By Matt Hombach
By the time Kim Hand was 15 years old, he knew what he wanted to do with his life.
"I started caddying at a course in Burlington, Iowa, when I was just 9 years old," he said. "I worked my way up to cleaning clubs and eventually landed a job in the golf shop. I loved being around the game and knew early in my life I wanted to be a golf pro."
After more than four decades working around the game he loves, Hand, the longtime professional at Pine Ridge in Towson, is retiring.
Hand served as chief professional at Manor Country Club in Rockville from 1975 to 1983. He then landed the same job at Pine Ridge.
Hand earned his membership in the PGA of America in 1972 and has enjoyed his long-term affiliation with the organization, completing four of the PGA's six certified professional programs.
He was honored with the PGA's President's Council Award in 2005, '06 and '07 in recognition for his extraordinary commitment to making an impact on the game by playing host to Play Golf America programs at Pine Ridge.
When asked what has changed most about the golf business since the start of his career, Hand talks about the myriad technological advancements. Not only are balls, clubs and shafts now made of "space-age materials," but the tools pros use to run courses have improved dramatically.
"We went from handwritten receipts and using pencil and paper to track tee times, budgets and inventory to using sophisticated software programs to run the golf course," he said.
Hand has some advice for those looking to learn the game or for young people thinking of becoming a pro.
Tips On Learning
Over the years, Hand has had the opportunity to teach thousands of golfers in group clinics and one-on-one settings.
"I always asked my students why they want to play golf," Hand said. "Many times they'd say they want to learn because their husband wants them to or their buddies all play so they think they should."
But to become a good golfer, Hand insists people need to get into the game for the right reasons.
"You should learn to play golf because you want to and you want to have fun doing it," he said. "Beginners have to be careful to keep it fun and celebrate their achievements, whether it is making their first long putt or carrying a water hazard for the first time. If they take the fun out of it and get too hard on themselves, it is almost impossible to get better or enjoy the game."
Thoughts For Aspiring Pros
For young people thinking about working as pros, Hand advises they get an education first. Getting a four-year degree and then heading to one of the PGA's 25-30 professional management schools throughout the country is a good first step.
"I would also advise them to work at three different types of courses -- an upscale private club, a semi-private or resort course and a public course," Hand said. "Each type of course has its plusses and minuses, but you have to decide which type of atmosphere you like, then try to find a job at that type of course."
Hand is quick to mention that when you work in the golf industry, chances are you won't get to play as much as desired.
"I spend most of my time developing the business at Pine Ridge, teaching new golfers and creating lifetime customers that would keep coming back," he said. "Playing wasn't a high priority for me then, but it will be now that I'm retired."
Even though he is retiring, golf will still be a major part of Hand's day-to-day life. He purchased a home in Pinehurst five years ago and made several trips a year to the sport's Mecca in North Carolina.
Hand hopes to move to Pinehurst fulltime. He will be marrying his longtime girlfriend in June and they plan to build their dream home and enjoy the warmer climate.
"Once you have been to Pinehurst, you can tell that Myrtle Beach and the Florida golf resorts just don't stack up," he said. "Personally, if I could just play Pinehurst number two, four and six for the rest of my life, I'd be a happy man."
CADDY BLOG GIVES PEEK AT LIFE ON TOUR
Veteran PGA caddy Mark Huber gives fans a fun look inside the ropes with his blog www.MarksKaddyKorner.com. Huber currently works on the bag of pro Robert Gamez.
His candid accounts of what it's like to caddy for a pro are interesting and insightful. The blog is usually updated once a week, with an entry from each tournament.
In a recent blog post, Huber gave the dirt on one of golf's greatest venues, Pebble Beach, saying, "It's the tour's most physically challenging week and a few caddies develop bad backs, family obligations at home, or weddings to attend this week. If you can possibly avoid Pebble, you do."
SONNEFELD SCHOLARSHIPS FOR HIGH SCHOOL GOLFERS
The George E. Sonnefeld Foundation is offering two $2,500 scholarships this spring to local members of high school teams. The awards will be paid directly to the colleges the youngsters will be attending in 2009.
The Sonnefeld Foundation gives at least one scholarship each year to an area high school senior who has an official handicap and plans to attend college.
Golfers who wish to apply should contact their athletic directors, coaches, local PGA professional or Susan DiLonardo at 410-841-5670 or DiLonardo@aol.com.
AREA CLUBS SEEK GOLFERS FOR 2009
The Rocky Point men's club is looking for members age 60 and older for the 2009 season. The club plays every other Thursday from April until October at the picturesque waterfront course situated on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay in Essex. Interested parties should call 410-823-8842.
Mt. Pleasant's senior men's club is also seeking members. Call 410-377-2880 for information.
Longview's senior men's club in Timonium is welcoming new players as well. Call 410-832-5719 before 8 p.m. for details.
Issue 135: March 2009