Mark J. Black honored as Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year

Mark J. Black, PGA Director of Golf at Encanterra Country Club in San Tan Valley, Arizona, has been named recipient of the 2015 Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year Award, the highest annual honor bestowed by the Southwest PGA on a PGA Professional.

Black, 59, was honored at the Southwest PGA Special Awards Ceremony on January 15, 2016 at Encanterra Country Club. The evening’s program featured all 2015 Southwest PGA Award winners: Nick Becker, PGA, Pinnacle Peak Country Club – Assistant Golf Professional of the Year; Drew Reid, PGA, Reid West Golf Academies – Teacher of the Year; Jeff Fisher, PGA, Longbow Golf Club – Youth Player Development Award; David Engram, PGA, Mirabel – Bill Strausbaugh Award; Eric Kulinna, PGA, Lone Tree Golf Club – Player Development Award; Mark Thush, PGA, Desert Mountain – PGA Merchandiser of the Year (Private Facilities); Mason Spalding, PGA, TPC Las Vegas – PGA Merchandiser of the Year (Public Facilities); Michael Hopper, PGA, Lookout Mountain Golf Club – Southwest PGA Player of the Year and Jim Carter, PGA, – Southwest PGA Senior Player of the Year.

Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year – Born in Saginaw, Michigan, Mark Black firmly planted his roots in the golf business at an early age. A head golf professional at age 22 and after just four short years as the professional at Inverness Country Club in Chelsea, MI., Black became an owner-operator when he purchased Willowbrook Golf Club in Byron, MI., at the age of 25. His experience as a four-year member of the men’s golf team at Central Michigan University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Education in 1978, together with his passion and dedication to constantly be learning, teaching and promoting the game of golf has culminated with his recognition as the 2015 Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year.

Elected to PGA membership in 1984, Black has been active in the Association throughout his career, currently serving as a Director on the Southwest PGA Executive Board. 

Following his ownership role at Willowbrook G.C., he was named the Director of Golf at The Fortress Golf Club in Frankenmuth, MI., where he served for more than 22 years. In 2008 Black made his move to the Southwest PGA when he was named the Director of the Professional Golf Management Program at Arizona State University. In 2011 Black accepted his current role as Director of Golf at Encanterra Country Club. Along his successful career-path now spanning more than 38 years, Black has earned countless awards and recognition within the PGA including the 2005 Michigan PGA Horton Smith Award for contributions in education of the PGA golf professional, the 2006 Michigan PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award for achievements in club relations and the 2011 Southwest PGA Horton Smith Award. In 1992 Black earned Master Professional status within the PGA of America, one of only 300 PGA professionals today among the 28,000 members nationwide. His Master’s thesis was on golf facility ownership and leasing.

Black currently resides in Gilbert, Arizona, with his wife of 37 years, Nancy. The Blacks have three children: Emily, Benjamin and Reed as well as with three grandchildren.

Southwest PGA Assistant Golf Professional of the Year – A native of Tucson, Arizona, and a 2012 graduate of Arizona State University, Nick Becker has been named the 2015 Southwest PGA Assistant Golf Professional of the Year.

Becker, 25, has served as assistant golf professional at Pinnacle Peak Country Club since 2013. Following a four-year playing career on the varsity golf team at Mountain View High School, Becker attended the Arizona State University Professional Golf Management (PGM) program graduating Summa Cum Laude in 2012 with a degree in Agribusiness/PGA Golf Management. After receiving his PGA Membership, Becker began working for the Southern California PGA as Junior Tour Manager before moving on to his current role at Pinnacle Peak C.C.  

As a PGM student at ASU, Becker interned at Encanterra C.C. for 2015 Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year Mark Black, whom he credits as his “greatest and most influential mentor.”  During his PGM studies Becker also interned at The Broadmoor Resort (Colorado Springs, CO.), Treetops Resort (Gaylord, MI.) and with the Michigan Section PGA (Bath, MI.).

Becker’s achievements aren’t only limited to within his career industry. As an active member of his work and personal community, Becker has lead the administration and growth of the “Play for P.I.N.K.” golf tournament which has helped raise more than $50k since 2012 for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Becker currently serves on the Southwest PGA Junior Golf Committee and in 2013 and 2014 served as the Director of the Salt River District of the Southwest PGA Antigua Junior Tour. He resides in Phoenix, Arizona.

Southwest PGA Teacher of the Year – Teaching the game of golf is the essence of every PGA professional. The unique ability to help others improve and enjoy the game is at the core of the overall mission of the PGA of America. It is that ability that defines Drew Reid, the 2015 Southwest PGA Teacher of the Year.

