The North Dakota pipeline continues to produce for the CGA.
Not only have North Dakotans been a constant presence on the CGA staff in the new millennium, but they've become fixtures as managing directors of operations for the association in the last seven-plus years.
First, it was Briena Goldsmith who capably served as the CGA's managing director of operations from 2011 until late 2014, when she moved back to North Dakota with her husband and kids.
Then there was Dustin Jensen, who returned to the CGA from North Dakota with the same title as Goldsmith had had. Jensen spent three years in that role until moving back to North Dakota at the end of 2017.
And now Ashley Barnhart (pictured) is becoming the latest North Dakotan to earn a similar title. On Thursday (Nov. 1), the current CGA director of junior competitions will be promoted to managing director of golf operations for the association.
"There's sort of a North Dakota work ethic that I swear is real," CGA executive director Ed Mate said. "There's what I would describe as resourcefulness, problem solving, get it done."
Mate was speaking specifically about common qualities possessed by Barnhart and Jensen, though they same has been true of Goldsmith as well.
In her new role, Barnhart will continue to be a point person for the CGA in its partnership with the Colorado PGA regarding the Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado. She'll also oversee CGA championships, USGA qualifiers, Rules of Golf and amateur status monitoring. Jensen did likewise during his most recent stint with the CGA, though the plan moving forward is that some areas formerly under his purview will soon be handled by another staffer. Specifically, handicapping, course rating and GHIN/USGA tournament management software support will be managed by a future hire.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to really engage with a bigger piece of the golf landscape rather than being solely glued to junior golf," said Barnhart, who's been a popular figure as one of the leaders of the Junior Golf Alliance since it was launched about three years ago. "I have a unique opportunity to create some synergy between our men's, women's and junior world."
And Barnhart will take on this greatly expanded role at the age of 24, 2 1/2 years after graduating from college and becoming a full-time CGA staffer. But promoting her to managing director of golf operations at this point is a testament to how highly regarded Barnhart is by CGA leadership.
"I've always been a believer that there's only one way to gain experience -- and that's through experience," Mate said. "I'm reminded of one of my favorite television shows, 'The Voice', which I hate to admit that I watch. Sometimes you'll have these 13 year olds that come onto the stage and sing and perform as if they're 30. (Age is) just a number.
"The qualities of the millennial generation that are often cited unfairly are that there's no loyalty, a short attention span, flightiness ... Ashley embodies everything that's not characteristic of what we mostly think of when we think of millennials. She's incredibly well organized, she's incredibly loyal, she's got extremely high standards. If anything, she sometimes gets in trouble for not wanting to relax those standards. There's a term in psychology called 'executive function', which is basically your ability to organize, plan and execute. Ashley is just a '10' in executive function. Organizing, planning and execution -- she's just exceptionally good at those things. To put her in the role of managing the golf operations is putting her in her area of strength."
For Barnhart herself, a can-do attitude and a strong work ethic are far more important than any consideration of age.
"Twenty-four or 44, there's work to be done and I think I can accomplish some of that with the help of our management team," she said.
Barnhart and Jensen, of course, have a linked background that far predates the years they spent working together at the CGA. Barnhart played golf at the University of Jamestown in North Dakota when Jensen was coaching both the men's and women's programs at the school.
As noted above, Mate believes the two share the same strong work ethic, resourcefulness, problem-solving ability and get-it-done attitude.
"Those are common denominators, but beyond that, they're very different people," Mate noted. "Dustin is more gregarious, more outgoing, definitely an extrovert. Ashley is more introverted. And their strengths and weaknesses are different. But they both share that North Dakota, 'I'm going to just get this done.' I love it. You want someone like that where if you give them a task, you know it's going to get done and there's not going to be any excuses. That resourcefulness I just love."
One of the first major items on Barnhart's to-do list in her new role will be to hire her replacement, specifically a new director of junior competitions. Barnhart has been either a manager or director of junior competitions since the spring of 2016. She also served as a CGA summer intern in 2014 and '15, and did a lot of part-time work over the 2015-16 school year.
"Ashley has been the glue that has held the JGAC’s competitive tournament program together and is directly responsible for much of the success the JGAC has realized over the past three years," Mate noted. "... The JGAC has been recognized as a model of collaboration and strategic alignment and has taken our partnership with the Colorado Section of the PGA to a new level."