Alice Plain tees off at the Vail Golf Club on a summer evening.

Golf Professional of the Year is Anything but Plain and Simple
Reprinted from The Summit, August 2021 edition, written by Holly Proctor.

Alice Plain, PGA, Director of Golf at Vail Golf Club in Vail, Colorado, has been selected as the 2021 Colorado PGA Golf Professional of the Year! The highest honor given annually by the Colorado PGA goes to a member for their overall performance including leadership, service, and promotion of the game of golf, and it’s evident that Ms. Plain embodies each and every one of those pieces. “I’m so excited and honored to win this award. I’ve worked really hard in my career and it’s incredibly rewarding to be recognized as Golf Professional of the Year.”

Having grown up in South Bend, Indiana, Alice was exposed to golf at a young age, and as she would say, “I was the last hope within the family to pick up the sport.” Her father intentionally introduced her and her three other siblings to lifelong sports, and while Alice admitted 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 for her, she is quick to share the relationship she had with her father, George Plain, as he became a good friend and mentor while they spent a lot of time on the course.

Growing up as a member at South Bend Country Club, Alice 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. “You can make a career out of this sport,” he said, and that always stuck with me.

Entering her 25th year with the Colorado Section, Alice can admit 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 on her high school golf team as they didn’t have a women’s team at the time. It wasn’t until Alice 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 at a collegiate level. “They [the members of the men’s team] went to bat for me. 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 Alice was working for Mike Steiner, the PGA Head Professional of Singletree Golf (today the Sonnenalp Club), the light bulb went off and she found herself enrolling in the PGA Apprentice (now Associate) Program. She immediately recognized her connection to teaching during her first winter in Colorado – she taught skiing at Vail
Resorts and was quick to see how what she was doing on the snow could translate to the fairways.
Alice and Heivan Garcia
1989 Oklahoma State Women's Golf Team finished third at Stanford University Golf Course NCAA Div 1 tournament. From the left: Shelia Dills(Lugebuel), Eva Dahlof, Marnie McGuire, Coach Ann Pitts, Carolyn McKenzie and Alice Plain
As the Director of Golf at Vail Golf Club, Alice wears many hats, but one of her favorite roles is the opportunity to mentor future PGA Professionals. “It helps us as an industry,” she shared enthusiastically. “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 Alice’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. 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, she has created a culture that allows for 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.”
Alice has mentored over 35 PGA-PGM Interns over the course of her career.
That’s something Alice has continued to strive for at Vail Golf Club. George Hart, PGA Assistant Professional, was quick to share that Alice 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. It doesn’t matter what your title is, we’re in this together.”

A true testament to Alice’s leadership was how she and her fellow peers handled the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Plain stepped up to the plate 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.” Alice 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, Alice
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,” Alice recalls. “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, Alice found light in the darkness that was 2020. Seven years ago, Alice met a young man by the name of 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!” So Alice 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, Alice learned that he was here on a resident card and didn’t have his citizenship.

So Alice did what she does best. “Through working here, I met a retired attorney who was in town to play a few rounds of golf! He was able to connect me with an immigration attorney in Denver.” The entire process for Heivan extended over the course of two years, and last September, he 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 non-profit that can help others obtain their citizenship.” Alice deems this as her “retirement project”
and hopes to have the opportunity to help others in the valley like Heivan.
Alice and Heivan Garcia
Alice and Heivan Garcia
The power of golf can often be underestimated, or forgotten, but when we meet PGA Professionals such as Alice, we are quickly reminded how incredibly rewarding, powerful and impactful the sport and industry can be. “She’s a role model for everyone – for the industry, Vail Golf Club and future members of the PGA. She truly is a shining example of a PGA Professional.”

Alice 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 OSU women’s golf team.
About the Vail Recreation District
The Vail Recreation District's mission is to offer diverse and exceptional recreation opportunities that enhance the physical, social and emotional well-being of all its residents and guests. The VRD aims to help Vail Valley residents and visitors pursue their recreational passions by providing activities in summer and winter including: running, whitewater and mountain bike races; numerous tournaments and/or leagues for hockey, volleyball, lacrosse, softball, golf, tennis, soccer, flag football and pickleball; venues like Dobson Ice Arena, Vail Golf Club, Vail Nordic Center, Vail Gymnastics Center, Vail Skatepark, Vail Tennis Center, Golden Peak Pickleball Center, Community Programming and Imagination Station; use of additional gyms, playing fields and the surrounding White River National Forest via collaboration with local entities; and a variety of youth camps and programs.