Born in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Reid is the co-owner and PGA Director of Instruction for Reid West Golf Academies based in Sun City West, Arizona. Elected to PGA Membership in 2000, Reid provides over 1200 lessons annually to students around the world from PGA Tour members to beginning players.

Reid, 44, began his career as a golf professional in the United States at Dalton Ranch G.C. in Durango, CO. in 1986. Following a short stint as assistant professional at Conquistador G.C. (Cortez, CO.) he was named the head professional at Riverview G.C. in Kirkland, N.M. In 2005 Reid embarked on his teaching career which started with the John Jacobs Golf Schools. In 2010 Reid launched his own academies with the creation of the Reid West Golf Academy, partnering with fellow PGA professional Ralph West at Grandview G.C. in Sun City West, AZ. Today the Reid West Golf Academy at Sun City West employs seven full-time instructors. In November 2015 Reid expanded the Academies to Pebble Creek Resort in Phoenix and now has instructional affiliation with nine golf courses in the immediate Phoenix metropolitan area and includes 14 PGA instructors.

Reid currently resides in Peoria, AZ., with his wife Leslie and their four children: Dustin, Nick, Sam and Emilie.

Southwest PGA Youth Player Development Award – Jeff Fisher, PGA Director of Instruction at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, Arizona, has been named the 2015 Southwest PGA Youth Player Development Award recipient. The Youth Player Development Award annually recognizes the PGA Professional who has displayed leadership and innovation in growing junior golf participation and who reflects the ideals of those who work with youth within the community.

Fisher, 47, is the co-owner of the Fisher Bryan Golf Academy at Longbow G.C. A recognized leader in the development of elite junior golfers, he has helped over 50 students go on to play golf at the collegiate level, including an NCAA Player of the Year and an NJCAA Player of the Year. The instructional programs Fisher has created for his students are a mix of traditional coaching and innovation tailored to help each individual student reach their playing goals. Along with his role in the Fisher Bryan Golf Academy, he also serves as the head coach of the boys’ varsity golf team at Red Mountain High School. Fisher consistently preaches the core components of hard work and integrity within the classroom and community as the path to success within the game to both his academy students and his golf team members.

Prior to starting Fisher Bryan Golf Academy, Fisher was the lead instructor at the Hank Haney International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head, S.C. Jeff’s career in golf instruction has included stops at prestigious clubs such as Desert Mountain (Scottsdale, AZ.), Las Campanas (Santa Fe, NM.) and La Quinta Resort (LaQuinta, CA.).

Schooled under world-renowned golf instructors Hank Haney and Jim Flick, Fisher was elected to PGA membership in 1998 and quickly built his own reputation as a respected junior instructor.  While at Hilton Head he was featured on the Golf Channel’s “School of Golf” and has been recognized by U.S. Kids Golf as one of the Top 50 Instructors in the country. In 2015 Fisher was also recognized as one of the Future Champions Golf Top 25 Elite Junior Coaches in the United States.

Born in Haywood, CA, Fisher currently resides in Mesa, AZ., with his wife Stacie, daughter Sydney and son Evan.

Southwest PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award – David Engram, PGA Head Golf Professional at Mirabel in Scottsdale, Arizona, has been named the 2015 Southwest PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award recipient. The Bill Strausbaugh Award is given annually to a PGA Professional for distinguished efforts in mentoring and supporting fellow PGA members in the areas of employment and community service.

Born and raised in Atlanta, GA, Engram has served in his role at Mirabel since 2010. Prior to joining the Southwest PGA, Engram served as head professional at Barrington Golf Club in Aurora, OH. On his road to becoming a PGA Professional, Engram worked and learned at some of the top clubs in the Southeast, Midwest and Southwest regions of the United States, including the legendary East Lake Golf Club (Atlanta, GA.) and Atlanta Country Club (Atlanta, GA.) and Canterbury (Cleveland, OH.).

Engram played collegiate golf for Georgia State University where he graduated in 1995 with a degree in Political Science before embarking on his professional career. In 1999 he earned his PGA membership and began his career as a successful PGA club professional. Along the way Engram learned the value of developing high personal integrity and character. His philosophy has always been to lead by example, demonstrating those characteristics to his assistant professionals, and it’s had a dramatic impact. In his career as a head professional and mentor, Engram has helped five assistants move into head professional positions around the country.

Another important career skill Engram has demonstrated to his young assistants is giving back through being an active and engaged member of his Association and community. Aside from making time to play in Section events, Engram has also served on the Board of Directors for each of the three different PGA Sections he has worked in (Southwest, Northern Ohio and Georgia Sections) and been active on various committees. Engram recently served for two years as chairman of the Southwest PGA Tournament Committee and regularly makes his course available for Section and Chapter events. In 2009 he captured the Northern Ohio PGA Section Championship.

