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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Golf 5-0

Golf 5-0

The Southern Nevada Golf Association was founded in 196. Over the years, many people have made a positive impact in the organization off the course, while players on the course made a name for themselves.

Story by Brian Hurlburt

Photography provided by the SNGA

For 50 years, the Southern Nevada Golf Association, directed by its volunteer board and legion of volunteers, has been the official arm of the United States Golf Association in Southern Nevada. The organization, assisted by staff for many of those 50 years, is responsible for organizing and holding a local series of amateur tournaments, assisting with state-level tournaments and overseeing several USGA regional and national qualifying tournaments.

The SNGA is the official course rater for area courses and offers and administrates the USGA handicapping system in this area. In recent years, the SNGA has gone back to the future and is helping to organize and implement the efforts of the Southern Nevada Junior Golf Association.

Net, senior, super senior, and gross divisions are offered in SNGA events, giving golfers of all ages and ability a chance to play. The SNGA and amateur golf are the heart of the game.

The SNGA has made a noticeable impact on a competitive level. SNGA tournaments have allowed top players to groom their skills on the way to successful college and professional careers.

“I don’t know what the SNGA means to the overall community, but I do know exactly what it means to me and that is a whole lot,” says Craig Barlow, who parlayed his SNGA success and 1994 player-of-the-year honor into a long career on the PGA TOUR, where he has made 165 cuts and counting. “Getting to play against a higher level of competition following high school and junior golf was very important and I think it means so much more to me now looking back because there was such a depth of great players. I didn’t have success right away because of the great competition, and I got my butt kicked for a year or two before I had success. That’s probably the best thing that ever happened to me because it really pushed me to get better. Playing in the SNGA was definitely a stepping-stone for me. I think all of the top players appreciate the SNGA for giving us the opportunity to play great courses against great competition in a great city.”

According to those who would know, prior to 1967 the local amateur golf body in the Las Vegas area was the Southern chapter of the Nevada State Golf Association. The Southern Nevada Golf Association became the official name of the organization in 1977.

Today, the SNGA and the Northern Nevada Golf Association, both independent bodies, work together to host and organize Nevada State Golf Association tournaments including the Nevada State Amateur, Nevada State Match Play, Nevada State Net Amateur and the Oliver Cup and Cobb Whalen Cup, team events that pay tribute to important people in the history of amateur golf in Nevada.

Most credit Clyde Cobb with being the “founding father” of the SNGA. Longtime PGA of America professional Charlie Teel was also instrumental in the early days of the SNGA.

According to longtime Southern Nevada Golf Association president Stuart Reid, Cobb, a friendly sort who deftly used the skill of delegation, would be proud of where the association is today and would deflect his role in its evolution.

“Clyde is the one who initially got me involved in the SNGA in the late seventies,” says Reid, who was a top SNGA player. “When I discussed some of the issues I had about the organization with him, he urged me to get involved. If he were alive today, he would talk about the efforts of other people in the SNGA and he would downplay his role quite a bit, but he was the person who was very active in motivating people. What I really liked about him is that he had his goals but he let those around them do their jobs with a lot of freedom.”

Cobb served both the Nevada State Golf Association and regional golf associations. He is known as the person who led the charge of integrating the USGA GHIN handicap system in Southern Nevada.

Reid, an elementary school principal in the Clark County School District for three decades, was very active and a main leader of the SNGA in the eighties, nineties and early 2000s. During his time with the SNGA, he served as a USGA rules official and worked every U.S. Open save one between 1988 and 2005, before giving up his volunteer golf duties and moving to Texas to be closer to his grandchildren.

Teel was the head professional at what is now Las Vegas National Golf Club for many years in the seventies and eighties. Prior to becoming a pro he was a top amateur player, winning many local and state tournaments. As a pro, he was very supportive of local amateur and junior golf.

Other names who have made an impact on the history of the SNGA in the early days and over the years include Ernest Haupt, Jerry Belt, Don Welch, C. Pat Walker, Howard Capps, John

DiFloure, Jim Alexander, Lou Oliver, Eric Dutt, Larry McGovern, Sue May, Brady Exber,

Nicole Dutt-Roberts, Jerry Clark, Ann Sunstrum, and Tim Quinn, the current SNGA president.

