alabama/Northwest Florida Section of the PGA recently announced their 2018 annual award recipients.
The AGA’s winners will be honored at the AGA Awards Luncheon on Feb. 23, 2019, at Old Overton Club, and those with ties to Tuscaloosa and/or the University of Alabama are very well represented.
Clay Guerin of Hoover claimed his first Alabama Men’s Player of the Year award after winning the State Four-Ball Championship held at Indian Hills Country Club with partner Will Swift and the National Invitational Tournament at The Country Club of Birmingham. Guerin reached the Round of 16 at the Alabama State Match Play Championship contested at Burningtree Country Club, had a top 3 finish at the Alabama State Mid-Amateur played at Willow Point Golf & Country Club, and finished in the top 15 at the Alabama State Amateur hosted by Pine Tree Country Club. Guerin has two career AGA titles: State Four-Ball Championship (2018 with Will Swift), and State Mid-Amateur Championship (2016).
Tuscaloosa native Cammie Bentley, a former golfer for the Crimson Tide, captured her second Alabama Women’s Player of the Year award (first came in 2013) by virtue of winning her second Alabama Women’s State Amateur Championship title that was played at The Country Club of Birmingham. Bentley also finished tied for fourth place at the Women’s Stroke Play Championship and advanced to the Round of 32 at the Women’s Southern Amateur Championship. In May, Bentley, along with partner Alison Hovatter, advanced to the Round of 16 in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship held at Timuquana Country Club in Jacksonville, Florida. Bentley has claimed five AGA titles: Women’s State Amateur Championship (2013, 2018), and Women’s State Stroke Play Championship (2012, 2013, 2017).
Claud Cooper of Birmingham, and a former golfer on the Capstone, won his first Alabama Senior Men’s Player of the Year award after a one-stroke victory in the State Senior Amateur Championship held at Moore’s Mill Club in Auburn. Cooper finished second at the State Senior Four-Ball Championship with partner Steve Hudson (also a former UA golfer) and qualified for the U.S. Senior Amateur Championship held at Eugene Country Club in Eugene, Oregon, where he advanced to the Round of 64. The 2018 State Senior Amateur was Cooper’s first AGA title.
Susan West of Tuscaloosa earned her third consecutive Alabama Senior Women’s Player of the Year honor boosted by a victory at the Women’s Southern Mid-Amateur Championship held at her home club — NorthRiver Yacht Club. West qualified for two USGA championships — the inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open Championship at Chicago Golf Club and the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur Championship at Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club in Vero Beach, Florida, where she advanced, to the Round of 64. West was also a quarterfinalist at the Jones/Doherty Senior Women’s Amateur Championship in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and finished in fourth place at the Senior Women’s North & South Amateur Championship in Pinehurst, North Carolina. West has three career AGA titles: Women’s State Senior Amateur Championship (2015-2017).
Nick Dunlap, formerly of Birmingham and class of 2022, claimed his first Alabama Junior Boys Player of the Year award highlighted by a five-shot victory at the Alabama Boys State Junior Championship held at GlenLakes Golf Club in Foley. He finished fourth at the Southern Junior Championship at Squire Creek Country Club in Louisiana, fifth at the AHSAA 7A State Championship, qualified for the Alabama Men’s State Amateur Championship, and has multiple AJGA top-10 performances to his credit. A high school freshman, Dunlap and his family relocated to South Carolina before the 2018-19 school year.
And Michaela Morard, of Huntsville and class of 2020, captured the Alabama Junior Girls Player of the Year award. She is a junior at Randolph School in Huntsville. She won two AGA state titles in 2018 — Alabama Girls State Junior Championship at Montgomery Country Club and Alabama Women’s Stroke Play at Canebrake Club in Athens, where she shattered her own scoring record with a blistering 21-under (63-66-66) clearing second place by 11 shots. She finished second at the AHSAA 4A/5A State Championship, fourth individually at the 2017 USGA Women’s State Team Championship in New Mexico and was a member of the victorious Team Alabama at the 2018 Southern Junior Cup at Old Kinderhook in Missouri. Morard has six career AGA titles: Alabama Girls State Junior Championship (2015, 2017, 2018), Alabama Women’s Stroke Play Championship (2016, 2018), and Alabama Women’s Four-Ball Championship (2015 with Ally Williams). She has verbally committed to play collegiate golf at the University of Alabama.
Alabama/Northwest Florida Section of the PGA awards
Steve Smith, Director of Golf at Greystone Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, was named Professional of the Year, the Section’s top award.
His career is highlighted by more than 27 years of PGA Membership. He began his career in 1981 in upstate New York and then moved to New Orleans working at both English Turn and New Orleans Country Club. He was elected to Membership in 1991 and made the move to Birmingham in 1996 where he climbed the ranks starting as the Assistant Golf Professional at Greystone Golf & Country Club; then a fairly new 18-hole facility in a sprawling suburb of Birmingham. He was promoted to Head Golf Professional of the Founders course in 2000, and just one year later assumed the role of Director of Golf for the newly expanded 36-hole facility.
He emphasized that teamwork is the number one priority in the overall operation at Greystone. “We always hear it said, ‘It’s about the team,’” Smith said. “I couldn’t agree more. A great team is so important and working with two great Head Golf Professionals … affords me the freedom to move between our two (golf) courses and work on concepts that help keep our members engaged — I am so thankful to have them both.”
Other Section Award winners included:
Horton Smith Award — Mark Blackburn, Blackburn Golf Academy
Bill Strausbaugh Award — Brent Krause, Wynlakes Golf & Country Club
Teacher of the Year — Aaron Croyle, The Country Club of Birmingham
Youth Player Development Award — Paul Whitman, Pine Tree Country Club
Player Development Award — Max Doster, Greystone Golf & Country Club
Merchandiser of the Year — Private — Jonathan Gibbons, Greystone Golf & Country Club
Merchandiser of the Year — Public — Kenny Szuch, Lake Forest Yacht & Country Club
Merchandiser of the Year — Resort — Dominic Diaz, Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail at Ross Bridge
They will be honored at the Section’s Annual Meeting on Feb. 11 at Wynlakes Golf & Country Club in Montgomery.
Ian Thompson has been writing about golf in Alabama for over 26 years. His weekly “Mr. Golf” column concentrates on golfers, golf events and people associated with the sport of interest to the Tuscaloosa and Birmingham areas. Reach him with story ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.