Back to archives


Honored as the 50th recipient of the Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year Award

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – 11-7-23 – Jay Larscheid, PGA General Manager at Apache Wells Country Club in Mesa, Ariz., has been named the 50th recipient of the Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year Award, the highest annual honor bestowed by the Southwest PGA on a PGA Professional.

"I am deeply honored to be named the Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year, joining the esteemed ranks of our Association's exceptional leaders," said Larscheid. "This award is a testament to the unwavering support and assistance I've received from all those who have stood by me on this journey. I will forever hold their contributions close to my heart."

Larscheid heads the 2023 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 in February of 2024.

  • Jay Larscheid of Apache Wells Country Club – Golf Professional of the Year 
  • Kiel Wolf of Desert Mountain Club – Assistant Golf Professional of the Year
  • Justin Klemballa of Paradise Valley Country Club – Teacher of the Year
  • Chris Hubbard of Girls Golf of Tucson – Youth Player Development Award
  • Rick Price of the Views Golf Club at Oro Valley – Bill Strausbaugh Award
  • Josh Wilks of Quail Creek Country Club – Player Development Award
  • Mike Karpe of the Preserve Golf Club at Saddlebrooke – The Patriot Award
  • Mark Croft of Yuma Golf & Country Club – The Deacon Palmer Award
  • Nigel Spence of Arizona Country Club – Merchandiser of the Year for Private Facilities

The Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year – Born in the rural landscape of South Dakota, Larscheid's introduction to the game of golf came from his father, who would take him to the area's sole nine-hole course during the early mornings. When Larscheid turned 15, the family relocated to Sioux Falls, where he had his first encounter with a PGA Professional named Terry Comstock at Elmwood Golf Course, who eventually became his mentor. It was Comstock who handed Larscheid a pamphlet bearing the title “PGA Apprentice Program” and encouraged him to pursue a career in the golf industry. In 1986, with the assistance of a high school friend, Larscheid secured a job in outside services at McCormick Ranch Golf Club in Scottsdale. Over time, he climbed the ranks to become an Assistant Golf Professional. He achieved PGA of America membership in 1996 and was subsequently appointed as the PGA Head Golf Professional at McCormick Ranch. With aspirations of becoming a PGA General Manager, Larscheid dedicated himself to gaining experience in every department at the facility, including agronomy. In 2001, he assumed the role of PGA Head Golf Professional at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, and after three years, he was promoted to PGA General Manager. In December 2015, Larscheid was named the PGA General Manager at Sunland Springs Golf Club in Mesa, where no PGA Professional had been on staff before. He made an immediate impact by overseeing the construction of a restaurant, kitchen, and patio for a facility that lacked food and beverage services, all while implementing new programs and enhancing course conditions. In 2021, Larscheid accepted the role of PGA General Manager at Apache Wells, transforming all aspects of operations, resulting in an enhanced member experience.

Larscheid considers being a PGA Professional as one of the most significant achievements in his life, second only to his family. Mentoring holds a special place in his heart, as he takes pride in sharing his expertise and experiences to help others advance in their careers. Leading by example, Larscheid emphasizes that inspiration arises from active engagement. Community involvement and contributions to the Section are of great importance to him. During his tenure in the Southwest PGA, he served and chaired various committees, including Finance, Junior Golf, Governance, Strategic Planning and Special Awards. In 2010, he was elected to the Southwest PGA Board of Directors and subsequently held officer positions, serving as Secretary, Vice-President, and President of the Section from 2019 to 2021. In 2011, Larscheid received the Southwest PGA Junior Golf Leader Award in recognition of his leadership in junior golf and his commitment to youth development. He was also nationally acknowledged in 2008 by the American Junior Golf Association as their Golf Professional of the Year. Additionally, Larscheid contributed to the Southwest PGA Foundation Board of Directors for 17 years, actively participating in events such as Special Olympics, Birdies for Good, and PGA Golf Day.

