November 2020

Fore the Love of the Game: 8 Local Golf Professionals

Author: Special to CH2 | Photographer: M.KAT Photography

If you really want to learn about anything, you should take notes from those at the top of their game.

That’s exactly what we did this month as we interviewed eight local golf professionals who represent some of the best clubs in the Lowcountry. In addition to the CH2 girls getting a lesson from each (see the video on our Facebook page), we chatted with the pros about where they like to play golf, which club they like using the best and what tournament is the most fun to watch.

Bob Patton
Years in the Golf Industry: 39 including the last 33 as head golf professional at Long Cove Club.
Home Course: Long Cove Club

What is your favorite golf club?
Probably my 58-degree wedge. It’s a versatile club for a variety of shots and is helpful for getting me out of trouble, which I seem to need too frequently.

Hardest course you have ever played, and what did you shoot?
Not taking weather into account and just looking at course design, probably Oakmont CC in Pittsburgh. It is a great golf course but probably the most difficult set of greens in golf. I’ve played there several times, and I’m sorry to admit that my score usually starts with an 8.

Best piece of advice you could give people across the board when it comes to getting better at golf.
RELAX! Tension in the grip and arms makes it difficult to develop rhythm and pace to the swing and inhibits freedom of motion. Find the proper grip pressure, relax the arms, and swing freely!

Which pro golfer do you most admire and why?
I’m going to expand on what I think you’re asking and say I have tremendous admiration for former PGA Tour and Senior Tour winner Jim Ferree. Not only because he won on both tours and is well known as one of the great ball strikers of all time, but also because of how popular he was and is with his fellow players and all who have had the pleasure to know him and play with him. He is also one of my mentors and has meant a lot to me personally.

Favorite local course to play other than the one where you work?
That is really a tough question and one I’m frequently asked. We are very fortunate to have so many exceptional courses in this area, so it’s hard to pick a single favorite. I have great admiration for Pete Dye and love his designs, so if you’re forcing me to pick one other than Long Cove, I would have to say Harbour Town.

Krista Dunton
Years in the Golf Industry: Turned professional after graduating from University of Michigan in 1988. Played mini tours for four years, then started teaching at a private club in N.J. in 1993, so 27 years in the industry.
Home Course: Berkeley Hall

Hardest course you have ever played, and what did you shoot?
Olympic Club, Pine Valley or The Ocean Course at Kiawah. If the course is that hard and I’m not playing my A game, I tend to stop keeping score and just enjoy the course and the challenge!

Best piece of advice you could give people across the board when it comes to getting better at golf?
Check your grip pressure! Do all your thinking away from the ball; take a deep breath and stay relaxed and stay focused over your shot. Spend more time looking at the target than the ball!

Which golf tournament to you find most exciting to watch?
The Masters.

Which pro golfer do you admire and why?
Rory. I like how he stays true to his country of Ireland. Winning is important to him, but it’s not everything. Keeps a great attitude and perspective with family and friends.

If you have a day off, do you play golf or do something else entirely?
I tend to spend my day off running on the beach with my dogs, going for a bike ride, watching my kids play baseball and soccer, and maybe squeezing in nine holes.

Favorite local course to play other than the one where you work?
My favorite local course is, of course, Berkeley Hall! After that, I’d have to say Old Tabby Links on Spring Island. Such a wonderful walking course. The front and back are very different—great golf holes and Lowcountry beauty. It’s laid out perfectly for walking. I also enjoy May River.

John Farrell
Years in the Golf Industry: 36
Home Course: Harbour Town Golf Links

What is your favorite club?
Harbour Town Golf Links. The golf course was my favorite before I came to work here in 1988. It’s the most thought-provoking, mentally challenging and fun courses I’ve ever seen (my unbiased opinion).

Hardest course you have ever played, and what did you shoot?
Carnoustie in Scotland. Lowest score on it was 74; played it several times.

Which golf tournament do you find the most exciting to watch?
I love the British Open Championship. I do watch the RBC Heritage on tape the week after it’s played.

Best piece of advice you could give people across the board when it comes to getting better at golf?
Positivity; smiling is underrated.