Engram illustrates the importance of community involvement by playing a key role in Mirabel’s annual fund raising event for Scottsdale Healthcare that has raised more the one million dollars for cancer research. Additionally, he is personally involved with the Special Olympics of Arizona, as well as HopeKids Arizona, the local chapter of a national initiative that provides community support for families coping with children suffering from life-threatening medical conditions.

The 2015 Bill Strausbuagh Award marks the fourth Sectional honor Engram has received. Past honors include the 2000 Georgia PGA Assistant Golf Professional of the Year, the 2004 Northern Ohio PGA Merchandiser of the Year for Private facilities and the 2009 Northern Ohio PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award.

Engram resides in Anthem, AZ, with his wife Erin and their two children: Andrew and Ellie.

Southwest PGA Player Development Award – Eric Kulinna, PGA Director of Player Development at Lone Tree Golf Club in Chandler, AZ., has been named the 2015 Southwest PGA Player Development Award recipient.  The Player Development Award recognizes a PGA Professional for extraordinary and exemplary contributions and achievements in introducing new players to the game of golf and increasing rounds and revenues for their facility. The award considers the PGA Professional’s growth of the game leadership commitment at the Section level and the impact made at their facility and within their community.

Kulinna, 49, has worked in the golf industry for more than two decades at both private and public golf facilities in Arizona, Illinois and Michigan. In addition to his current staff responsibilities at Lone Tree G.C. he also serves as the site coordinator for the club’s programming classes with The First Tee of Phoenix. Since 2012 Kulinna has spearheaded The First Tee program’s growth to over 300 juniors at Lone Tree, establishing it as the largest programming site in the Phoenix chapter. Kulinna’s  comprehensive efforts to create unique instructional opportunities utilizing national PGA of America initiatives such as the Drive, Chip and Putt Championship, PGA Junior League Golf programming and Get Golf Ready classes have made a tangible and significant impact in growing the game at Lone Tree.

Born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA., Kulinna began caddying at South Hills Country Club at age twelve. As a junior in high school he turned his athletic focus to golf after being forced to abandon football due to injury. Following just two summers of competitive junior golf, Kulinna earned a walk-on spot on the men’s golf team at Penn State University. The Nittany Lions won twelve team titles during his career, including three straight Atlantic 10 conference tournaments, and competed in the 1987 NCAA Men’s Golf championship at Ohio State University. Kulinna earned three varsity letters and was the individual medalist at the 1989 Indiana University of Pennsylvania Invitational. Kulinna graduated from PSU with a degree in Exercise and Sports Science.

Following his undergraduate work, Kulinna moved west to pursue graduate studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Because of his playing background, he was assigned to teach golf classes in the UIUC Physical Education Activities Program. While completing his Master of Science in Kinesiology in the summer of 1992, Kulinna qualified for both the U.S. Amateur Public Links and Western Amateur Championships. He has served as a volunteer Assistant Coach for the University of Illinois Women’s Golf team, and taught golf classes as an adjunct faculty member at both Wayne State University in Detroit, MI., and at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. Elected to PGA membership in 1997, Kulinna has also served in golf professional roles at Bear Creek G.C. (Chandler, AZ.), Cottonwood C.C. (Sun Lakes, AZ.), Detroit G.C. (Detroit, MI.) and Champaign C.C. (Champaign, IL.).

Eric and his wife, Dr. Pamela Hodges Kulinna, reside in Chandler, Ariz., with their son Parker.

Southwest PGA Merchandiser of the Year – Private Facilities – Mark Thush, PGA Director of Retail at Desert Mountain has been named the 2015 Southwest PGA Merchandiser of the Year for Private Facilities. The award marks the second time (2012) Thush, 50, has been so recognized by the Southwest PGA. The Merchandiser of the Year Award annually recognizes a PGA Professional for their innovative and successful merchandising skills.

A native of California, Thush joined Desert Mountain in 2002 after serving in leadership roles for the Pebble Beach Company retail division for 10 years (1992-2002). While with the Pebble Beach Company, Thush oversaw merchandising operations for the 2000 U.S. Open and completed his career at Pebble Beach as the Director of Retail Operations. In 2005 he was named one of the golf industry’s “Top 25 Merchandisers” by Golf World Business magazine.

A graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara with a degree in Business Economics, Thush has demonstrated consistent success year after year at Desert Mountain with his simple yet effective merchandising philosophy of striving to create a welcoming atmosphere that compels members and guests to make a purchase. With annual gross merchandising sales in excess of $4M, Desert Mountain is nationally recognized as one of the top green-grass golf retail facilities. Under Thush’s direction, Desert Mountain has received multiple Platinum Awards from the Association of Golf Merchandisers for being an industry leader in merchandise operations. In 2015 Thush was recognized by Golf Digest with the “Hackels Award” designating the “Best of the Best in American Golf Shops”.

