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Vail Golf Club director Alice Plain wins Colorado Golf Professional of the Year

Path to career achievement has been anything but plain and simple

Holly Proctor
Special to the Daily
Alice Plain tees off at the Vail Golf Club on a summer evening.
Courtesy photo

Alice Plain, the director of golf at the Vail Golf Club, has been selected as the 2021 Colorado PGA Golf Professional of the Year — the highest honor given annually by the Colorado PGA.

The annual honor goes to a PGA member for overall performance, including leadership, service and promotion of the game.

“I’m so excited and honored to win this award,” Plain said in a news release. “I’ve worked really hard in my career, and it’s incredibly rewarding to be recognized as Golf Professional of the Year.”



Growing up in South Bend, Indiana, Plain was exposed to golf at a young age.

“I was the last hope within the family to pick up the sport,” she said.



Her father, George Plain, intentionally introduced her and her three other siblings to lifelong sports. Though Plain admits to playing more soccer while growing up, she always came back to golf because it meant spending time with her dad. When asked who was an influential role model, she was quick to share the relationship she had with her father; he became a good friend and mentor as they spent a lot of time on the course.

Growing up as a member at South Bend Country Club, Plain remembers a conversation she had with the PGA head professional at the time, John Guyton, who echoed her dad’s philosophy of the importance of lifelong sports.

Plain said Guyton told her, “You can make a career out of this sport,” and the advice stuck.

Entering her 25th year with the Colorado Section, Plain admits that the challenges she faced while trying to play golf as a female in a male-dominated industry prepared her for her career today. She wasn’t allowed to play golf competitively in high school because it didn’t have a girls team at the time.

In college, it wasn’t until she organized a meeting with the president of Hanover College and the roster of the men’s golf team that she was allowed to play competitively.

The members of the men’s team “went to bat for me,” Plain said. “It was huge — I wasn’t alone in my fight, and they wanted me to be a part of the team. It set the stage for me. They knew I could compete, and it gave me confidence on the course and in life to know that I could compete in a man’s world.”

After two seasons with the men’s team, Plain transferred to Oklahoma State University, where she helped lead the women’s golf team to finish third in the 1989 National Championship. Following graduation, Plain moved to Colorado to embrace the true beauty of the Centennial State and all it had to offer: golf and skiing, both of which she loved dearly.

When Plain was working for Mike Steiner, the PGA head professional of Singletree Golf (now the Sonnenalp Club), a light bulb went off, and she found herself enrolling in the PGA Apprentice Program. She immediately recognized her connection to teaching during her first winter in Colorado, where she taught skiing at Vail Resorts and was quick to see how what she was doing on the snow could translate to the fairways.

The 1989 Oklahoma State women's golf team finished third at a tournament at Stanford University. From left are Shelia Dills (Lugebuel), Eva Dahlof, Marnie McGuire, coach Ann Pitts, Carolyn McKenzie and Alice Plain.

As the director of golf at Vail Golf Club, Plain wears many hats, but one of her favorite roles is the opportunity to mentor future PGA professionals.

“It helps us as an industry,” she said. “You have to challenge them, and you have to teach them. It’s important to take the time to spend with them to expose them to everything we do on and off the golf course.”

It’s clear that Plain’s leadership has made a lasting impact and impression on the club and her peers. Trey Johnson, PGA assistant professional at Vail Golf Club, can attest.

“She gives you the space and operation to make it your own, while providing guidance along the way,” he said. “She’s always great about checking in along the way.”

Nathan Mead, PGA head Professional at Vail Golf Club, reiterated that through her leadership style, Plain has created a culture that allows freedom, yet “she always has our backs — to the end, even to a fault. She supports us through and through, and you never feel alone with something or trapped in a box.”

Plain has mentored over 35 PGA Professional Golf Management interns throughout her career.

That’s something she has continued to strive for at Vail Golf Club. George Hart, PGA assistant professional, was quick to share that Plain puts all of her staff “in situations to succeed.” The culture, impact and environment she has created during her time is something she would like to be remembered for, as she sees their team, in her words, “as a family.”

“We all chip in to help each other,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what your title is, we’re in this together.”

A true testament to Plain’s leadership was how she and her fellow peers handled the pandemic. Plain stepped up without being asked and led the Eagle County Golf Council through the navigation of how golf could be played safely through uncharted waters.

“We were able to agree all together, which was huge. It was important to be on the same page through all of this, and it was even better that we had the support of the Colorado Section as well,“ she said.

Plain and four of her colleagues met with Eagle County health officials regularly to determine the safest way for golfers to enjoy the sport while continuing to stay in compliance with CDC guidelines. At one point, Plain received a phone call from health officials informing her that five members of her staff needed to be placed in a 10-day quarantine.

“Our staff didn’t skip a beat, and they never once complained,” she said. “We had four members of our staff running golf operations for 10 days, and we were completely booked for those 10 days. Our guests didn’t notice that we were so short staffed, and all I could think was how the culture we’ve created has prepared us for times like these. This is how we function.”

While some might say that 2020 wasn’t ideal with all the challenges it brought, Plain found light in the darkness that year. Seven years ago, she met a young man, Heivan Garcia, while playing hockey, as he worked at the Dobson Ice Arena in Vail through the Vail Recreation District.

“He had such a great personality, he was a soccer player — he won the 2012 state soccer tournament with Battle Mountain High School, but he had never played golf,” she said.

Alice Plain took Heivan Garcia, who played soccer, under her wing to learn golf.
Courtesy photo

 

So Plain took it upon herself to introduce him to the world of golf and set him up with clubs, a bag and, of course, her expertise in the game. As they became friends over the years, Plain learned that he was here on a resident card and didn’t have his citizenship.

So Plain did what she does best.

“Through working here, I met a retired attorney who was in town to play a few rounds of golf,” she said. “He was able to connect me with an immigration attorney in Denver.”

The entire process extended over the course of two years, and last September, Garcia obtained his citizenship in a swearing-in ceremony in front of the Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction.

“It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life — so much so that Heivan and I want to start a nonprofit that can help others obtain their citizenship,” she said. Plain deems this as her “retirement project” and hopes to have the opportunity to help others in the valley like Garcia.

The power of golf can often be underestimated or forgotten, but PGA professionals like Plain are a reminder of how incredibly rewarding, powerful and impactful the sport and industry can be.

Plain would like to give a special thanks to all who have helped her get to where she is today. She would like to especially thank Ann Pitts, her coach at Oklahoma State, “for giving me an opportunity” to play and compete on the women’s golf team.


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