Arizona’s Luxury Leader Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty Celebrates the Return of The Waste Management Phoenix Open with Its Own Superstar Golf Agents

Among those former professional golfers, Karine Icher, Alan Surges, Barry Conser, Jay Pennypacker, Allan MacDonald, Thomas Purtzer and Lonnie Lopez

One of the country’s most popular PGA Tour events of the year, the WM Phoenix Open, will soon be coming to the Valley once again. In celebration of the iconic event, Arizona’s leading luxury realtor Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty is recognizing its Superstar Golf Agents; team members who not only excel at connecting buyers and sellers for Arizona’s most impressive properties, but ones that have also had incredible careers in golf prior to joining the team.

First, we highlight Karine Icher, who was previously a member of the LPGA Tour and Ladies European Tour for an impressive 15 years. She turned pro at the age of 21, playing on the European Tour for four years before earning LPGA status in 2005. Not content with simply being a member of the Tour, she won six international titles, including a European team championship in 1999 and the world amateur team championship in 2000. She also earned 45 top 10 finishes on the LPGA Tour and was once a top 25 player in the world. She played in four Solheim Cups between Europe and the USA and represented France in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

Reflecting on her time in the golf world, Icher said, “What I’ve learned on and off the golf course since the age of 10 serve me every day to be a better human, and it is a source of resources adaptable and transferable to the real estate world. Sport is one of the best schools on earth!”

Next is Alan Surges, who has been a PGA Golf Professional since 1986 but with a career focused on creating an ideal golf experience for others. He worked with the Lyle Anderson Company from 1987-99, working at the Desert Mountain golf club for the first half of that tenure with some time at Desert Highlands interspersed within that period. After that experience he opened the Las Campanas course (Jack Nicklaus’s 100th course design) in Santa Fe, NM and was Director of Golf for the back half of his time with Lyle Anderson. During that entire tenure he spent countless hours teaching alongside Jim Flick and being one of the lead instructors for the Nicklaus/Flick Golf Schools, an opportunity he was extremely grateful for.

Following that experience he was named Director of Golf at the Stock Farm Club in Hamilton, MT, the Charles (Chuck) Schwab Private Golf Club from 1999-2013, and after that spent ten years as the Director of Golf at the Estancia Club. Under his management, Las Campanas, Stock Farm Club and Estancia were all top-ranked courses in their respective states. He is thankful for the good fortune he’s had in being able to contribute to the excellence of some of the best residential golf communities in the country, but also considers coming home to join the Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty Desert Mountain team as a fulfillment of another dream.

Barry Conser’s golf career was truly a global affair; he competed in over 50 countries and played on the Asian, European and Nike Tours. It all started locally however, as an All-American golfer at Arizona State University followed by a 3rd place finish at the World Junior Championships. He later had three Gateway Tour wins and two Wyoming Open titles, but his career only gained steam as he got older. He competed in four Senior Open Championships and was a European Senior Tour Member from 2014-18. His efforts led to a 30th place finish in the 2016 Senior Open Championship at Carnoustie and a 2021 Texas Senior Open Championship.

Conser recognizes the overlap in skills between the disciplines of golf and real estate, saying, “As a professional golfer, it is essential to sharpen your self-discipline and ability to handle pressure. Yet it is the spirit of competition and collaboration amongst fellow players that is truly special. It is not uncommon for two elite golfers, locked in a battle to win a tournament, to assist with improving each other’s games the very next week. Real estate is much the same way. An agent must take initiative and deal with pressure situations to be successful. There is definite competition between agents and brokerages, yet we work with one another and cooperate to ultimately serve our clients best interest with the highest quality of service.”

Next is Thomas Purtzer; he has deep Arizona roots, having attended Sunnyslope High School and earning a golf scholarship to Arizona State University, where he won All-American honors in 1971-72. That segued to 27 years on the PGA Tour, where he racked up numerous trophies, including five solo championships and three team championships. After that he spent 17 years as part of the PGA Tour Champions, where he won four championships and represented the United States in world competitions in Australia and Japan.

Purtzer’s association with Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty goes beyond professional; it’s a personal connection forged through the game of golf with Rusty Lyon, whose brother Dennis Lyon ran the brokerage for many decades.

Having met diverse people week after week throughout his golf career, he has honed his people skills, learning to see the best in everyone. He believes these skills will be invaluable in his transition into real estate, and that his local expertise positions him as the ideal guide to help clients find their dream homes.

Jay Pennypacker’s golf career combined both playing the game and the business of the game. He was one of the top junior golfers and made his way to the University of Arizona, where he was a member of the team that won the 1992 NCAA Championship. After college he played in various professional golf tours and eventually landed in the golf business. From there he excelled in various positions, including as the Tournament Coordinator at The Desert Mountain Club, the General Manager at the Golf Club at Eagle Mountain and President of a golf course management company.  He’s currently a member at The Estancia Club and serves on the Executive Committee for the Arizona Golf Association.

Remarking on the similarities between these two careers, Pennypacker said, “Professional golf and upscale real estate sales both require an exceptional attention to detail to be successful. The dedication to details separates golfers and real estate advisors in these seemingly distinct and competitive careers. Just as important, the code of conduct in the game of golf translates well into garnering the trust buyers and sellers demand when making a real estate transaction.”

In a departure from the other Superstar Golf Agents, Allan MacDonald grew up in the birthplace of golf, Scotland. He had incredible success as a youth with several championships in the British Isles before making his way to play college golf in Alabama, where he was ranked #1 in the country in the NJCAA in 1994-95, earning 10 collegiate victories and All-American Honors in the process. After that he played professionally in over 50 countries, including as a member of the PGA Tour Americas from 1997-2003, and represented Europe in the 1997 Arnold Palmer Cup.

MacDonald sees the transition to Scottsdale, a premier golfing and holiday destination, as the perfect fit for his real estate career. His relationships and understanding of communities, golf courses, and country clubs has allowed him to truly represent the needs of buyers and sellers over the past 19 years, leading to over $500 million in sales and the designation of one of the premier agents in the Valley.

Similarly, PGA Golf Professional Lonnie Lopez commenced his golf professional journey in 1991, after traveling the nation and contributing his expertise to esteemed golf establishments including The Glacier Club in Durango, Colorado, Innisbrook Resort in Tarpon Springs, Florida, and Las Campanas in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Upon relocating to Scottsdale in 1994, Lopez dedicated 25 years to instructing at Desert Mountain as a PGA Instructor when there were only three golf courses (Renegade, Cochise, and Geronimo) a the esteemed club. During that time Lonnie witnessed and gained a profound understanding of the remarkable evolution of the area and Desert Mountain and watched it turn into the spectacular community it is today.

“My career in golf taught me specific rules about the game and life.  It’s the greatest game ever invented because it requires the toughest test of mental acumen due to the elements on the course and all of its challenges. In this sport, one holds oneself accountable, calling penalties with the utmost integrity and an unparalleled testament to sportsmanship,” said Lopez. “What I love about my real estate career is very much like golf. You use every aspect of everything you have learned about people, their personalities, and all the obstacles that can occur during a transaction. With all the twists and turns you appreciate the ability to put a deal together where both buyer and seller can come together and enjoy a pleasurable experience.”

Remarking on the transferable skill sets between golf and real estate, Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty CEO Todd Gillenwater said, “Golf and real estate have significant overlap in the necessary traits for success. Both demand discipline, perseverance, the fortitude to push through disappointments, and the desire to constantly learn and improve. These agents excel at bringing those skills to our team and to their clients, and it makes them incredible assets and trusted guides.”