Which pro golfer do you most admire and why?
Always loved watching Tom Watson because of his brisk pace, fearlessness and his enormous respect for the game.

If you have a day off, do you play golf or do something else entirely?
I love everything about the game, so I do play on days off. But I also look forward to doing just about anything I can with my wife and three children.

Favorite local course to play other than the one where you work?
Belfair West. Tremendous variety, shot values and memorability.

Mark Reilly
Years in the Golf Industry: 20
Home Course: Colleton River Golf Club

What is your favorite club?
I’ve always been a great driver of the ball, but I would have to say my favorite club is my putter. I currently use a Scotty Cameron Newport. More times than not, my score is dependent on how well I putted. I’m a big believer that putting success comes from confidence; even if I’m not putting well, I tell myself, “It’s okay. This is my favorite club. I will make the next one!”

Hardest course you have ever played, and what did you shoot?
I have had the opportunity to play golf all over the world. Being from New York, Bethpage Black has always been very difficult. Playing host to the State Open each year, it was always very challenging. Long yardages to elevated greens, with narrow fairways and deep Kentucky Bluegrass rough made for very high scores! My best round in competition there was 74, I would rather not mention my worst!

Which golf tournament do you find the most exciting to watch?
I look forward to watching the Masters every year. I don’t think it gets more exciting than watching the Sunday back nine at Augusta. The course design provides a fantastic finish where players can climb the leaderboard or tumble quickly. It’s rare the event isn’t decided in the final nine holes.

Best piece of advice you could give people across the board when it comes to getting better at golf?
It is important to practice with intent. Be sure to work on things that you can control on the golf course. Posture, grip, and alignment are practicable and controllable; become an expert at them! Golf can be like triage: control what you can and limit the damage. If you play to your strengths and recognize tendencies, you can continually improve.

Which pro golfer do you most admire and why?
If I limit this question to modern golfers, I would have to thank Tiger Woods for all that he has done to grow the game. But I most admire Rory McIlroy for how he embodies it. Rory has enormous skill on the golf course that can be unmatched when he plays his best. More notably, I admire how he carries himself off the course—especially his willingness to go above and beyond with his fans.

Favorite local course to play other than the one where you work?
We are spoiled in the Lowcountry with a plethora of choices and designs to choose from. My favorite course in the area aside from Colleton would have to be Secession Golf Club. The staff, caddies, and golf course always provide a great golf experience. The design can play completely different based on the tide and winds but always provides a fun environment to players of all ability levels.

Scott Hunter
Years in the Golf Industry: 17
Home Course: Wexford

What is your favorite club?
Lob wedge. I use it around the greens and bunker for all the shots.

Hardest course you have ever played, and what did you shoot?
Oakmont Golf Club in Pennsylvania. It’s the greatest course I have ever played, but the course won, hands down.

Which golf tournament do you find the most exciting to watch?
The Masters. With so many exciting holes, no other tournament provides so many memorable moments.

Best piece of advice you could give people across the board when it comes to getting better at golf?
Balance playing with practicing. You play for fun, but also note where you lost strokes during the round so that you can practice to improve.

Which pro golfer do you most admire and why?
Jack Nicklaus. He was the best player of all time!

If you have a day off, do you play golf or do something else entirely?
If it’s not golf, then I am spending time with my family, which is usually at a baseball tournament.

Favorite local course to play other than the one where you work?
Harbour Town.

James Swift
Years in the Golf Industry: 26
Home Course: Belfair

What is your favorite club?
Definitely my putter, an Odyssey Stroke Lab.

Hardest course you have ever played, and what did you shoot?
Royal County Down in Ireland was probably the most technically difficult course I have ever played…shot a less than stellar 82 there in the wind and want to go back for a second try to redeem myself!

Which golf tournament do you find the most exciting to watch?
My favorite is Open Championship because it celebrates the birthplace of golf and gives me an appreciation of how good the players are on the European and PGA Tours, knowing first-hand how difficult the courses they play really are. It’s amazing to me that they actually shoot so far under par during this major championship. Courses are brutal!

