The Professional Golfers’ Association of British Columbia has taken notice of how the state of golf in the Yukon has been improving over the past few years.
Mountain View Golf Course’s club-pro Jeff Wiggins has played no small part in the development of the sport in the territory, and the PGABC has noticed that too.
Earlier this month Wiggins was named Golf Professional of the Year by the association.
He wasn’t given the award for his prowess as a player, promoting the sport in the Yukon, or running a top-notch course.
It was all of the above and more.
“It’s a big award and I was surprised to get it,” said Wiggins. “Talking to my peers and some of the staff down at the PGABC office, they gave it to me because not only what we’ve been able to do up here in Whitehorse, which is basically put the Yukon on the map. But it’s from attending national events, playing well, and also getting out there and marketing the Yukon.”
Wiggins, who is originally from Saskatoon, has been with Mountain View for five seasons. Few improvements at the club don’t have his fingerprints on them. He has overseen everything from improving the course to raising the quality of events to introducing programs to grow the sport.
His dedication has been outstanding, said Gord Zealand, president of the Yukon Golf Association.
“He’s made an incredible difference,” said Zealand. “He brought a professional attitude to the course and to the Yukon. Thanks to Jeff we all get to benefit from both his skills and his knowledge of the game.
“He’s just a great individual. He’s very intense and very dedicated to the job. Thankfully we have the privilege of having him up here.”
The annual Skookum Asphalt Charity Pro-Am, held at Mountain View the last three summers, is perhaps the biggest contributing factor to Wiggins receiving the award.
Not only did the event almost immediately become the premier event on the golf calendar in Whitehorse, it has become the Yukon Hospital Foundation’s second largest fundraising event of the year. The event has raised almost $200,000 for the foundation in just three years.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of pro-ams in the past – charity pro-ams, celebrity pro-ams – and I’ve never seen a pro-am that raises as much money as we do up here,” said Wiggins. “It’s very rare to see one that raises as much as we do, which says a lot about the community up here.
“Creating events that bring the community together is so important for obvious reasons.”
Each summer, 20 or more pro golfers leave the pro-am blown away by both the qualify of the event and the course.
“(The course) is like nothing I’ve ever seen before,” said Ethan Danish, a visiting golf pro who won the pro-am in August. “Everyone talked about how tight it was, and even being from the Okanagan where there’s a lot of tree-lined courses – but nothing like this.
“I didn’t expect anything like this. It was awesome. I was really impressed.”
The pro-am promotes the Yukon’s only 18-hole course outside of the territory, but Wiggins also promotes the sport within the territory.
Shortly before the start of the season, Wiggins and his assistants run an elementary school program to introduce the sport to youngsters using the SNAG Golf developmental program. The club pros also use SNAG Golf, which uses special equipment that is safer and easier to use, to introduce the sport to athletes with Special Olympics Yukon.
Wiggins also works with the Yukon Golf Association in running junior programs and was Team Yukon’s head golf coach for the Canada Summer Games in 2009.
Thanks to Wiggins and Mountain View, Yukoners can now enjoy a round of golf during the winter – a virtual round of golf, that is.
First introduced last winter and restarting in January, golfers can play during the winter using the Optishot Golf Simulator, a highly sophisticated simulator that uses real golf balls and clubs.
Along with the Optishot, golfers can use new V1 coaching software, a video analysis tool that allows golfers to see their swings frame-by-frame.
Wiggins has done so much for golf as a coach and administrator, but let’s not forget he knows how to swing a club too. In the last month he has performed well in two professional tourneys.
A couple of weeks ago Wiggins, and Mountain View members Terry DeForrest and Dan Jordan, competed at the Navigator ProAm in Scottsdale, Arizona.
After five rounds they finished in second place as a team, for the second year in a row. Wiggins tied for fourth on the pro side of the tournament, one spot behind his result from last year.
Wiggins then competed at the Titleist & FootJoy Club Professional Championship of Canada last week in Port St. Lucie, Florida.
It was a tough course, with tough conditions and he also had some tough luck. The day before the first round, Wiggins broke the shaft of his driver at the range and was unable to find a suitable replacement.
“For me it’s very, very important I have my driver, especially on the Wanamaker Course where this event was being held,” said Wiggins. “It’s a Tom Fazio design and … he is absolutely relentless off the tee if you miss a fairway. He puts you into bunkers that you just can’t get to the green from. So you’re going to make a lot of bogeys if you’re not hitting it straight off the tee.
“I have one of the most accurate driving stats in the Canadian PGA, but when this shaft broke I had to whip it around with a three wood.
“So I wasn’t attending to my game plan.”
Wiggins finished tied for 62nd out of 93 pros with a score of plus-24, a far cry from his result last year. In 2011, while becoming the first club pro to represent the Yukon at the event, Wiggins finished tied for 20th.
He wasn’t the only one struggling this year. It was the highest winning score the championship had ever seen with Brian Huttlon winning with two under par. Last year Wiggins hit even par, which would have put him in a tie for third this year.
“At the end of the tournament it was just nice to make the cut,” said Wiggins.
Before moving north to Whitehorse, Wiggins was on a crew of administrators that won PGABC’s Promoter of the Year Award. He was also nominated for Junior Promoter of the Year in 2007.
Last year was a finalist for the Professional Development Award.
“It’s more recognition for Mountain View Golf Club as well,” said Wiggins.
Superintendent Derek Wirth “has done just a fantastic job making sure the (course) conditions are second to none in this country,” he added.
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