Friends of Presidio Hills Golf Course is a community-led nonprofit organization comprised of San Diego residents and golf enthusiasts working together to help return Presidio Hills Golf Course to its former glory.
This precious historical city asset located in Old Town, the first settlement in California, will be restored to host educational programs and clinics for San Diego schools and organizations. It will provide current and future generations of golfers a much-needed valuable resource to learn and improve their game, while honoring an important piece of San Diego history.
It all started with a group of friends getting together for a round of golf and a news article.
Story of Presidio Hills Golf Course
Letters of Support
An out pouring of community support
It has been very gratifying to reach out to former junior golfers, current golfers and their families, neighbors and the community to gather support for the restoration of Presidio Hills Golf Course. It is amazing how many stories I have heard and how important memories of playing at Presidio Hills Golf Course are to so many people. We have received letters of support from across the country and everyone we contacted has been willing to support this important effort.
Bio: Gina Champion - Cain
Gina Champion – Cain, founder, and CEO of American National Investments, Inc. (ANI), prides herself as an innovative and groundbreaking leader who is consistently raising the bar in San Diego.
Her passion and love for America’s Finest City are the main influence through all her endeavors including restaurants The Patio on Lamont, The Patio on Goldfinch, Fireside by The Patio, Harvest by The Patio, Saska’s Steakhouse, Swell Coffee Company and Surf Rider Pizza Company and Bakery. Additional brands include The Surf Life, Luv Surf Boutique, Mission Beach Surf Co., The Patio Express, the Patio Marketplace, and Luv Surf Vacation Homes.
Ms. Champion-Cain is a recipient of the San Diego Business Journal’s 2001 Women Who Mean Business Award, San Diego Metropolitan’s 2001 40 Under Forty Award, San Diego Magazine’s 50 People to Watch for 2002, YWCA’s 2002 Tribute to Women and Industry Award and was nominated by the National Association of Women Business Owners’ Women Business Owner of the Year Award in 2002. She was also the 2003 recipient of the Author E. Hughes Career Achievement Award, accorded by the School of Business Administration at the University of San Diego. Lambda Alpha International, the San Diego Chapter, awarded her an honorary membership for years of leadership and contributions to San Diego’s educational, political and professional communities; and the economic revitalization and redevelopment of San Diego. The former Mayor of San Diego awarded Ms. Champion-Cain for her efforts as a civic leader by reserving June 28th as “Gina Champion-Cain Day.
As a resident of Mission Hills with her husband and two golden retrievers, Ms. Champion-Cain feels it’s a duty to give back to the community you live in. She was raised to take part in her community, but she also feels it’s a requirement to support the community that supports her business. Through her efforts, Gina is committed to creating positive change in San Diego.
Being an active member of the community, Ms. Champion-Cain is dedicated to helping restore the Presidio Hills Golf Course to its previous glory. She believes it is a historic San Diego treasure that will promote the sport of golf for children who normally wouldn’t have the opportunity. Gina feels that we only improve our city when we preserve the special areas that are enjoyed by so many. Gina Champion-Cain is willing to go above and beyond to help the community and Presidio Hills Golf Course.
Bio: Johnny Gonzales
Johnny was born in Socorro, New Mexico. Socorro is a sleepy little town about an hour and half outside of Albuquerque. The one thing this farming community had was a championship golf course. Johnny’s love for golf began when he was ten years old and his dad took him to the local golf course where they were having a tournament. The Pros were hiring caddies. The caddies were graded by experience and Johnny wanted to caddy and was graded a “C” caddy. No one was going to hire a “C” caddy much less this little boy who was very small for his age and the golf bags were bigger than he was. However unknown to him, his dad talked to a contestant and said he would pay the caddy fees if he would hire his son… just don’t tell him that he set this all up. After that Johnny was at the golf course from sun up to sun down, playing in any junior golf tournament he could and ones that his family could afford. He never had any official golf instruction that was just a luxury his family could not afford. When he was in high school he qualified for Junior World held in San Diego and the famed Torrey Pines Golf Course. After golfing at Torrey Pines he knew he wanted to play for a division one golf college and preferably one in southern California. When Johnny told his high school counselor this he told Johnny that he needed to adjust his goals that his grades and talent just wasn’t good enough and that he needed to seek out a trade instead. Today he does not know if he should thank that counselor or chew him out because that just put another fire in his gut.. After 2 years playing golf for New Mexico Military Institute where he received his AA degree he was recruited to play division one golf for United States International University in San Diego. While at USIU Johnny met his wife Mary Jane. They have been married for 32 years and have 2 grown children.
