Jennifer Blackwood receives “VSGA Grow the Game Award”

January 20, 2024

MANAKIN SABOT — At its Annual Meeting—held Saturday at Hermitage Country Club—the Virginia State Golf Association honored its 2023 Golfers of the Year, 2023 Service Award winners, and welcomed a new member to the Association’s Board of Directors. In addition, one additional Board member was reelected for the Class of 2026 via vote of VSGA membership.

At the VSGA winter Board of Directors meeting, held Friday at Hermitage, the board voted on and approved a new slate of officers for 2024. Brian Maloney (Springfield G&CC) was elected as the association’s 40th President and will serve a two-year term. Craig Groenendaal (VSGA eClub) will serve as the association’s Vice President, and Vern Inge (The Federal Club) will serve as the association’s Secretary/Treasurer. Both will serve one-year terms. Outgoing VSGA President Anne Greever (Willow Oaks CC) will remain on the board through 2025 as Immediate Past President.


The VSGA Nominating Committee met—and in accordance with Article VII of the Bylaws of the Virginia State Golf Association—selected the following candidates for election to the VSGA Board of Directors, Class of 2026.

  • • Vern Inge, The Federal Club (second term)
  • • Bev Lane, Reston National Golf Course (first term)

Gary Beck, who served the VSGA Board from 2008-23 and most recently as Immediate Past President, was the only outgoing member of the board.


» The 2023 President’s Award was presented to Gib Palmer of Salisbury Country Club. Palmer has been involved as a volunteer with the VSGA and USGA since 1993. He served three terms on the VSGA Board of Directors, including as President in 2014-15. Palmer played a key role in the integration of the VSGA Women’s Division into the VSGA, ensuring that women were part of the association’s governance structure and were set up to serve in key roles within the association. During his presidency, Palmer spearheaded a long-range strategic plan that included the construction of a dedicated VSGA headquarters. Palmer was the driving force behind the establishment of the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame, which inducted its Inaugural Class in 2016 and has since grown to 37 members. He has received numerous accolades from peer organizations, including the 2018 Joe Dey Award, the USGA’s highest volunteer honor, and the 2016 VSGA Volunteer of the Year Award.

» The 2023 Service to Golf Award was presented to Mike Cumberpatch, who served as Executive Director of the Washington Metropolitan Golf Association and Middle Atlantic Golf Association from 2015 until his retirement in 2023. His leadership spanned decades, starting in the early 1990s when he began volunteering with the MAGA and USGA. He has served in various capacities with golf organizations through the years, ranging from Rules official to historian to president. Cumberpatch also devotes time to other organizations, including the Special Olympics, Wounded Warriors, and The First Tee—showing the depth of his commitment to serving the game. He has served as official-in-charge of countless USGA qualifiers, including the annual U.S. Open final qualifying at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, Md.

» Doug Stover was the recipient of the 2023 Volunteer of the Year Award. Stover has volunteered on the VSGA’s Course Rating Team since 1998, making him the longest active course rater in Virginia. He is an expert on the Course Rating System and someone the VSGA staff has come to rely on, not only for his work on the course but as a mentor to new volunteers. In 2023, Stover participated in nine course ratings—almost a third of all ratings conducted by the VSGA—and is often called upon to travel throughout Virginia to assist other course-rating teams. Stover is also a starter at The Country Club of Virginia and a volunteer at the National Air and Space Museum.

» The 2023 Grow The Game Award was presented to Jennifer Blackwood, who completed her 20th year as Executive Director of The First Tee – Roanoke Valley in 2023. Her efforts have helped the VSGA and the First Tee deepen their relationship, particularly during the seven years that Roanoke’s Ballyhack Golf Club hosted the State Open of Virginia. During the tournament’s run at Ballyhack, she helped facilitate youth clinics and donations for youth development in the area, with significant funds going to the First Tee – Roanoke Valley. In 2023, Blackwood and the First Tee – Roanoke Valley partnered with the VSGA in creating the Mike Wise Award, a scholarship that benefits a deserving high-school senior with ties to the First Tee – Roanoke Valley.

» Additionally, two one-time awards were presented as VSGA Women’s Division Legacy awards to Joan Darden (Mentorship) and Barbara Hughes (Leadership).

An accomplished player who won the 1989 VSGA Senior Women’s Amateur Championship, Darden is being honored for her mentorship of fellow players—primarily women—to whom she patiently taught not just golf skills, but also the Rules of Golf, etiquette, and types of golf competition, especially match play. Darden conducted weekly rules and practice clinics at Hermitage Country Club. She also served the game as President of the Women’s Eastern Golf Association.

Hughes, a lifelong golfer who joined Hermitage in 1962, won two VSGA Women’s Amateur Championships and played for Hermitage in every VSGA Women’s State Team Matches from 1962-2008. She also competed in 21 straight Women’s Virginias-Carolinas Matches and served as captain in 1967 and 1968.

Hughes is being honored for her legacy of distinguished leadership. She was the first woman elected to the Board of Directors at Hermitage in the club’s 100-year history, serving three terms from 2001-11. At the regional level, she served on the governing board of the Richmond Women’s Golf Association. She was also on the VSGA Women’s Division Board of Directors from 1974-81, serving as President from 1980-81.


