When you walk into Alliance Bank of Arizona’s Don Garner’s Downtown Phoenix office, it’s hard not to stare at the photo of him on the golf course with Kevin Costner.

“It was about a year removed from ‘Tin Cup,’” Garner recalls. “I was president of The Conquistadors in Tucson, so I got to play with the ranking celebrity during the Pro-Am at the Tucson Open. That year, the ranking celebrity was Kevin Costner.”

Emerging as the star of arguably the most iconic golf movie in Hollywood history, Costner made Garner’s crew the must-watch team of the day. But did Costner’s on-screen magic translate to the links?

“I beat him,” Garner smiles.

Garner has been hitting the ball right down the middle professionally, too. Garner, a member of Alliance Bank of Arizona’s original management team, became the bank’s second CEO on Jan. 1, taking the reins from founding CEO Jim Lundy. Lundy helped Alliance Bank grow from being a start-up bank in 2003 into the fourth largest banking organization in Arizona

Az Business sat down with Garner to talk about his ascension to CEO.

Az Business: How has the transition of leadership been?

Don Garner: It’s been a lot of hard work, but it’s been fun. It has given me a little bit deeper appreciation for my predecessor and all the things he did that make it look easy. But rest assured, it is not easy.

AB: Did it help having such a long history with the bank?

DG: Knowing the systems and the culture and helping to establish that culture has been a big help. Being on the ground floor and growing with the bank and understanding what we do better than the competition helped make it a very smooth transition.

AB: What strengths do you bring to the organization?

DG: As I’ve evolved and moved up the ranks, I’ve learned to understand the perspectives of all the employees. I understand their positions and their input and I solicit their comments about how to make the bank more efficient, more productive, how to do things better and make more money. I try to focus on listening and understanding the people who support us. That makes us stronger as an organization and helps us better serve our customers.

AB: What is your outlook for the banking industry?

DG: I like what’s in front of us. As long as the economy continues to send out positive messages, I’m optimistic. In terms of particular sectors, commercial real estate has been a big contributing factor for us for some time and we expect that to continue. But we have other avenues of business that we expect to continue to grow.

AB: What are your goals as CEO?

DG: Coming on the heels of a leader who was as great as Jim Lundy, my knee-jerk response is “don’t run it into the ditch.” I just want to continue to grow the bank in a positive fashion and continue to be the go-to business bank in the Valley and establish even deeper ties in the commercial real estate industry.