Best piece of advice you could give people across the board when it comes to getting better at golf?
Golf is a sport that rewards those who have patience and put the time and effort into getting better. How do you get better at golf? Practice! If you put the time in, you will see the reward.

Which pro golfer do you most admire and why?
All the greats: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan … it’s hard to say who my favorite one of all is. But all have played the game at the highest level and all have made a major impact on the game of golf that may never be seen again.

If you have a day off, do you play golf or do something else entirely?
Anything that allows me time to spend with the family! Fishing however is a very close second!

Favorite local course to play other than the one where you work?
Secession Golf Club…just a special place that exemplifies what golf is all about!

Doug Weaver
Years in the Golf Industry: 40
Home Course: Robert Trent Jones

What is your favorite club?
4 hybrid—makes my 200- 220-yard shots easier.

Hardest course you have ever played, and what did you shoot?
U.S. Open course, Baltusrol Golf Club in Summit, New Jersey. Made the cut.

Which golf tournament do you find the most exciting to watch?
The RBC Heritage Classic. I know the course and history so well.

Best piece of advice you could give people across the board when it comes to getting better at golf?
Learn from a busy teaching professional.

Which pro golfer do you most admire and why?
Arnold Palmer, “The King.” He was generous to me by inviting me to a one-on-one mentoring meeting in his Bay Hill office. He gave me a sponsor’s exemption to his PGA Tour event. He included my wife Trish and me in several meals of eight people or less. He was very encouraging to me and many others in our pursuit of excellence in golf.

If you have a day off, do you play golf or do something else entirely?
I love to play golf because of friends, fresh air, fun and competition. I also love to explore our waterways.

Favorite local course to play other than the one where you work?
Harbour Town.

Greg Wrobel
Years in the Golf Industry: 25
Home Course: May River Golf Course at Palmetto Bluff

What is your favorite golf club?
My favorite golf club in my bag is my lob wedge. We all miss greens during a round of golf, and having the ability to hit a high, soft shot or a low spinning shot, depending on the circumstance,
is fun to do and rewarding.

Hardest course you have ever played, and what did you shoot?
This is an easy one for me. When I was a professional at the Pinehurst Resort, I was able to play Pinehurst #2 the day after the 1999 U.S. Open with the same hole locations and setup as the final round the day prior. Our group walked with caddies, and I remember having to make a par 4 on the final hole to shoot 78, which was impressive for a golf course over 7,200 yards with lightning fast greens and challenging hole locations. That was a great memory for sure.

Which golf tournament do you find the most exciting to watch?
Year after year, The Masters tournament is my favorite to watch. It’s even better when I’m able to visit in person! Having watched the tournament for over 35 years, it never fails to provide exciting drama and great champions. And those pimento cheese sandwiches!

Best piece of advice you could give people across the board when it comes to getting better at golf?
Persistence, persistence, persistence! I could write a 100-page essay on this question, but to summarize in a couple of sentences, I would say to take some golf lessons from a trained golf professional and work on all aspects of golf, from full-swing to putting. Learn how to hit golf shots with a square club face, and then learn how to turn your body back and through in balance (and don’t keep your head down!). Sounds easy, right?

Which pro golfer do you most admire and why?
Currently, I admire the game and personality of Rickie Fowler. Rickie is a stylish golfer and has a tremendous following from kids of all ages, making him a great role model on and off the course. Growing up, I admired the game and record of Tiger Woods. He brought millions and millions of golfers from around the world into the game and helped grow the game of golf into what it is today.

If you have a day off, do you play golf or do something else entirely?
That is a funny question! People always believe that golf professionals play lots of golf. Since having two young children, I can count on one hand the number of rounds I’ve played on a day off over recent years! I do enjoy long distance running because I can burn some calories and, at the same time, catch up on my
latest podcasts for a couple of hours each week.

Favorite local course to play other than the one where you work? Our local community is so fortunate to have so many great courses, it’s difficult to select only one. I do enjoy playing Harbour Town prior to or just after the tournament. It is as good as it gets with the holes along the
water and the picturesque par 3s.

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