After graduating in 1983 with a Bachelor of Science, Business Management Johnny got a job at Chula Vista Golf Course and after one year was promoted to the Head Golf Professional. Johnny was the head pro from 1984 until 1991, while he was there he received his Class A PGA status. During his time at Chula Vista Johnny developed his junior golf program. He main goal was to get kids excited about golf. He created “games “ really drills for kids to work on, giving each kid their own personal goals to work on. He wanted each child to know that they could achieve whatever they put their mind to do… but it took hard work to get there, and don’t let anyone get you down. During his years at Chula Vista he honed in on his drills and skills for his kids camps and lessons. Also while he was at Chula Vista Johnny kept working on his own game and played in many local PGA chapter events and scoring 4 course records and the last of his course records was just recently broken. That fire of competition was still in his gut and after much thought Johnny put together a partnership to sponsor him to play professionally from 1992 until 1995. Johnny has played in 8 Pebble beach Invitational, 1992and 93 Nike Utah Opens, 1993 Nike Bakersfield Open, 1993 and 94 Los Angeles Open, and 1993 Buick Invitational.
In 1995 he began his teaching career again at Stadium Golf Center. In 1997 he and partner Barry Mahlberg took over the lease at Sun Valley Golf Course. While at both facilities Johnny developed his reputation for creating great junior golfers. From 1996 until present Johnny has had anywhere between 5 -16 students each year qualifying for Junior World. Also during this time he has had students recruited to play for Stanford, Berkley, UCLA, Yale, just to name a few. In 1998 he was named San Diego PGA Golf Professional of the Year. From 2000 until present Golf Digest has named him one of the Top 50 Teachers in the State. 2000, 2001 and 2007 he was named the San Diego PGA Junior Golf Leader of the Year. 2001 he was named the Southern California Junior Golf Leader of the Year. 2003 He received the Outstanding Service to Juniors from the San Diego Junior Golf Association. Also in 2003 he was named the PGA Teacher of the Year.
During his 20 years at Sun Valley Johnny developed many different programs for his students. His beginning, intermediate, and advanced clinics and camps were so popular that there was a wait list to get in. He started a small tournament circuit to help kids get ready for the San Diego Junior Golf Tournaments, then on a bigger scale he started the California Junior Tour a weekend 2 day based tournament to help students get ready for AJGA events. And in his “spare time” he help start at the local La Mesa Spring Valley school district a Junior High Golf Teams to help get the kids ready for High School Golf. Then he coached both the boys and girls golf team at Grossmont High school from2001 until 2007.
Johnny was never the one to sit still so when the Sycuan Tribal Leader approached Johnny and asked him to create lessons/ clinics for their tribe Johnny was all in. It was during that time that they also approached him about becoming the Director of Golf which he did from 2004 until 2008.
As you can see Johnny has always stayed busy in golf, while teaching his private lessons and camps and clinics, running both Sycuan and Sun Valley Golf Course, and directing the California Junior Tour and coaching the High school teams he found time to write a book “ Golf Guide for Parents and Players, and created a DVD series: “A parents Guide to Junior Golf,” “Speciality Shots,” “Skills and Drills,” and “Johnny’s 7 Principles of Success for Junior Golf.”
In 2008 Johnny made the hard decision to leave Sycuan took the job of Head Golf Instructor at The Farms, in Rancho San Diego where he could focus more on his students. In 2012 he took over the lease at Rancho Carlsbad Golf Course.Since that first day on a golf course in Socorro New Mexico, Johnny has had a passion for all aspects of golf. One of the things he still wants to achieve in the golfing community is to make golf available to everyone.
The big golf courses are very expensive… golf is expensive…The executive courses have the biggest impact on the junior and beginner golfers and have the best chance of making golf a reality for all. Golf has been good to Johnny and he wants to make sure he gives back to golf for what it did for him. Johnny believes that with all his experience in all aspects of the Golf operations he could help get Presidio back to a thriving course for juniors and recreational golfers alike.
Bio: Jo Pastore
Jo Pastore grew up in Philadelphia and moved to San Diego to attend Law School – she never left. She picked up the game of golf during law school and is now an avid golfer. She also spent over 26 years in Public Service. Specifically, she was involved in collaborative ventures that developed policies, and programs, for at-risk youth. She became involved with Friends of Presidio Golf Course to use those connections to target local at-risk kids who could benefit from exposure to the game of golf.
