Alice Plain tees off at Vail Golf Club on a summer evening.
Alice Plain, the golf director of Vail Golf Club, has been named Colorado PGA Golf Professional of the Year 2021 – the highest accolade given annually by the Colorado PGA.
The annual award goes to a PGA member for overall achievement, including leadership, service, and promotion of the game.
“I’m so excited and honored to win this award,” Plain said in a press release. “I’ve worked really hard in my career and it’s incredibly rewarding to be named Golf Professional of the Year.”
Growing up in South Bend, Indiana, Plain came into contact with golf at a young age.
“I was the last hope in the family that took up the sport,” she said.
Her father, George Plain, purposely introduced her and her three other siblings to the lifelong sport. Though Plain admits she played more soccer in her childhood, she kept returning to golf because it meant spending time with her father. When asked who was an influential role model, she quickly shared the relationship with her father; he became a good friend and mentor as they spent a lot of time in the class.
Growing up a member of the South Bend Country Club, Plain recalls a conversation she had with then PGA chief pro John Guyton, who echoed her father’s philosophy about the importance of lifelong sport.
Plain said Guyton told her “You can make a career out of this sport” and the advice stayed.
In her 25th year on the Colorado Section, Plain admits the challenges she faced playing golf as a woman in a male-dominated industry prepared for her career today. In high school, she was not allowed to play golf competitively because there was no girls’ team at the time.
In college, she was only allowed to play competitively after meeting the President of the University of Hanover and the squad of the men’s golf team.
The members of the men’s team “went for me to hit,” Plain said. “It was huge – I wasn’t alone in my fight and they wanted me to be part of the team. It set the stage for me. They knew that I could keep up, and it gave me confidence on the track and in life to know that I could keep up in a man’s world. “
After two seasons on the men’s team, Plain moved to Oklahoma State University, where she led the women’s golf team to third place in the 1989 National Championship. After graduating, Plain moved to Colorado to enjoy the true beauty of Centennial State and all it had to offer: golf and skiing, both of which she loved very much.
When Plain worked for Mike Steiner, the PGA Head Professional of Singletree Golf (now Sonnenalp Club), a light bulb went out and she enrolled in the PGA Apprentice Program. During her first winter in Colorado, teaching skiing at the Vail Resorts, she immediately recognized her connection to teaching and quickly saw how what she did in the snow carried over to the fairways.
The 1989 Oklahoma State women’s golf team took third place in a tournament at Stanford University. From left are Shelia Dills (Lugebuel), Eva Dahlof, Marnie McGuire, trainer Ann Pitts, Carolyn McKenzie and Alice Plain.
As the golf director of Vail Golf Club, Plain wears many hats, but one of her favorite roles is mentoring future PGA pros.
“That helps us as an industry,” she says. “You have to challenge them and teach them. It’s important to take the time for them to expose them to everything we do on and off the golf course. “
It is clear that Plain’s leadership has made a lasting impression on the club and its colleagues. Trey Johnson, PGA Assistant Professional at Vail Golf Club, can attest to that.
“She gives you the space and controls to make it your own, while also giving you directions,” he said. “She’s always great checking in on the go.”
Nathan Mead, PGA Head Professional at Vail Golf Club, reiterated that through her leadership style, Plain has created a culture that allows freedom, but “she always stands with us – to the end, even to mistakes. She supports us through and through, and you never feel trapped with anything alone or in a box. “
Plain has mentored over 35 PGA Professional Golf Management interns over the course of her career.
She continued to campaign for this at the Vail Golf Club. George Hart, PGA Assistant Professional, was quick to share that Plain “puts all of its employees in situations of success”. She would like to keep the culture, the impact and the environment that she created during her time in memory, as she sees her team in her words “as a family”.
“We all help each other,” she says. “It doesn’t matter what your title is, we are in this together.”
True evidence of Plains leadership was how she and her colleagues handled the pandemic. Plain stepped in unsolicited and guided the Eagle County Golf Council through navigating how to play golf safely through uncharted waters.
“We were all able to come to an agreement, it was huge. It was important to be on the same page with 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 regularly with Eagle County’s health officials to find out the safest ways for golfers to enjoy the sport while complying with CDC guidelines. At one point, Plain received a phone call from health officials informing her that five of her employees would need to be placed in a 10-day quarantine.
“Our employees didn’t skip a second or complain once,” she said. “We had four employees who ran the golf business for 10 days, and we were fully booked for those 10 days. Our guests hadn’t noticed that we were so tight, and all I could think of was how the culture we created prepared us for times like these. That’s how we work. “
While some might say that 2020 wasn’t ideal with all the challenges, this year Plain found light in the dark. Seven years ago she met a young man, Heivan Garcia, playing hockey while working through the Vail Recreation District at the Dobson Ice Arena in Vail.
“He had such a great personality, he was a soccer player – he won the state soccer tournament with Battle Mountain High School in 2012, but he had never played golf,” she said.
Alice Plain took Heivan Garcia, who played soccer, under her wing to learn golf.
So Plain made it its business to introduce him to the world of golf and to equip him with clubs, a bag and of course her expertise. As they became friends over the years, Plain learned he was here on a resident card and didn’t have his citizenship.
So Plain did what she does best.
“Working here, I met a retired attorney who was in town to play a few rounds of golf,” she said. “He was able to put me through with an immigration attorney in Denver.”
The entire process spanned two years, and last September Garcia received his citizenship at a swearing-in ceremony in front of the Colorado National Monument in Grand Junction.
“It has been 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 sees this as their “prevention project” and hopes to help others in the valley like Garcia.
The power of golf can often be underestimated or forgotten, but PGA pros like Plain are a reminder of how incredibly rewarding, powerful, and impactful the sport and industry can be.
Plain would like to offer a special thank you to everyone who helped her get where she is today. She would especially like to thank Ann Pitts, her coach in the state of Oklahoma, for “giving me the opportunity” to play and compete on the women’s golf team.