The Southwest PGA Assistant Golf Professional of the Year – Kiel Wolf, PGA Assistant Golf Professional at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, has been recognized as the 2023 Southwest PGA Assistant Golf Professional of the Year, an honor bestowed upon him for his outstanding leadership, ability to inspire fellow PGA Professionals, efforts in promoting golf, and dedicated service to the PGA. Originally from Cambridge, Wis., Wolf's desire to enter the golf business came from his high school golf coach Dan Gaertner. His journey commenced as a PGA Associate at Sunland Village Golf Club in Mesa, where he initially served as an assistant before progressing to the role of head golf professional. In 2017 he joined Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, where he was part of the team administering the PGA Jr. League National Championship and Men's & Women's NCAA Division 1 National Championships. Wolf, who earned his membership in the PGA of America in 2018, continues his journey at Desert Mountain in his current role as Assistant Golf Professional, a position he has held since 2022. Wolf is dedicated to the cultivation of four pillars in his daily work: leadership, organization, consistency, and mentorship. He consistently shares his wealth of knowledge and expertise with both seasoned PGA Professionals and those embarking on their careers in the industry. Beyond his responsibilities at Desert Mountain, Wolf volunteers his time for various events, including the Special Olympics State Championship, Birdies for Good, Drive, Chip and Putt, PING Junior Interclub and PGA Jr. League. He actively participates in numerous committees within the Section, and he currently co-chairs the Social and Community Outreach Committee. In this role, he organizes member events like the “Hole-It-Roll-It Classic” where golf, bowling and charitable giving all meet, raising needed supplies for foster families through “Helen's Hope Chest.”  Wolf is also involved in volunteer opportunities including leading fellow PGA Professionals sending prepackaged meals to poverty-stricken countries through “Feed my Starving Children” and Thanksgiving Turkey Distribution through St. Mary's Food Bank. Further underscoring his dedication to the Association, Wolf was elected to the Southwest PGA Board of Directors in 2021. This recognition as the Southwest PGA Assistant Golf Professional of the Year marks Wolf's first award within the Southwest PGA.

The Southwest PGA Teacher of the Year – Justin Klemballa, PGA Director of Instruction at Paradise Valley (Ariz.) Country Club, has been recognized as the 2023 Southwest PGA Teacher of the Year. The award celebrates his exceptional contributions as a golf instructor, innovator, and coach. Klemballa's journey began after his graduation from the PGA Golf Management program at Methodist University in 2010, ultimately leading to his membership in the PGA of America. He served as an instructor at the renowned Jim McLean Golf School, in Florida, California, and Arizona, before assuming his current position in 2015 at Paradise Valley Country Club. During the summer months, Klemballa serves as the PGA Director of Instruction at Forest Highlands Golf Club in Flagstaff, Ariz. He takes immense pride in delivering a top-tier golf instruction experience characterized by a straightforward teaching approach. His teaching philosophy involves the Operation 36 program, which serves as a vital part of his academy catering to men, women, and juniors. The academy encompasses coaching, playing, and training programs designed to teach golfers to approach the game from a hole-out perspective. The impact of his academy has guided over 530 golfers, many of whom started as beginners and have since become golf enthusiasts. Beyond his instructional expertise, Klemballa has contributed articles to national publications and shares segments on his social media platforms, including Instagram and YouTube. His influence extends to presenting at various local and national seminars and Teaching and Coaching Summits. Actively engaged in education within the Section, he chairs the Southwest PGA Teaching and Coaching Summit and has been a member of the Southwest PGA Education Committee since 2018. Klemballa's commitment and excellence have garnered him recognition by Golf Digest as one of the “Best Young Teachers in America” and “Best Teachers in State.” He has also been recognized as a Top 50 Master Coach for Operation 36 and a US Kids Top 50 Kids Coach. The Southwest PGA Teacher of the Year award is Klemballa’s first award in the Section.

The Southwest PGA Youth Player Development Award – Chris Hubbard, PGA Golf Administrator for Girls Golf of Tucson, has been honored with the Southwest PGA Youth Player Development Award. This accolade celebrates a PGA Professional who has demonstrated exceptional and outstanding contributions and accomplishments in the realm of youth player development. Hubbard earned his membership in the PGA of America in 2012, initially serving as a golf course superintendent at three different facilities, including a stint at Mauna Kea Golf Course in Kamuela, Hawaii. Despite his full-time agronomy role, his true passion and focus was in the development of junior golfers, all of which he pursued through volunteer work. From 2013 to 2018, Hubbard dedicated his time to volunteering with the non-profit LPGA-USGA Girls Golf-Tucson (GGTA) program, which aims to introduce golf to girls aged 7 to 17 through lessons and on-course play. His role expanded in 2017 when he assumed the position of the PGA representative for GGTA, taking charge of instructors, managing clinics, coordinating play day events, and organizing fundraising tournaments. In 2019, he assumed the role of volunteer director for the entire GGTA program, a position he holds to this day. Hubbard's unwavering dedication, commitment and passion for junior golf development extends to numerous programs and organizations, including the First Tee of Tucson, PGA Jr. League, Drive, Chip and Putt and the Southwest PGA Junior Prep Tour. He also plays an integral part in several junior programs at both the Section and Chapter levels, as well as within the Arizona Junior Golf Association. This is Hubbard's first award as a member of the Southwest PGA.

