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Zundel, Whittaker Among Annual Utah PGA Award Winners

Scott Whittaker, retiring Executive Director of the Utah Section, was named PGA Professional of the Year for the third time, and Rod Zundel, popular and ever enthusiastic sportscaster for KSL Television and host of the KSL 5 Golf Utah Show was recognized as the Golf Citizen of the Year Tuesday night at the annual Utah Section PGA Awards Banquet in St. George. Other major award winners were Cory Badger, Teacher of Year; Scott Brandt, Bill Strasbaugh Award; Chris Newson, Horton Smith Award; and Chris Moody, Player of the Year Award.

Rod Zundel, Golf Citizen of Year

Receiving the Utah Section PGA's Bill Howard as Golf Citizen of the Year is especially meaningful to Rod Zundel, because he worked for Bill Howard.

Beyond his own love for playing golf, as a regular contestant in amateur events, it is clear that Zundel was influenced by Howard and Bill Marcroft during his tenure with KUTV. Long before he would become a fixture with KSL, Zundel learned the strategy and value of covering golf from those KUTV icons.

So a mix of personal and professional interest is reflected in Zundel's work as host of the KSL 5 Golf Utah show. He's driven to promote the game and spotlight the personalities that make golf in this state so special.

“He's always done a lot of great things for section and golf in Utah,: said former executive director Scott Whittaker. “Our membership really appreciates the support he's given us all of these years.”

Zundel is closely tied to the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open and gives his full effort to covering and competing in the Short Game Challenge, featuring Special Olympics athletes.

And he'll never forget playing golf with Howard, late in his mentor's life. Howard had a unique ability, Zundel remembers, to drive the ball down the middle of the fairway, while wishing his shots would go farther but never getting frustrated about it.

Corey Badger, Teacher of the Year

As a teenager, Corey Badger discovered his knack for teaching golf by working with his Highland High School teammates. He's suddenly too old to be included on one of those lists that made him a national name in the profession, but he's still in a sweet spot in his career.

Badger once thought he would have to move out of Utah to pursue full-time teaching, but he has settled into a very good position with the Golf Lab in Salt Lake City. Now that he's 40, he's no longer one of Golf Digest's “Top 20 Teachers Under 40,” as he was first recognized in 2009. Yet he's a two-time winner of the Utah Section PGA's Teacher of the Year Award, first honored in 2011.

The award celebrates “how dedicated he is to it,” said former executive director Scott Whittaker, admiring how Badger has focused on teaching.

Badger is conscious of learning all of the science that goes into the golf swing, while not disregarding his roots. He's combining old-school and new-school approaches, making sure students understand what he's trying to teach them, and not just throw a lot of high-tech material at them. And it all goes back to his Highland days, when he would make swing suggestions to his friends and “just enjoyed seeing them get better,” he said.

Scott Brandt, Bill Strasbaugh Award

When it comes to having important mentors in the golf profession, Scott Brandt is a direct descendant of Tee Branca, a legendary figure as a charter member of the Utah Golf Hall of Fame. Brandt learned well from Branca's sons Ron and Don and extends that tradition of mentoring as the longtime head professional at Bloomington Country Club in St. George, where he has added more managerial duties.

The graduate of Brighton High School and the University of Utah is the Utah Section PGA's Bill Strasbaugh Award winner for the second time, with his previous recognition coming in 1999. The recent work of section presidents Colby Cowan and Chris Stover (the past two winners for the Strasbaugh, for club relations) as his former assistants illustrates Brandt's influence in Utah golf.

It all goes back to his days of working for Ron Branca at Rose Park Golf Course and Don Branca at Willow Creek Country Club, learning how to treat people well. Their personalities reflected Tee Branca's, naturally.

So it is not surprising to hear former section executive director Scott Whittaker describe Brandt as “a gentleman's gentleman.”

As a PGA of America board member, Brandt believes mentoring among PGA professionals is a reflection of the game. Just as golfers are willing to offer tips to fellow competitors on the driving range, pros can call one another for advice about any subject. “Golf in general has always been that way,” Brandt said. “It's a great fraternity.”

Chris Newson, Horton Smith Award

Chris Newson did not win the Utah Section PGA's Horton Smith Award for education, as much as it was thrust upon him.

That's one way of describing Newson's latest honor, as a former section Professional of the Year. When he agreed to fill a mid-term vacancy on the section board if director, as appointed by then-president Colby Cowan, Newson was assigned to education and “took it a personal challenge,” he said.