“Celebrating 50 years means that a lot of great people put in a lot of time and effort to support and promote golf in Southern Nevada,” says Quinn.

McGovern, a retired colonel in the Unites States Air Force, returned to Las Vegas in 1986 and quickly became involved in the operations of the SNGA when Jim Kelly, the food and beverage manager at the Sahara National Golf Club (now Las Vegas National) asked him to attend a meeting on his behalf. Soon after, McGovern was named to the board as a volunteer but in 1991 he was hired by the association to implement the new computerized Golf Handicap Information Network (GHIN) and fulfill other duties.

“When I first got involved in the SNGA, Ernie Haupt was the president and he and Clyde Cobb were running things and handling all of the handicap systems as well,” remembers McGovern.

“This was before computers, so every month Ernie and Clyde would gather up a pile of papers from each course and send that information to the USGA and they would set the handicaps. Pat

Walker was involved later on, and then I stepped in to help.”

 

By 1991, things were computerized and McGovern was tasked with going to each golf course to put in the software to operate the GHIN system. He’ll never forget one fateful evening in 1991. “I was with Clif Vanetti, a pro at Canyon Gate Country Club, and I was working on the computer when news that we had bombed Baghdad and the Gulf War had started,” says McGovern. “It is one of those, ‘you never forget where you were’ moments and Clif and I still talk about that.”

McGovern, who served as executive director from 2001-2005, remembers working as a rules official at Spanish Trail Golf and Country Club when former UNLV All-American Warren Schutte was playing in the tournament. Schutte hit his ball into the well of a new palm tree at the new facility. The tree well was very pronounced and Schutte believed he was due relief. Earlier in the year Schutte had become the first UNLV player in history to win an NCAA individual golf title.

“I remember the local news cameras were following him and a lot of people were around,” says McGovern. “According to the rules of golf, you don’t get relief from a tree well but since it was so deep I called Charlie Teel and asked him. He responded, ‘use your own judgement, Larry.’ And I thought, ‘thanks a lot, Charlie.’ Well, Warren got relief because I didn’t want to be all over the news as the guy not giving the local star a good ruling.”

Eric Dutt, now director of operations of Reflection Bay Golf Club, was a top player in the SNGA and then served as the executive director for about a decade in the nineties. He worked with the SNGA in his capacity as a course operator.

“What really stands out are the quality players the association has turned out over the years,” says Dutt. “Plus, the SNGA appeals to the average player and has evolved with the times over the decades. I may not always agree with the USGA but I always believe we must support amateur golf, and the SNGA is the best way we can do that in Southern Nevada.”

One of those quality players was and still is Brady Exber, a lifetime amateur who has earned nine Southern Nevada Golf Association championship division player-of-the-year awards and is the most decorated golfer in SNGA history. He has won at least one SNGA tournament every year since 1991.

In 2006, he was inducted into the Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame, and earlier this year he was inducted into the National Senior Amateur Hall of Fame as the lone inductee. In 2014, he was the Golfweek Magazine Senior Golfer of the Year and won the British Seniors Amateur that same year. Earlier this summer, Exber and his longtime playing partner and fellow Las Vegas Golf Hall of Fame inductee Frank Acker played in the U.S. Senior Amateur. Exber also served as the president of the SNGA and the Nevada State Golf Association.

The SNGA history runs deep, and it’s always important to look back. Equally important is to look forward to the next 5, 10 and 50 years. The mission of the SNGA is to promote the game to all levels and build the championship, net, senior and silver divisions, in addition to building events for casual players. A new Social Series was created in recent years and those events feature food, drink and fun, and a way to introduce the SNGA to more golfers and to build the membership. On a national level, the USGA is working on ways to grow the game.

“As you reminisce, there is so much golf history in Southern Nevada,” says Quinn. “The SNGA has been a part of that from the Rat Pack days to more than 100 tour events to the evolution of new courses to now being a city that is the home of the two PGA TOUR TPC courses. Now we are entering a new era of golf, and as an organization we are following and integrating the new initiatives of the USGA in what we do and are looking to create new partnerships with businesses in and out of golf.”

Happy anniversary.

For all SNGA information and to become a member, visit www.SNGA.org. A patron donor campaign in recognition of 50 years is ongoing and information is available at the website.

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