The former Tooele High School football, basketball and baseball player has worked at Tooele City’s Oquirrh Hills Golf Course for the last 10 years — the last four as the head golf pro. Lopez recently qualified as a member of the Professional Golfers’ Association of America, a process that weeds out over 80% of the professional golfers who start the process.
After he graduated from high school, Lopez took a job with local general contractor Christensen and Griffith Construction. One day some of his coworkers invited him to play a round of golf with them after work.
“It was fun,” Lopez said. “I really got into it.”
Lopez found himself innately attracted to the sport.
“I volunteered for odd jobs around the city golf course, like washing golf carts and gathering balls, in exchange for time on the course to play and learn the game,” he said.
After about a year of volunteering at the course, a position opened up for an assistant to the golf pro.
“Christian Scott, the golf pro, told me ‘you’re here all the time, you may as well be my assistant,’ ” Lopez said.
Lopez worked as the assistant golf pro under Scott for five years. When Scott left four years ago for a larger golf course, Lopez became Oquirrh Hills’ pro.
Along with being the golf pro, Lopez also runs The Hill’s Pro Shop at the course.
According to Lopez, the golf season is busy for him and Oquirrh Hills.
“We host seven golf leagues in five days,” he said. “And then there are tournaments — lots of them.”
Lopez started qualifying for the PGA membership a few years ago.
An arduous process, the PGA allows applicants eight years to finish the process. Less than 20% of the golfers complete it, according to the PGA.
To start the process an applicant needs to register as an associate member, which requires the person to be employed in a golf-related job.
After a written test on PGA bylaws, constitution and rules, the skills and knowledge portion of the PGA membership process starts.
“I had to complete 36 holes of golf in one day and achieve a certain score based on the course,” he said.
Lopez said he also had to submit to the PGA different portfolios demonstrating his competency in several subject areas, including golf course operations, food and beverage service, teaching, turf management and other topics.
“For teaching I had to submit a video of me teaching golf lessons and they would critique me,” he said.
Lopez became the head pro at Oquirrh Hills at the age of 26, which at that time he may have been the youngest head golf pro in the state. Now 30, he may be the youngest head golf pro in the state that is a certified PGA member.
Lopez said he loves his work.
“No day is the same,” he said. “Even when we are closed for the season, there is plenty of maintenance and other work to do.”
Having picked up golf later in life, Lopez likes introducing golf to youth through the course’s junior league and First Tee program.
“It’s rewarding to expose kids to the sport,” he said.
Lopez thinks he now understands why he was drawn to golf.
“After playing sports in high school, golf helped fill a competitive void,” he said. “Not just competition with others, but in golf you also compete against yourself.”