The Southwest PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award – Rick Price, who serves as the PGA Director of Golf at the Views Golf Club in Oro Valley (Ariz.), has been honored with the Southwest PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award. This award is presented to a PGA Member who exemplifies exceptional character, integrity, and leadership, particularly through teaching and mentoring fellow PGA Professionals. Having been a PGA member since 1994, Price has dedicated over 30 years of his career to mentoring numerous assistants and associates by offering guidance and sharing his wealth of experiences. Through his unwavering commitment to mentoring, leadership, and advocacy, Price has played a pivotal role in shaping the careers of countless PGA and LPGA Professionals. His efforts have not only elevated the perception of golf but have also showcased the excellence of PGA Professionals, strengthening the Association's reputation as a champion of professionalism and expertise. Price is an active contributor to his community, regularly volunteering and assisting in organizing events and outreach programs benefiting initiatives such as Cure Cancer, Ronald McDonald House Charities, the Southwest PGA Foundation, Feed My Starving Children, PGA HOPE, First Tee of Tucson, Ricki Rarick Junior Golf, and the LPGA Girls Golf of Tucson. He has also served on various committees and held officer positions within both the Section and Chapter, including two terms as President of the Southern Chapter and serving as President of the Section in 2003-2004. This marks Price's second award within the Section, previously earning the Southwest PGA Golf Professional of the Year award in 1996, in addition to numerous awards and accolades in the Southern Chapter.

The Southwest PGA Player Development Award – Josh Wilks, the PGA Director of Golf at Quail Creek Country Club in Green Valley, Ariz., has been honored with the Southwest PGA Player Development Award, recognizing his outstanding contributions and achievements in the area of player development. Wilks became a member of the PGA of America in 2020 during his tenure as the Director of Golf at Harbor Lakes Golf Club in Granbury, Tex. Later in the same year, he relocated to the Tucson area to assume the role of Director of Golf at the Gallery Golf Club in Marana, Ariz., before ultimately taking on his current position at Quail Creek in 2022. Dedicated to introducing newcomers in the community to the game of golf, Wilks collaborated with golf course designer Gary Brawley to design and construct a practice facility in alignment with his vision. Leveraging Operation 36's curriculum and platform, he successfully devised, organized, and managed a program tailored for adults, enrolling over 200 new golfers in 2023 through 8-week beginner classes. This program also facilitates online progress tracking for both coaches and students. Wilks' approach is driven by three fundamental principles: making golf enjoyable, offering facility access during classes, and fostering enthusiasm among all participants including the introduction of golf to women. Beyond his developmental initiatives, Wilks is at the helm of the renovation efforts for Quail Creek's three nine-hole courses and has more than doubled revenue at the golf shop since his arrival at the facility. A notable player, Wilks finished as the runner-up in the 2023 Southern Chapter Player of the Year race and holds the course record at Quail Creek after shooting a 60 this fall. The Southwest PGA Player Development honor is Wilks' first award as a member of the Section.

