Behind the Scenes: It Takes a Village – the Pueblo of Santa Ana – to Stage the 2023 PGA Professional Championship
By Roger Graves
The Twin Warriors Golf Club and Santa Ana Golf Club PGA Professional staffincludes (from left): Anson Magooshboy, Zach Hoefel, Sandy Lemon, Derek Gutierrez, Jason Montoya, Pat Murphy and Dave Brown.
This article originally ran in the April 2022 edition of PGA Magazine.
It literally takes a village to stage a national championship the size and scope of the PGA Professional Championship, with 312 players, caddies, hundreds of volunteers and officials, a full crew of Golf Channel staffers, and friends and family members of the PGA Professionals competing for the coveted Walter Hagen Cup.
In the case of the 2023 PGA Professional Championship, it takes the entire Pueblo of Santa Ana north of Albuquerque, New Mexico; the full staffs of Twin Warriors Golf Club and Santa Ana Golf Club; and a large staff of employees at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa and the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel to make the championship run with precision.
'A perfect site'
The 2023 PGA Professional Championship will be the third “major” PGA event staged by Santa Ana Golf Club, Inc. in the past seven months, joining the Senior PGA Professional Championship last October and the Women’s PGA Cup in November. This is not the first PGA Professional Championship rodeo for Twin Warriors and Santa Ana Golf Clubs, which hosted the 2003 and 2009 PGA Professional Championships.
PGA Director of Golf and General Manager Derek Gutierrez has worked for Santa Ana Golf Club, Inc. for 27 years and is the point person for bringing PGA of America and PGA TOUR-branded events to the Pueblo of Santa Ana, which features two world-class golf courses in Twin Warriors and Santa Ana Golf Clubs, as well as world-class lodging and amenities, and awe-inspiring scenery along the Rio Grande.
“Our venue is the perfect site to host the PGA Professional Championship, our national championship for PGA Professionals,” notes Gutierrez proudly. “Twin Warriors Golf Club and Santa Ana Golf Club, along with our two hotels, all sit within a 1.5-mile radius of each other. Add in our casino and restaurants, one could truly spend an entire visit without venturing off this substantial Santa Ana campus.
“Aside from our two golf courses presenting a great test of golf, our hotels and restaurants can comfortably accommodate officials, Golf Channel personnel, caddies, families and, of course, the players. SAGC Inc. is comprised of Santa Ana Golf Club, Twin Warriors Golf Club, Prairie Star Restaurant, Wind Dancer Grille and the Atush Grille. We have 140 talented team members across all departments.”
In addition, Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel, adjacent to Santa Ana Golf Club has 500 associates to support its operation, and the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa has almost 300 employees and is adjacent to Twin Warriors Golf Club.
Gutierrez and his staff of 10 PGA Professionals, two golf course superintendents and some 50 course maintenance specialists have worked in concert with PGA Senior Director of Member Championships, Rules & Competitions Mark Tschetschot and his staff to ensure every “i” is dotted and “t” crossed in preparing for the 2023 PGA Professional Championship.
“For every Championship hosted at Twin Warriors and Santa Ana Golf Clubs, the staff led by Derek Gutierrez and the leadership at Santa Ana Golf Club, Inc. have been fully engaged and committed to making each Championship better than the last,” observes Tschetschot. “It’s this leadership, philosophy and partnership that make hosting Championships here so inviting.
"That teamwork is also recognized by the players. We are all looking forward to continuing our story at Santa Ana and present the Walter Hagen Cup for the third time there.”
Tschetschot is sincere when he suggests every PGA of America event conducted at the Santa Ana Pueblo is better than the previous. He knows the 20th anniversary of Santa Ana hosting its first PGA Professional Championship (in 2003) will be special.
“Over the years, we have continued to learn about facilities, what their goals are and how hosting a national Championship can accomplish those goals,” explains Tschetschot. “Working with Santa Ana Golf Club, Inc., we have had the opportunity to learn about the Santa Ana Pueblo culture and incorporate that uniqueness into our Championships, not only showcasing the golf courses but giving the contestants a glimpse of their culture.
“Since 2003, that message has been very consistent and I feel each Championship we play here is more special than the last. Our last Championship contested here was the 2022 Women’s PGA Cup. To see, feel and hear our international guests rave about the facilities, staff and experience speaks volumes about the venue.”
Joining Gutierrez on the Santa Ana Golf Club, Inc. team who have helped prepare for the 2023 Championship are Zach Hoefel, PGA Head Professional at Twin Warriors Golf Club; Dave Brown, PGA Head Professional at Santa Ana Golf Club; Pat Murphy, PGA First Assistant/Tournament Coordinator at Santa Ana Golf Club; and Anson Magooshboy, PGA First Assistant/Tournament Coordinator at Twin Warriors Golf Club.
On the agronomy side, John Voet, GCSAA, Golf Course Superintendent at Twin Warriors Golf Club, and Jack Boening, GCSAA, Golf Course Superintendent at Santa Ana Golf Club, anchored their staffs in preparing the two courses for the 2023 PGA Professional Championship.
Sandy Lemon, LPGA/PGA Director of Golf Instruction at Santa Ana Golf Club, Inc.; Jason Montoya, PGA Teaching Professional/Player Development at Santa Ana Golf Club, Inc.; Jacob Sanchez, PGA Assistant Professional at Santa Ana Golf Club; Pat Herrera, PGA Associate and Assistant Professional at Twin Warriors Golf Club, and Brian Lyle, PGA Teaching Professional at both courses, will all play roles in helping the 2023 PGA Professional Championship run smoothly.
“We are all so proud of our facilities located at the Pueblo of Santa Ana, and we are proud to be hosting the 2023 PGA Professional Championship,” emphasizes Gutierrez. “It is without a doubt a tremendous honor for the Sun Country PGA Section, the region, New Mexico and, moreover, our 900 owners at the Pueblo of Santa Ana, the Santa Ana Golf Club Board of Directors, the Santa Ana Golf Club Board of Directors, and our 140 associates, which includes myself and nine other PGA Members and two GCSAA superintendents. We are all looking forward to a great week.”