In addition to his work at Desert Mountain, Thush is actively involved volunteering time to the Foothills Food Bank. He and his wife Loraine Pizzi currently reside in Phoenix, Arizona.

Southwest PGA Merchandiser of the Year – Public Facilities – Mason Spalding, PGA Head Golf Professional at the TPC Las Vegas has been named the 2015 Southwest PGA Merchandiser of the Year for Public Facilities, which recognizes a PGA Professional for their innovative and successful merchandising skills. The 31-year-old professional elected to membership in 2013 has also been recognized as the Southern Nevada Chapter PGA Merchandiser of the Year for Public Facilities in 2015.

Spalding developed a passion for the game of golf as a teenager and began his career working outside operations at the local municipal golf course in his hometown of Denver, CO. This first position in the golf business provided him the opportunity and venue to grow his game, eventually leading to a spot on his high school’s varsity team. Spalding graduated from the PGA Golf Management (PGM) program at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs in the fall of 2008 and began his career as an assistant professional with TPC Las Vegas in January, 2009. He was promoted to Head Golf Professional in 2013.

Much of Spalding’s merchandising success at TPC Las Vegas has been built around his philosophy of developing creative and bright eye-catching displays that peak interest and direct shop guests into and around the entire floor space. In 2015 total gross retails sales at TPC Las Vegas were in excess of $700k.  Another large component of Mason’s merchandising business plan includes leveraging group outings. By understanding the importance of group outings and the impact they can have on annual revenue generation, Spalding has implemented several unique procedures designed to better engage outing coordinators that have resulted in doubling annual group outing sales over the past two years.  

TPC Las Vegas has been recognized by the Association of Golf Merchandisers as a Platinum Award winner in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

Spalding currently resides in Las Vegas, NV., with his wife Jenna and daughter Macie.

Southwest PGA Player of the Year – Michael Hopper, PGA Assistant Professional at Lookout Mountain Golf Club in Phoenix, AZ., earned 2015 Southwest PGA Player of the Year honors following an outstanding season highlighted by a win at the Southwest PGA Assistant’s Championship. Hopper also played in the PGA Tour’s 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, qualifying with his win at the Southwest PGA Section Championship in 2014.

Hopper, 31, has now captured back-to-back Southwest PGA Player of the Year honors (2014, 2015) and a career total of three Player of the Year honors since 2012. Other highlights in his 2015 season include a 2nd place finish in the PING Southwest PGA Section Championship and a 4th place finish in the Southwest PGA Professional National Championship qualifier. Hopper finished T-38 in the 2015 PGA Assistant’s National Championship at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, FL., this past November.

Hopper will compete in the 2016 PGA Professional National Championship at Turning Stone Resort in Verona, N.Y. June 26-29, 2016.

Born in Denver, CO., Hopper is a 2008 graduate of the PGA Golf Management Program at Arizona State University. He currently resides in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife Angelique and his children Aidan and Caidance.

Southwest PGA Senior Player of the Year – Jim Carter, PGA Life Member, has earned the 2015 Southwest PGA Senior Player of the Year award. A native Arizonian, Carter has amassed an impressive playing record over a now four-decade long career.  This marks Carter’s first Southwest PGA Senior Player of the Year recognition.

Carter, 54, grew up in Mesa, Arizona, and attended Mesa High School. As a teenager, Carter worked at Dobson Ranch Golf Club and Ahwatukee Country Club. Through success on the course and in the classroom, Carter earned a spot on the Arizona State University men’s golf team. During his career at ASU, Carter became the first men’s Sun Devil to capture the NCAA individual golf championship in 1983. That same year he was named the school’s “Athlete of the Year” and was awarded the Pac-10 Medal, the highest honor a student athlete can receive. A two-time All-American and  member of  the Sun Devil Hall of Fame, Carter has captured two Arizona Open Championships, two Arizona Senior Open Championships, and earned a victory on the PGA Tour when he won the Tucson Open in 2000.

Following graduation from ASU with a degree in Business, Carter turned professional and has been a member of the PGA Tour since 1987. The Mesa City Sports Hall of Fame member finished an outstanding 2015 season with a victory at the Southwest PGA Senior Professional Championship. Other season highlights included a 2nd place finish in the Senior PGA Professional National Championship, a T-15 finish in the U.S. Senior Open and a T-9 finish in the Arizona Senior Open.

Carter and his wife Cyndi currently reside in Scottsdale, Arizona, and have three sons, Shane, Brant and Race.

With over 1300 members and apprentices, 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