The 69th PGA Merchandise Show is coming up this week in Orlando, FL., and that’s generally a big week for club professionals nation-wide who use the big event at the Orange County Convention Center to begin preparations for another season.
It won’t be quite the same this year for two of Chicago’s longest-standing club leaders. Both Bob Malpede and Brian Morrison retired once the calendar turned to 2022. Malpede, who will attend the show to renew acquaintances, finished a 16-year run in a dual role – general manager and head golf professional – at White Deer Run, in Vernon Hills.
Morrison, who spent 21 seasons at Olympia Fields and was the storied club’s director of golf, is now living in Florida. The 2003 U.S. Open, 2015 U.S. Amateur and 2020 BMW Championship were all held at Olympia during Morrison’s tenure there. Douglas Farrell has moved up from head professional to become Olympia’s new director of golf.
Malpede isn’t ready to end residence in Illinois, where his golf roots are deep. He got started in the business at Pistakee Bay, in McHenry, when his father owned the club. He formally entered the professional ranks in 1972 at Glen Flora, in Waukegan, and also did time as an assistant pro at Knollwood, in Lake Forest, and Bel-Air and Riviera, in California.
After landing his first head pro job at Columbine, in Colorado, Malpede returned to Illinois where he got the golf operations started at two new clubs. He was the first head pro at both Stonebridge, in Aurora, and Stonewall Orchard, in Grayslake, and remains a managing partner at Stonewall. He’ll remain on staff at White Deer Run as pro emeritus.
Another club has announced a change in head pros. Stonebridge has named Steve Gillie to the job. He had been a teaching pro at Boulder Ridge, in Lake in the Hills.
NEW WGA CHAIRMAN: Joe Desch is the new chairman of the Western Golf Association. The Cincinnati resident succeeds Kevin Buggy, of Park Ridge Country Club, in the leadership role.
Desch, along with four of his brothers, attended college on an WGA Evans’ Scholarships. Desch attended Miami of Ohio after working as a caddie as a youth.
“It’s exciting, and very humbling, being an (Evans Scholars) alumni and having a chance to do this,’’ said Desch, who has lofty goals for the organization that has raised money for college scholarships for caddies since 1930. Over 1,000 students are now attending colleges on Evans Scholarships. He’s been on the WGA board of directors since 2021.
“Now the goal is to have 1,500 Evans Scholars by 2030,’’ said Desch. “We’re moving to a more nationwide organization and trying to be much more than a Midwest scholarship. We also want more diversity – women and kids of color among our caddies as well as at our staff headquarters.’’
HERE AND THERE – Naperville Country Club, celebrating its 100-year anniversary, has broken ground on a $2.7 million clubhouse renovation….Luke Donald, the former Northwestern star and world No. 1, has struggled with back problems in recent years but he made the cut in his first 2022 start at the Sony Open of Hawaii on Sunday. He tied for 27th, his best finish of the PGA Tour’s 2021-22 wrap-around season.….Neither Chicago club manufacturer, Wilson or Tour Edge, will be represented at the PGA Merchandise Show but Zero Friction, of Oakbrook Terrace, will have a prominent role. It has created the official tee and indoor hitting range for the show and will also introduce its new push-cart golf bag and TheraTech golf glove.