» Golfer of the Year—Sam Beach (Hermitage CC): A reinstated amateur, Beach got off to a solid start in 2023, winning a pair of partner events with his brother Ben. They claimed titles at the VSGA MultiFormat Team Championship in April before rallying for a victory a month later at the VSGA Four-Ball Championship at The Piedmont Club. Beach was also a member of Hermitage Country Club’s winning team at the VSGA Club Championship in April. Beach made his mark in individual play as well, reaching the semifinals of the VSGA Amateur before falling to eventual champion Grayson Wood. He recorded a top-10 finish at the State Open of Virginia and shot a three-day, 14-under-par score to claim the title at the prestigious Valentine Invitational at Hermitage.

» Women’s Golfer of the Year—Melanie Walker (Springfield G&CC): Walker had a breakthrough season in 2023, beginning the year by partnering with sister Raquel to win the VSGA Women’s Four-Ball Championship in May. In July, she was medalist at the VSGA Women’s Amateur Championship and advanced to the final match before falling to a Makayla Grubb birdie on the 18th hole. This past fall, Walker, a sophomore at the University of Missouri, became the first Mizzou golfer—male or female—to earn Southeastern Conference player of the week honors. She also participated in two USGA championships in 2023, the U.S. Women’s Amateur and U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball. At the latter, she partnered with Sydney Hackett to reach the quarterfinals.

» Junior Boys’ Golfer of the Year—Jake Albert (Blacksburg CC): At age 16, Albert became one of the youngest players ever to reach the championship match at the VSGA Amateur in June, where he lost a hotly contested match on the 36th hole to champion Grayson Wood. A year prior, Wood defeated Albert in the final match of the VSGA Junior Match Play Championship. Albert competed in the U.S. Junior Amateur in 2023 and racked up four top-10 finishes in AJGA events, including a win at the Jack Burke Jr. Invitational in August. He tied for second at the VHSL Class 4 Championship and was part of Blacksburg High School’s winning team in the event.

» Junior Girls’ Golfer of the Year—Kathryn Ha (Roanoke CC): Ha made noise on the local, national, and international stages in 2023. In Virginia, she reached match play at the VSGA Women’s Amateur Championship before falling to eventual champion Makayla Grubb in the round of 16. She finished in the top 20 at the inaugural Women’s Open of Virginia. She earned points in both matches representing Virginia at the Junior Girls’ Mid-Atlantic Challenge, helping the Virginia/Maryland team to its first win over the Carolinas in eight years. In April, Ha won the AJGA’s Justin Thomas Junior Championship, her second title in an AJGA event. That play helped her earn a selection to Team USA at the Junior Solheim Cup, contested in Spain, where she won two of a three possible points.

» Senior Golfer of the Year—Buck Brittain (The Virginian GC): Brittain earned this honor for the fourth time thanks to a stellar season that included a third straight win in the VSGA Senior Four-Ball (with Jon Hurst) and a victory at the VSGA Senior Stroke Play Championship in difficult conditions at Winchester Country Club. Brittain’s win there helped him become just the second player to complete the VSGA “Senior Slam,” which includes victories in the Senior Amateur, Senior Open, Senior Stroke Play, and Senior Four-Ball. Only Brittain and Keith Decker have accomplished the feat. Brittain was runner-up and low amateur at the Senior Open of Virginia, reached the semifinals at the Senior Amateur and reached match play at the VSGA Amateur competing against a field loaded with college and high school players. Brittain racked up eight top-10 finishes in VSGA Player Rankings events, including wins at the David King Invitational, Allegheny Amateur (with Hurst) and Willow Oaks Fall Invitational (with Hurst).

» Senior Women’s Golfer of the Year—Andrea Miller (The Club at Glenmore): In a year in which Miller made history by winning her fourth straight VSGA Senior Women’s Amateur title, she also became the first player to win three solo VSGA Senior Women’s Golfer of the Year awards in a row. Shelley Savage won three straight from 2011-13 but shared the spoils in 2011 with Mimi Hoffman. In the final match at the Senior Women’s Amateur, Miller rallied from an early 2-down deficit to best Bev Lane 2 and 1, spurred on by a hole-in-one on the par-3 9th hole. Miller qualified for three USGA championships in 2023, making the cut at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. She also played in the U.S. Women’s MidAmateur and U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur.

» Super Senior Golfer of the Year: David Partridge (Hermitage CC): A member of the Virginia Golf Hall of Fame, Partridge becomes the first player in VSGA history to win Golfer of the Year, Senior Golfer of the Year and Super Senior Golfer of the Year honors. In all, he’s won six Golfer of the Year honors. Partridge was near the top of the leaderboard in every VSGA championship he entered. He advanced to the final at the VSGA Super Senior Amateur (65+), falling to Jack Allara in a tight match. With partner Harry Thomas, he was runner-up at both the Super Senior Four-Ball and Super Senior Multi-Format Team Championship. He also finished tied for second at the Super Senior Stroke Play Championship (65+). He advanced to the round of 16 at the Senior Amateur and claimed super senior titles in two VSGA Player Rankings Events—The Signature at the Federal Club and the Two Rivers Invitational.

» Super Senior Women’s Golfer of the Year: Shawn McCullough (Mount Vernon CC): McCullough becomes the second Mount Vernon CC member to win this award, joining Linda DiVall. McCullough was the medalist at the VSGA Super Senior Women’s Amateur and advanced to the championship match before falling to DiVall. She also was runner-up at the VSGA Super Senior Women’s Stroke Play Championship, finishing behind Shelley Savage. McCullough qualified for the U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur, was the low senior amateur at the Maryland Women’s Open and finished third at the Women’s Eastern Super Senior Amateur Championship.