Calling It a Career

Retiring director of finance Ann Bley paid big dividends on many levels during her 17 years at the CGA

by Gary Baines - 8/27/2018

Ann Bley and Ed Mate have spent two decades of their work life together.

In fact, one way Bley remembers when they first started working alongside one another was that she met Mate's daughter, Anna, "on the way home from the hospital when she was born" in 1997.

Given how much they're been through as staffers at the CGA -- and the Colorado PGA before that -- it's not surprising that Mate notes, "I used to joke with Ann, saying 'When you leave, I'm leaving' just because I have that much confidence in her."

Well, Bley is indeed leaving the CGA this week -- Thursday is her final day -- though Mate will be sticking around as executive director. Bley, the longtime director of finance for the CGA, will be retiring, following suit of her husband, Greg, who did likewise earlier this month.

"My husband just turned 65, so he decided to retire. I kind of thought that was a good time for me to retire too," Bley said recently.

Bley (pictured) has been a fixture at the CGA offices since 2001, making her one of the longest-tenured current staffers. Only director of handicapping and course rating Gerry Brown (since 1992), director of communications Aaron Kellough (since 1998) and Mate (since 2000, in addition to an earlier stint on staff) have worked for the association longer.

And her career in golf administration goes back even further, as she worked at the Colorado PGA -- with Mate, who was then the assistant executive director at the Section -- starting in 1997.

Bley's retirement "is very personal for me," Mate said earlier this month. "I started working with Ann when we were both at the Colorado Section of the PGA. And when I was hired as executive director (of the CGA in 2000), the first time I had the opportunity to hire somebody who does accounting -- the stuff Ann does -- (I hired her). We actually hired her to do tournament stuff as a way to get her in the door, then it was just a matter of getting her in the right seat.

"She's worked her way up to director of finance. And she's really been a stalwart, reliable presence for all these years.

"It'll be hard because she's much more than (what her job entails). She's a friend and somebody I trust. She's also been such a great sounding board for me because she's got such good instincts and good people skills and world experience. Again, she's so much more than just somebody who pays the bills."

At the CGA, Bley handles anything to do with money, whether it's revenue for donations or grants or member dues or club dues. She pays all the bills for the CGA and its related entities, handles human resources duties, the association's government reporting as a non-profit and works with the auditors as needed.

While Bley, 63, is looking forward to traveling more, spending additional time with her granddaughter and doing volunteer work, she knows that exiting the CGA after 17 years will take some getting used to.

"It'll be strange not having work to go into and emails to check," she said with a chuckle.

But most importantly, she knows she'll miss the personal and professional interaction with the people she's come to know so well.

"The people here are like my family," she said. "I've watched a lot of them grow up from when they were interns and now they're full-time staff and we've known each other for 17 years in some cases. Ed and I worked together at the PGA Section office before I came here, so I've known him for 21 years. When you're used to seeing somebody every day for that many years, you're very invested in their lives."

Asked what her favorite memories have been over her time with the CGA, Bley gravitates toward activities that lend a golf-related helping hand to youngsters.

"Anything to do with the Evans Scholarship (for caddies), the Solich Caddie & Leadership Academy and the junior golf programs are all things that I could emotionally get behind and feel like we were making a difference," she said.

Bley is one of that relatively rare breed that was born and raised in Colorado and has spent her entire adult life in the Centennial State. She graduated from Colorado State University and has also worked as an adminstrator at a medical research firm, at a hotel management company and in the oil and gas industry briefly.

But the CGA has "definitely" been the longest-standing job of her career.

Bley said she and her husband will continue to live in northern Douglas County in retirement.

As for who will take over Bley's duties once she's gone, much of that will fall to Debbie Kolb, currently the CGA's manager of administrative services, who served in a related role with the CWGA before the integration of the two associations at the beginning of 2018.

"This is a great example of how the integration has worked out so well because Debbie Kolb was in a similar role with the CWGA," Mate said. "It's actually worked out really well because she and Ann are really working closely now. Debbie jokes all the time, 'Ann, don't leave yet,' but it's going to be pretty smooth in terms of the blocking and tackling of bill paying and invoicing and the stuff if you don't stay on top of you get so far behind. So we haven't missed a beat in that way.

"But Ann is so much more than that -- really understanding the CGA's finances and really being the lead in building the budget every year. I don't expect Debbie to be doing that. But in terms of the bookkeeping piece, we're in good shape."

As for Bley's presence at CGA offices, that may be irreplaceable.

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