Bio: David Fleming
David Fleming has been in the Golf Course business for 53 plus years. He has worked in the golf course turf management and the Golf Course Architecture business. His experience has ranged from Golf Course Operations, Landscape Design, Golf Course Architecture and Golf Course Construction Management. For over 23 years I worked as the Golf Course Superintendent and Golf Course Architect for Singing Hills Golf Resort. course designs.
In 1987 he started GOLF PROPERTIES MANAGEMENT AND DESIGN. In 1992 he moved his golf design company south to Mexico. There David started the Mexican Golf Course Design office of ECOGOLF.
In addition to being a Golf Course Architect Mr. Fleming is both a Certified Golf Course Superintendent, Licensed Pest Control Advisor and is a Legal Expert Witness for Golf Course Design and Golf Course Turf Management. The expertise of these factors are important to golf course design to achieve efficiency of operations and minimize the use of fertilizers and pesticides
Bio: Ann Parode Dynes
Bio: Nancy Wilkins-Diehr
Nancy Wilkins-Diehr has been a Mission Hills resident since 1995. She’s been a long-time member of both the Mission Hills Town Council and Mission Hills Heritage. While not a golfer herself, Nancy is a community member who has been dismayed to watch the decline of the course over the recent years. She would love to see it become once again a vibrant part of the community that all can enjoy.
Bio: Carol Jenson
Carol Hartson Jensen is a second generation San Diegan. She learned to play golf at Presidio Hills Golf Course from Al Abrego in 1952 and won her first trophy at the Tiny Tots tournament. She was an original member of the San Diego Junior Golf Association. She played junior golf for the next 9 years and won the California Girls Junior Golf Championship in 1959 and 1960 and was inducted into the San Diego Hall of Champions. She became involved in the Friends of Presidio Hills because she feels it is very important to restore the course so that future generations of children can learn to play golf there.
Bio: John Freeman
A native San Diegan, John Freeman first learned to play golf at Presidio Hills Golf Course, starting at age 8, thanks to lessons from the legendary Al Abrego. He fondly recalls playing Presidio all day for 75 cents. John’s sports-related writing/PR background includes 14 years as a sportswriter and columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune, plus non-playing roles with the New York Yankees and the National Basketball Association. He is a political science graduate of the University of Arizona, with a Professional Marketing Certificate from UC San Diego. He’s proud to be part of the effort to revitalize one of San Diego’s golf treasures.
Bio: Andrew Holets
Andrew Holets, Chief Executive Officer for Pro Kids | The First Tee, holds a passion for leadership through service in communities of need, and brings significant experience in development and community outreach, having most recently played a key role in the opening of the Copley-Price Family YMCA in City Heights. He graduated from Albright College in Reading, PA with an undergraduate degree in Political Science and Communications. He has studied at the University of Pennsylvania Fels Institute of Government, and holds a graduate degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management at the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and Educational Sciences (SOLES). He served in the United States Peace Corps in the Republic of Kazakhstan as an Organizational and Community Development program volunteer, and worked in military communities in Germany with the Department of Defense. He enjoys running, and resides in San Diego, CA with his young family.
As Chief Executive Officer at Pro Kids | The First Tee of San Diego, he oversees nearly 30 employees at two program sites, serving nearly 1,700 youth in year-round afterschool programming, and providing financial and academic support to 50 scholars enrolled in four-year universities.
Bio: John Freeman
John Vallas is the Executive Director of Friends of Presidio Hills Golf Course, Inc., selected to lead the organization, revitalization, and ongoing administration of the non-profit funding and leadership of Presidio Hills Golf Course.
John is also the Co-Founder & Executive Director of Beautiful Mission Beach, a non-profit organization dedicated to the community improvement and beautification of Mission Beach, located in San Diego, CA; the Partner and Co-Founder of Pacific Beach Training, LLC. and the Founder of Health & Wellness in Yoga, and eCommerce startup. He has over 10 years of business leadership experience, starting and selling multiple businesses, consulting with small business owners, and teaching business economics at California International Business University. His commitment to lending his business experience to the community and non-profit sector is highly regarded.
Through a unique combination of renovation, development, and transaction experience with both commercial and residential properties that he has also participated in, business and non-profit leadership history, and passion for community service, John is highly qualified to lead this very important and special community benefit project to revitalize, restore, and return Presidio Hills Golf Course to the community for generations to come.