Jensen exiting job as CGA managing director of operations to take associate dean position with alma mater
by Gary Baines
It’s difficult not to have a sense of deja vu regarding the impending career move of golf administrator Dustin Jensen.
Jensen, the CGA’s highly regarded and well-liked managing director of operations, recently accepted a job as associate dean of student engagement at his alma mater, the University of Jamestown in his hometown of Jamestown, North Dakota.
If that strikes some in the Colorado golf community as vaguely familiar, there’s good reason. In 2011, after spending 10 years working for the CGA (including an internship), Jensen departed for a position at the University of Jamestown. There, he coached the Jimmies men’s and women’s golf teams and served as director of alumni relations and as executive director of the Jimmie Booster Club. (Another current CGA staffer, manager of junior competitions Ashley Barnhart, played golf for Jensen at Jamestown.)
But Jensen returned to the CGA at the beginning of 2015, coincidentally after another staffer, Briena Goldsmith, returned to North Dakota after an eight-year run at the CGA.
And now, Jensen is going home again — again. His final official day of work at the CGA is Dec. 22, then he’ll depart for North Dakota late this month and start his job at Jamestown at the beginning of next year.
“A number of things came together professionally and personally,” Jensen said when asked about his impending exit. “A lot of things aligned.”
The personal part of the equation was the death of Jensen’s younger brother, Casey, in Jamestown in August, and related family matters. The professional part was the high-level opening at the University of Jamestown, which is expected to lead to a dean of students position when Jensen receives a Masters degree, probably in 2-3 years.
According to the university, Jensen in his new role “will be responsible for overseeing and assisting in the development of co-curricular programs, activities and events designed to enhance students’ experiences.”
“Dustin’s leadership and passion for students will be a tremendous asset as we continue to build programs of distinction for future Jimmies,” University of Jamestown president-elect Dr. Polly Peterson said in announcing Jensen’s return to the school.
While Jensen is looking forward to his new job, the situation is certainly bittersweet for him.
“It’s hard to leave the CGA,” said the 37-year-old. “I’ve grown up here (professionally). I grew up in Jamestown, but the other half of my life has been with the CGA. Leaving is tough. The circumstances (with his family) are tough too. It’s really, really hard to go. I’m excited to get back and be around family. But I’ve got my Jamestown family and my CGA family.”
Jensen, who was born in Jamestown, has only lived in North Dakota and Colorado, and will obviously continue in that vein for the foreseeable future.
As managing director of operations, Jensen had a hand in many of the CGA’s programs and initiatives and its running of championships. Given all that, and Jensen’s previous role as director of youth programs, it’s fair to say he’s well known in the Colorado golf community. And very popular too.
“He’s a very selfless person. That’s what I’m going to miss more than anything,” said CGA executive director Ed Mate, who first hired Jensen for the full-time staff in 2002. “We were driving to a meeting once and saw a car on the side of the road. He thought for sure it was one of our coworkers (with vehicle trouble). So we pulled over. I’m thinking, ‘We’re going to be late (to the meeting).’ But he wanted to check, and everything was all right. Dustin is one of the most selfless people I’ve ever known, and you can’t replace that, that spirit of service. He’ll help people out, stop and talk to people on the course. He has people skills you can’t teach.”
Not surprisingly, given his former position as director of youth programs for the CGA, the thing Jensen takes most pride in in his most recent stint with the association is the key role he played in getting the Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado up and running, then up to full speed, over the last few years. Jensen and Keith Soriano — the former Colorado PGA assistant executive director who became a Colorado-based PGA of America career consultant — spearheaded the JGAC’s organizational efforts as it was being rolled out.
“I’d almost say it’s more difficult (this time leaving the CGA),” Jensen said. “I moved into a position where I had a hand in anything and everything — and loved it. There’s the integration with the CWGA (where the CGA and CWGA are joining forces) and the Junior Golf Alliance. It’ll be hard to see all that (keep evolving) from afar, but also exciting. The footprint of the CGA in 2011 and now is so much different.
“I’m really excited to see where the Junior Golf Alliance goes. Multiple entities (the CGA, Colorado PGA and CWGA) came together and put kids first. That was the biggest thing I’ve been part of (professionally). The Alliance was good in year 1 (2016). It was really good in year 2 (2017). It’s going to grow exponentially from here on. Like Ed has said, junior golf in Colorado is a North Star for other associations. We get emails from other associations asking how we’ve done it.”
(Jensen is pictured at left with the 2017 boys Junior America’s Cup team.)
Also among Jensen’s big-picture duties were building out future-year championship schedules so as to avoid major conflicts for players, and to serve as a liaison between the CGA and PGA professionals and general managers.
“More than anything, I’m happy for him personally and the (University of Jamestown) job is perfect for him,” Mate said of Jensen. “That’s where his heart is — working with kids (and young adults). That’s where he’s in his element.
“What he brought more than anything (to Colorado golf) is heart — the human side. He’s changed our culture as an organization in a good way. He’s made us strive to be better people. And we’ll try to carry that forward.”
Mate said there are no plans to make a new hire nor to immediately name a new managing director of operations. For the time being, Jensen’s duties will be handled by the current CGA staff, which is growing by several members with the addition of CWGA staffers.
“Given the timing (with the CGA and CWGA becoming one organization), we have a unique opportunity to redistribute the work,” Mate said. “With the coming together of two staffs, we have a young staff. With this and Gerry (Brown, a longtime CGA staffer and the association’s director of handicapping and course rating) retiring at the end of next year, there’s a lot of change coming. Bringing in another body doesn’t make sense. I’d like to let things evolve organically to a certain extent.”