By BRITTANY GROW
Depending on who you ask, the game of golf can either be extremely relaxing or very frustrating, sometimes both at the same time. Teeing up and hitting a perfect drive up the fairway is not always easy, and even the professionals have a crazy drive every now and again. Or there are the pesky sand and water traps that seem to beckon the ball, even if you weren’t aiming in their general direction. But the love of golf is a deep love, and for many, starts at a young age.
Mike Beck, the golf pro at Inlet Golf Course first began playing at the age of five at Inlet when it was only a nine hole course.
“Roland Christy taught me how to play and he sort of became an adopted grandfather. We would go out golfing together and I really grew to love the game. I definitely miss him,” Beck said.
The Inlet golf course was designed by an associate of famed golf course designer Don Ross in the 1920s. “The views are spectacular and the wildlife and wild flowers are just beautiful,” Beck said.
Beck attended Inlet Common School until sixth grade and for middle and high school, he attended Town of Webb School. It was at Town of Webb that he was able to play on the golf team and really expand on the knowledge Christy gave him.
When he went off to college at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina, Beck continued to play golf for the school. When he transferred back up to New York to attend Utica College for his remaining three years, he became the captain of the golf team for the school.
“Unlike the southern states, the golf teams in the north don’t have the ability to play as often as they do in the south, so it’s not always as easy to play up to the level in which you would like,” Beck said.
At one time, Beck had wanted to try and get on the PGA tour, but after getting to college, he said he realized he didn’t have the skills to play at that level. Instead, he became a history major with the intention of getting a law degree. “I kind of got burnt out on school and didn’t think I could go on to law school, so I changed my focus,” he said.
Beck became an apprentice at Thendara Golf Club under Rich Chapman for five years and then went on to work at a golf course in Tully as the head pro. His wife still lived in Old Forge, so the job became less than ideal. When a position opened up at Inlet Golf Club, Beck took the opportunity and came back to the course where it all started.
Beck said he has been the pro at Inlet for three years. He was talked into doing the PGA certification to become a pro by Chapman. To get the certification, Chapman said you do a lot of self study and must have a four year degree. There are also three sets of testing that need to be done.
Beck has enjoyed all that being a pro entails.
“I absolutely love teaching others what I know about the game. I feel as if I’m paying it forward and I’ve met a lot of awesome people. I’m also learning more about the game myself and how to better my own game.”
Along with lessons, Beck is in charge of scheduling, staff, promoting the game of golf with members as well as with the public and he also coordinates outings and tournaments.
Beck is also a part of the youth commission and does five to six weeks of lessons for the youth. This year, Beck partnered up with Chapman of Thendara and Shawn Andrews of Woodgate Pines and started a PGA Junior League. “It’s a really neat thing we can do with the kids. They get six practices and six matches all around the area,” Beck said.
Like Beck, Rich Chapman, the pro at the Thendara Golf Club, is excited about the new junior league program. “I really love working with people and teaching them. The kids especially get this excitement about them that is contagious,” he said.
Chapman is originally from North Syracuse, but his parents had a summer camp in White Lake. After graduating from Cicero North Syracuse, Chapman attended SUNY Potsdam Crane School of Music, and then did his grad school work at Arizona State. “I’ve always wanted to work with music. I played trombone and planned to play in a couple of different orchestras, but it would be too long before any of their trombone players retired,” Chapman said.
He has always loved the game of golf, and when he was told that golf pro David Geiger would be retiring, he got his PGA certification and became the new pro. He has been working at Thendara Golf Club for 26 years now. “I’ve loved everything about it,” Chapman said when asked what his favorite thing has been about working as the pro.
Like Beck, Chapman is in charge of the staff, coordinating events with the restaurant and the superintendent, check golfers in, schedule tournaments and outings, promote the golf course, make sure the course is clean and create the pairings for the leagues. “Basically I am the face of the golf course,” he said.
Along with the Junior League, Chapman is particularly excited about the “social golfing” experiences Thendara has to offer. “We have a novice/beginner league, a coed/couples league and a family fun night on Fridays,” he said.
When asked about the golf course itself, Chapman said the front nine holes were designed by Ross in 1921, and the back nine holes were designed by Russell Bailey and completed in 1956. “It’s almost like playing on two different courses. On the front, there are sand traps, the greens are undulating and hard to putt, but it’s wide open. On the back, you have narrower shots, flat greens and it follows the river,” Chapman said.
For more information on Thendara Golf Club or to book a tee time, visit www.thendaragolfclub.com. For more information on Inlet Golf Club and to also book a tee time, visit www.inletgolfclub.com