The Southwest PGA Patriot Award – Mike Karpe, the PGA Head Golf Professional at the Preserve and MountainView Golf Clubs in Tucson, has been honored with the Southwest PGA Patriot Award. This prestigious recognition is bestowed upon a PGA Professional who exemplifies patriotism through the game of golf and showcases unwavering commitment and dedication to the brave men and women who have valiantly served and protected our nation. Originally from Shoreview, Minn., Karpe earned his membership in the PGA of America in 2007 and first got involved in 2008 with Patriot Golf Day, a fundraising initiative by the PGA of America for the Folds of Honor Foundation. The Foundation provides scholarships to spouses and children of fallen and disabled veterans. In 2018, he took his commitment a step further by launching his own Patriot Golf Day event. Over the course of six years, this event has raised over $200,000 for the Folds of Honor Foundation, establishing itself as one of the top fundraising events in the country. Karpe also serves as a member of the Folds of Honor Arizona Auxiliary Board. In addition to his efforts with Patriot Golf Day, he achieved certification as a PGA HOPE instructor in 2022. He continues to volunteer, raise awareness, generate funds, and provide adaptive programs aimed at introducing golf to veterans with disabilities, enriching their physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being. Notably, he has integrated 14 Veterans into his staff, working both in the golf shop and in outside services at the Preserve and MountainView Golf Clubs. This marks Karpe's first award as a member of the Southwest PGA, a testament to his outstanding contributions to both the sport of golf and the support of our nation's servicemen and women.

The Southwest PGA Deacon Palmer Award – Mark Croft, PGA Director of Instruction at Yuma (Ariz.) Golf & Country Club, is the inaugural recipient of the Southwest PGA Deacon Palmer Award. Named after Arnold Palmer’s late father who overcame personal obstacles to succeed as a PGA Professional, this award was established by the PGA of America in 2014 and bestows special recognition upon a PGA Professional who personally displays outstanding integrity, character and leadership while overcoming a major obstacle in his/her life. Originally from Walla Walla Wash., Croft relocated to Yuma in 1998 and formed “Mark Croft Golf” to provide juniors in Yuma and Southern California an opportunity to learn and play the game of golf. He earned his membership in the PGA of America in 2001 and assumed the role of the Yuma Southwest PGA Junior Prep Tour District Director, a role he has held for the past 21 years. In addition to teaching juniors, Croft has a passion for serving the game through golf therapy for veterans and disabled. He knows firsthand the difficulties that can be associated with golfing with a disability, having had his right leg amputated above the knee in early 2016. What would be a major setback to some turned into motivation for Croft who would be seen back on the lesson tee before his prosthetic was even available. He was instrumental in starting the PGA HOPE program for the Southwest PGA and served as the lead for numerous years. Since PGA HOPE’s inception in 2016, he has educated fellow PGA Professionals on the initiative, conveyed the vast number of challenges veterans face, illustrated how to adapt to individual needs and spread overall awareness on the program throughout the entire state of Arizona.  His commitment and dedication to the Southwest PGA is apparent in his fundraising for programs, providing member education for PGA HOPE, providing clothing to homeless veterans and helping orchestrate a manual for facilities to follow to help implement Veterans Affairs assistance.  Croft is PGA certified in three different career paths: Teaching and Coaching, Player Development and Golf Operations Among his many awards, Croft was honored with the 2009 Southwest PGA Junior Player Development Award and the 2018 Southwest PGA Player Development and Patriot Awards.

The Southwest PGA Merchandiser of the Year for Private Facilities – Nigel Spence, PGA Director of Golf at Arizona Country Club in Phoenix, is the recipient of the Southwest PGA Merchandiser of the Year for Private Facilities. The award recognizes PGA Professionals who have excelled as businesspersons and merchandisers in the promotion of golf. A native of Australia, Spence was a Class A member of the PGA of Australia before relocating to the United States and earning his membership in the PGA of America in 2013 while working as an assistant at Whisper Rock Golf Club in Scottsdale. Before his current position at Arizona Country Club in 2019, Spence served as the PGA Director of Golf at Scottsdale National Golf Club. Spence and his team are committed to infusing every member and guest experience with distinctive, unforgettable personal touches. The shop’s array of merchandise is thoughtfully curated to align with the preferences of its members, showcasing the latest, most thrilling, and up-to-date selections, including trendy lifestyle lines. The golf shop's visual appeal, achieved through engaging and regularly updated displays, is designed to captivate the private members' attention. Displays are repurposed several times throughout the year for many member events and themed for the WM Phoenix Open and Masters. He believes that following industry trends is essential but is not afraid to go beyond traditional golf shop buying to push the boundaries of merchandise and displays. Since arriving at Arizona Country Club, Spence has more than doubled the total sales revenue for the club. This is Spence’s first award as a member of the Southwest PGA.