Once he made the decision to pursue a career as a PGA club professional, in 1976 when he was 24, Brian Hamilton was ready to jump in feet first.
“I didn’t know all that much about what a club pro did beyond play golf and give lessons,” recalled Hamilton, among a long list of standout players for late coach George Hennessey’s powerhouse Peabody High golf teams in the 1970s and ‘80s. “But I was prepared to learn the whole package as quickly as I could. And I learned from a great mentor.”
The mentor was the late Warren Birch, who was the head pro at Wollaston Golf Club at the time. Two years with the popular Birch, then one year under the tutelage of Cotton Dunn at Kernwood, set the stage for a distinguished 41-year stretch as a head professional, the first 20 at Concord (N.H.) CC, the last 21 at Eastward Ho! in Chatham on Cape Cod.
At the end of the current season at Eastward Ho! Hamilton, another in a long line of junior player-turned-successful professional under Larry Gannon at Happy Valley golf course in Lynn, will call it a career at the age of 67.
Hamilton was a bit of a late bloomer in the club pro business. He’d gone to Texas Christian University in Fort Worth for a year to see if he had the game to play big-time college golf, then transferred home to Suffolk in Boston to study journalism. But after two years and coming to the realization that the newspaper business was not for him, he turned to the game he loved.
“I had no idea where this golf thing might lead, but I was optimistic and I felt I could play adequately and learn how to teach in quick order,” Hamilton said. “Thankfully I learned everything about being a good club pro from Warren; that you pull and clean carts, repair clubs, hire good people and, most important, take good care of your members, their guests and your own staff. It’s a people business, being a club pro, first and foremost.”
Hamilton developed a similar love and dedication to the game that made Birch proud. After his one year at Kernwood, he was hired by Concord as its new head professional. Among the selection committee members was Salem native Bob Mielcarz, who grew up behind Kernwood’s 10th tee and became the winningest New Hampshire Amateur champion (nine titles).
“Brian had a great tenure at Concord,” says Mielcarz. “We missed him at Concord but were happy he was able to move on to a wonderful opportunity at Eastward Ho!”
“It was a great time for me to grow up as a person and golf pro,” Hamilton pointed out. “Concord was struggling in different ways when I arrived. They were taking a chance on a kid. I’m happy that I grew in many ways the same time Concord vastly improved its overall club situation.”
After two decades in the Granite State, Hamilton was ready for a new challenge, so he applied for the head pro position at Eastward Ho! when John Scheffler retired. “The committee liked what I had to offer,” he said. “It was my big move, a big opportunity. It was important that my wife Laurie was okay with it, since we had two young children at the time. We all were excited about it, moving to a beautiful part of New England, to a sleepy Cape club with a great course.”
In recent years Eastward Ho! has appeared on all the “Top 100” lists ranking America’s finest courses, much to Hamilton’s pleasure.
“It’s been a wonderful 21 years here. The membership has done a lot of work on the entire property. They’ve given me a great experience and a good way to wrap up my career.”
Although Hamilton had been giving thought to stepping aside sooner rather than later, his decision was influenced last October when he needed triple bypass surgery at Cape Cod Hospital in Hyannis.
“I’d had symptoms for about six months, so I’m glad I got checked out and got this done,” he said. “I feel great as we get into a new season,” he revealed.
His secrets to professional success spanning 41 years as the man in charge? “You must retain humility at all times, no matter what the situation,” he replied. “Remember you’re making a daily contribution to the club by helping members and their families and guests enjoy the golf course and surrounding amenities. Personally, I can’t believe 41 years have passed. They’ve happened like a blur.”
What’s next for Hamilton? He’ll enjoy a homecoming of sorts when his old club, Concord, co-hosts the New England PGA championship this August with nearby Manchester CC. He will be serving as a rules official for the 54-hole tournament, as he did last year in Rhode Island.
“I’d like to continue working rules for the NEPGA,” Hamilton, coincidentally ending the same number of years as a head pro as Happy Valley chum and Tedesco’s retiring Bob Green, said, “and maybe work for the National (PGA) for some of their championships. Just a few days here and there, a little travel, whatever works. This would be a great way for me to continue in the game for a good number of years I hope.”
He will be missed by all at Eastward Ho!, as these comments make quite clear
“Brian’s personable outreach and knowledge of golf have contributed to outstanding experiences for guests and members,” says current president Erich Bender.
“Brian has been a friend, mentor and inspiration during my time at Eastward Ho! And his continued support is a big reason I will succeed him as head professional next year,” adds Jason Winslow.
“I’ve personally experienced Brian’s teaching excellence over the years and he’s used that special talent to develop a first class junior program,” says past president Doug Hamilton.
“Brian has been a pro’s pro,” says Hank Holden, past golf chair at the club; “a great friend, mentor, teacher and administrator.”
We mourn the passing of Don Hunt.
Brad Tufts and David Grenier of The Outpost Club won the 55th Tedesco Cup gross title with a 136 score, four under for the two-day, better-ball event, with veterans Cy Kilgore and Ferncroft’s Ken Whalley second at 139. John Barnes, Jr. and Damon Moore of Sagamore won net at 124, with Parker Livermore-Tyson Dion (Tedesco) at 128 and Greg Mahan and Steve Solomon (Kernwood) at 129...Congrats to former North Andover High tennis coach and AD Jack Stephenson, a mere 70, on winning his 10th North Andover Country Club men’s title after shooting 147.
An awful break befell Salem CC’s Kirk Hanefeld Monday in qualifying for the Senior British Open at Hillside Golf Club in Southport. The club’s Director of Instruction had to withdraw from the event after a few holes due to stabbing back spasms. “I flew all the way over and had paid my entry fee so I had to give it a shot,” he related, “but if I’d been home playing in an event I never would have even attempted to play.” The 63-year-old South Hamilton resident had enjoyed a long run without any back issues. Now he may be shelved for an extended period and is doubtful for next month’s NEPGA Section championship at Manchester and Concord CCs in New Hampshire. Gary Nicklaus qualified with a 73.
Teams headed by host assistant pro Steve Bramlett and Glouycdester native Dan Gillis of Nabnasset Lake finished second at the annual NEPGA Pro-Lady championship at Kernwood. Bramlett and Cathy Marquardt placed second net with a 70, with Beverly’s David Dionne-Lauren O’Brien T-3 at 72. Gillis and Anne Windhol tied for second gross at 73 in the scotch format competition.
Tedesco assistant Jacob Leech and Point Judith’s Brendon Roy shared third at the NEPGA Pro-Pro Stroke Play championship with a best-ball 134, 10 under over two rounds at The Haven in Boylston. Turner Hill’s Nate Hopley and Webb Heintzelman shared seventh at 136.
Fascinating numbers released recently by the National Golf Foundation, starting with the fact that golf is an $84 billion industry with a support level in America of 24 million regular golfers who played 434 rounds, nine or 18, in 2018. Junior golfers numbered 2.5 million last year plus another 2.6 million beginners, those who played on a golf course for the first time. Those last two numbers should increase this year with Tiger Woods’ in-full resurgence, thanks to his victory at The Masters…The American market for golf clubs and balls was $2.7 billion last year, up six percent from 2017.
Reading the Greens is a weekly column on North Shore golf by Gary Larrabee. He has covered golf locally and beyond for the last 50 years.