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Lehner leaving Sun Country to join Paa-Ko Ridge GC

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Dana Lehner is stepping down after 15 years as the executive director of the Sun Country PGA, the Sun Country Golf Association, the Sun Country Junior Golf Association and U.S. Senior Challenge to become the director of operations at Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club.

Dana Lehner

Lehner has been a key figure in the progress of the Sun Country Golf House’s entities and highly instrumental in golf reopening in New Mexico during the coronavirus pandemic this year.

“It’s bittersweet,” said Lehner, who will officially leave his post in three weeks. “I’m extremely excited about my next step but I’ve also taken the opportunity to reflect on the last 15 years. It really does nothing but bring a smile to my face. I’m extremely proud of everything that we did. I feel like, while I didn’t get everything accomplished that I wanted to, I think all the entities are really set up to take off from here. I’m excited for the next person who comes in.”

A nationwide search for the Sun Country’s executive director will now take place.

Lehner and his staff put in a great deal of work so that golf could reopen in New Mexico after courses were closed for about a month in April. That work also included managing how to operate at golf courses during the pandemic and relations with the Governor’s economic recovery council.

“It was very tiring,” Lehner said. “I think it would be for anybody in any industry. I’m extremely proud of what we got accomplished. We were basically the first industry to get reopened. We were told directly from the Governor’s economic recovery council that we were the best industry to work with and I’m very proud of that. But in the end, I got pursued by a group that really wanted me to come work for them. It came down to getting an offer that I couldn’t really turn down and that I’m really excited about.”

Since purchasing Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Club two years ago, owners Tony Alvarez and Bryan Marsal have had special plans for Paa-Ko, which consistently ranks as the No. 1 public golf course in New Mexico. Those plans include several renovations and lodging.

“It’s already the No. 1 course in New Mexico,” Lehner said. “The goal is to make it even more than that, not just kind of a power in the state or the region, but really a premier facility in the country. They’ve asked me to come help be a part of that. How do you say no to something like that? What a challenge to take on of building wha

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