Annual Honors

Jim Hajek (Golf Professional of the Year) and Ben Lanting (overall Player of the Year) will be among the honorees at upcoming Colorado PGA awards gala

By Gary Baines – 10/20/2022

Quite a few of the Colorado PGA’s best — on and off the course, plus behind the scenes — will be recognized next week as the Section holds its annual awards gala.

The event is set for Friday, Oct. 28 at Colorado Golf Club.

The CPGA’s top honor, Colorado PGA Golf Professional of the Year, will go to Fossil Trace Golf Club head professional Jim Hajek, who recently completed a two-year term as president of the Section’s board of directors. (Cathy Matthews-Kane, the PGA general manager at the Country Club of Colorado in Colorado Springs, is the new president of the Colorado PGA.) Hajek was the PGA of America’s national public course Merchandiser of the Year in 2015 and was named the Colorado Golf Hall of Fame’s Golf Person of the Year the next year.

Jim Hajek was president of the Colorado PGA for two years, until recently.

According to the Colorado PGA, the Golf Professional of the Year honor “is awarded to a PGA Professional for overall performance including leadership and service and promotion of the game of golf. Overall performance at the member’s facility, level of service to the PGA Section and to the Association, and image as a golf professional are some of the criteria considered for this award.”

As for the recently finalized Colorado PGA Players of the Year, there are new honorees and some repeat winners.

Ben Lanting earned Colorado PGA overall Player of the Year honors for the first time.

After the Dow Finsterwald Player of the Year honor was limited to three players over the previous decade — Geoff Keffer (7-time overall POY), Caine Fitzgerald (2) and Doug Rohrbaugh (1) — this year’s overall Player of the Year for the Section is Ben Harding, a PGA assistant pro at Bear Creek Golf Club.

Lanting won the season-long Masek Match Play Championship and finished runner-up for the second straight year in the Colorado PGA Professional Championship. Late last year, he finished 13th in the national Assistant PGA Professional Championship.

Meanwhile, Rohrbaugh, the lead PGA instructor at River Valley Ranch, earned the CPGA’s Senior Player of the Year honor for the eighth time, including the last five consecutive years. Rohrbaugh won the Section’s Western Chapter Championship, placed fourth in the Colorado PGA Professional Championship and third in the Colorado Senior PGA Professional Championship. (It should be noted that POY points earned by Matt Schalk in winning the national Colorado Senior PGA Professional Championship on Oct. 16 will be part of the next POY cycle.)

Sherry Andonian-Smith, a longtime instructor at Valley Country Club, was named the Section’s Women’s Player of the Year for the fifth time in the five years the award has been given. Andonian-Smith finished 25th in this year’s U.S. Senior Women’s Open and second in the Colorado PGA Women’s Championship. As noted last month in, Andonian-Smith will compete for the U.S. team in the Women’s PGA Cup that will start on Monday in Santa Ana Pueblo, N.M.

Meanwhile, Andy Connell of The Ridge at Castle Pines North landed the Colorado PGA’s Associate Player of the Year honor for the second straight year.

Here are the people who will be honored on Oct. 28 at the Colorado PGA gala:


Dow Finsterwald (Overall) Player of the Year: Ben Lanting, Bear Creek GC

Senior Player of the Year: Doug Rohrbaugh, River Valley Ranch

Associate Player of the Year: Andy Connell, The Ridge at Castle Pines North

Women’s Player of the Year: Sherry Andonian-Smith, Valley CC

West Chapter Player of the Year: Doug Rohrbaugh, River Valley Ranch

Pioneer Player of the Year (70 and older): Dennis Murray, PGA Life Member


Golf Professional of the Year: Jim Hajek, Fossil Trace GC

Assistant Golf Professional of the Year: Meghan Hunter, Fort Collins CC

Teacher of the Year: Nick Clearwater, GOLFTEC HQ

Professional Development (outstanding and continuing contributions in developing and improving educational opportunities for PGA professionals.): Zach Lambeck, GOLFTEC HQ

Bill Strausbaugh (mentoring fellow PGA professionals): Keith Soriano, PGA of America

Player Development: Jason Witczak, The Club at Pradera

Youth Player Development: Leighton Smith, Leighton Smith Golf

Patriot Award (contributions and support to the U.S. armed forces and active-duty personal and veterans): Ryan Flamm, EagleVail GC

Public Merchandiser of the Year: Cy Twete, Plum Creek GC

Private Merchandiser of the Year: Bryan Heim, Columbine CC

Resort Merchandiser of the Year: Nate Erickson, Perry Park CC (award for Country Club of Colorado)

(Updated Oct. 29)Vic Kline Award (to Section board of directors member for outstanding service and leadership for the Section) — Joe Carlton, Legacy Ridge GC