By all accounts, he carried out that responsibility in much the same way as his administration of the 2012 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship at Soldier Hollow Golf Course in Midway, where he's the head pro.

Newson made sure section members were aware of their educational opportunities and deadlines, and he Newson made sure section members were aware of their educational opportunities and deadlines, and he helped stage a teaching and coaching seminar at Impact Golf Center in Draper. The section brought in national presenters and college golf coaches, who discussed recruiting of young golfers. Newson was impressed that even some members who had fulfilled their current education requirements attended the seminar, for the sake of supporting the effort and learning more.

The Horton Smith Award rewards pros in each section for developing and improving educational opportunities for PGA professionals, and Newson is known for getting the job done, in whatever he's asked to do. “He's kind of a behind-the-scenes guy,:” said former section executive director Scott Whittaker. “A lot of what he does is internal. He doesn't have to be the center of attention to do a great job.”

Scott Whittaker, Professional of the Year

If Scott Whittaker's third-time selection as the Utah Section PGA's Professional of the Year is considered a lifetime achievement award, that's a compliment.

Such a description does not diminish anything Whittaker accomplished in 2015, prior to his retirement, and there's no doubt he deserved a final tribute. And because the section membership voted for this award, he views it as the most meaningful of his career. His previous Professional of the Year awards came in 1988 and '96 during his Bountiful Ridge Golf Course tenure.

Whittaker spent 13 years as the section's executive director, retiring Oct. 1. His influence will continue through the Utah Golf Alliance, and Whittaker is proud to have helped bring Utah's governing bodies of the game together to tackle important issues regarding the future of golf in the state. “I'm going to keep working, as best I can,” he said.

In addition to his overall work on local and national levels with the PGA of America, the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open is a big part of Whittaker's legacy. The section's operation of the tournament has restored it to a premier event for players and sponsors, while he never lost sight of the overriding goal of benefiting Special Olympics Utah. With the impending departures of Whittaker and marketing director Scott Bringhurst, the awards presentation on the 18th green of Riverside Country Club in August had the feel of a closing ceremony. Yet as Whittaker promised, he's not through working on behalf of golf in Utah.

Chris Moody, Player of Year

The current decade of golf competition among Utah Section PGA professionals should be labeled the Moody Dynasty.

For the fifth time, beginning in 2010, Riverside Country Club assistant pro Chris Moody is the section's Player of the Year. Only a 2011 award for Dustin Volk, his close friend, has interrupted Moody's reign. In 2015, Moody topped Zach Johnson and Matt Baird in the points competition.

He has extended a trend that began soon after the section's formation, with Kim Thompson winning nine awards between 1988 and 2001. Henry White won it five times in seven years in this century. Moody now has matched Thompson's four straight awards, from 1993-96.

Moody manages to maintain a high-level game, while doing everything that's involved with his job description at Riverside, while competing against a younger generation of pros.

“He still puts in his hours, so for him to keep his game at that level is impressive,” said former section executive director Scott Whittaker. “You've got all of these young guys that are great players, yet he keeps plugging along.”

Known for his ball-striking ability and steady demeanor, Moody is particularly relentless in the section's Match Play Championship, which he continues to dominate at Hill Air Force Base as a current three-time champion. Moody also won the BHI Golf Classic Open at Dinaland GC in Vernal and posted three second-place finishes, while also participating in the PGA Professional National Championship. Amid the high expectations and familiar surroundings at Riverside, he performed well in the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open, shooting 68-66-69 to tie for eighth place.

Other award winners were Kory Woodland, Youth Player Development Leader; Jeff Cifton, Merchandiser of Year in Public Courses; Greg Stephens, Merchandiser of Year, Private courses; Zach Johnson, Assistant Golf Professional of the Year; Travis Wilson, Superintendent of Year, Public; John Haynes, Superintendent of Year, Private; Eric Nielsen, Gentleman Jeff Award; Terry Outzen, John Wallace Award; Chris Marx, Player Development Award; Steve Schneiter, Senior Player of the Year; Matt Baird, Section Champion; Steve Schneiter, Senior ; Brad Stone, Super Senior Section Champion; Adam Johnson-Barry Schenk, 4-Ball Champions; Chris Moody, Match Play Champion; Scott Brandt, Senior Match Play Champion; Nathan Lashley, Utah Open champion; Steve Schneiter, Senior Open Champion; Milo Lines, Assistants Champion.