Don Confoey did not settle for working for his father’s steel manufacturing company. That business did not offer the scenic views a golf course provides. So he wound up taking a position in 1996 with a now defunct nine-hole country club near Medina, commuting from Campbell.
“I drove 73 miles each way every day for the first year just to [make sure] that I absolutely wanted to do this,” says Confoey, director of golf at The Lake Club.
He became the assistant professional golfer at Fonderlac Country Club [now The Lake Club] a year later, paring down his daily commute to 10 minutes. Aside from a brief stop at Tam O’Shanter Golf Course in Hermitage, Pa., in the early 2000s, he’s been in that green corner of Poland ever since.
“It’s a great place to work,” Confoey says of The Lake Club. “You can’t come to a more beautiful tract every day.”
Confoey is one of a handful of area PGA golf professional instructors who spoke to The Business Journal about working at their venues.
Early-morning sun beaming down, dew-soaked grass and birds chirping in the trees are part of the zen-like experience Michael Ferranti harnesses as he approaches each golf course’s first tee box. He’s been a PGA teaching professional since 2003, instructing on the undulations of area golf courses.
“There’s no better place to be than on the golf course first thing in the morning,” he says.
Being the general manager of Reserve Run Golf Course and The Links at Firestone Farms requires him to know more than how to properly swing a golf club, as he is also immersed in the business side of running two golf courses. Those duties include overseeing food and beverage, and property management, as well as the staff at both venues.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s definitely a fun thing to do,” says Ferranti, who has been at Reserve Run and The Links for six years.
The job of a golf professional has more ups and downs than a Cedar Point rollercoaster with interest in the sport waning and gaining popularity over the years. It hasn’t changed the way Michael Spiech approached his position at either Alliance Country Club from 1981 to 2003, or his current position as PGA head golf professional at Tippecanoe Country Club, where he’s worked since 2004.
Driving to Canfield from Beachwood every morning, arriving around 7 a.m. to prepare for his day, he strives to give his membership the best experience possible. Days entail teaching duties, coordinating tournaments and running the Tippecanoe Country Club golf shop. More than 60 people have joined Tippecanoe Country Club since Aug. 1, Spiech says, and getting them acquainted with the other members is as important as accommodating their golfing needs.
His passion for the sport began when Speich’s father passed away in 1970. He inherited his father’s golf clubs, and started to learn the game when he was 12. The Hubbard native had to choose between his talent for playing catcher in baseball and playing golf. The latter won out as he realized this sport would have more longevity for him as a player.
“It’s more of an individual sport and it gave me more drive to practice and work on my game and also to help people,” he says.
That role of ambassador of the course is important for Jason Hastings, head golf professional at Trumbull Country Club in Warren.
“We want every event that our members or guests play in to feel special and for that individual to go back to their course or their house or their friends and say, ‘Hey, I had a great experience at Trumbull Country Club. They did everything first class.’
“It really relies on myself and my staff to do the behind the scenes work that it takes to make each individual event special,” Hastings says.
Hastings’ grandfather introduced him to the game when he was 8 and the interest in the sport grew over time as he was a junior golfer and went through the professional golf management program at Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C.
Growing up in the resort town of Rehoboth Beach, Del., there was a small nearby course where Hastings worked in the summers from 2003 to 2006. It’s where he became acclimated with the game before receiving his PGA classification in 2011.
Eventually, he had his first internship at Kirtland Country Club near Cleveland in 2010, working there for about six years – meeting his fiance a couple years later. The two are getting married in October, making Ohio his full-time home.
“I had so much fun as a kid playing golf, why not make it a profession?” Hastings says.
Playing the game since he was 16, Craig Weis has always had an affinity for teaching the game. When college didn’t pan out for him, he knew golf was his path – eventually becoming the PGA professional and golf manager at Avalon Field Club at New Castle, formerly New Castle Country Club.
The business side is one thing, but working with the younger golfers is important to him – trying to expand the game’s reach.
“The personal relationships you build and getting to work with the young kids and the youth golf is one of the best things,” Weis says.
Being around people has been important to Weis in his 17 years in New Castle. He recalled an instance about eight years ago when he was with about 50 people waiting out a thunderstorm. As they stood by, a pine tree 50 yards away was obliterated by a lightning strike. It was a warning to those hardcore golfers that he never forgot.
“When they blow that siren, you get off the golf course,” Weis says. “No reason to be swinging the club.”
Pictured at top: Don Confoey, director of golf at The Lake Club.