A long and successful era in local golf is about to end as one of our best old-school head pros is months away from stepping down — at least, officially.
Tom Haggerty, a 70-year-old Rexford native, is retiring at the end of his 42nd year as the head pro and 50th year overall as part of the Glens Falls Country Club staff. Haggerty is the last member of his legendary golf family to wear the many hats — teacher, club administrator, rules official, tournament organizer and merchandiser, just to name a few — that a head pro needs to follow the PGA of America’s motto of promoting the game of golf.
Haggerty’s late father, Bob Haggerty Sr., was the longtime head pro at The Edison Club, while Tom’s deceased brother, Bob Haggerty Jr., was the pro at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course for more than three decades. All three are members of the Northeastern New York PGA Hall of Fame.
“I haven’t changed at all,” said Tom Haggerty in a phone interview from the popular Donald Ross-designed facility this week. “I’m the first one to work, and I can’t wait to get here. But at the same time, I’m comfortable with my decision to finally retire. I might start playing golf again. I’ve been so busy here that I haven’t had a chance to play. Many people think that local club pros play a lot of golf, but that’s not necessarily the case at all, especially when you’re at a busy place like mine.”
Yet Haggerty’s smiling face won’t be forgotten. In fact, you still may see him helping out or even playing at the club, which is ranked 86th nationally among classic private courses.
“I’ll stay on as pro emeritus,” he explained. “I have no intention of moving. I have no reason to. This is a great quality of life here. I came here in 1973, and I’ve never left. I was blessed to have worked under Al Stein, who was a great pro. He mentored me, and between him, my father and my brother, I had a pretty good golf education. I have a motto that I’m always telling my members: Where else would you want to be?”
Haggerty literally grew up at The Edison Club while his father was the head pro there. He was the No. 1 player on the standout Niskayuna High School golf team that earned a berth in the 1970 state tournament.
After graduating from high school, Haggerty attended Miami-Dade College for a year before becoming an assistant pro under Stein. He stayed in that position for eight years before moving up to head pro in 1978.
“The thing I’m most proud of is my longevity,” he said. “Making sure I give 100% to my membership, and my service, between teaching and running tournaments, is what I’m all about. I feel fortunate to be here at Glens Falls CC. My goal is always to give top service. We are in the happiness business.”
During his long run at Glens Falls CC, he was a member of the NENY PGA’s nominating committee (1991-93) and served his first of many stints on the board of directors from 1985-86, when he was also a member of the tournament committee. The pinnacle of his career was being named the Professional of the Year in 2006.
Among Haggerty’s other noteworthy achievements was being named the Bill Strasbaugh Award winner in 1988, and he won the section’s Merchandiser of the Year award for private clubs three times. Haggerty was also the honorary captain for the NENY PGA in the annual Challenge Cup against the Capital Region Amateur Golf Association.
“About the only thing I’m a little disappointed in with my career is that I used to be a decent player, but with all the time I spent teaching and running our tournaments, and then when my son, Chris, was born, I just didn’t have the time to put into my game,” Haggerty said.
“But I’ve never considered this a job. I never got up and said I’ve got to go to work today. [The golf business] is in my blood. It’s hereditary. I’m very proud of being a PGA professional. When my members say ‘Hi pro,’ that’s an honor to me.”
Perhaps Haggerty’s favorite part of his many duties is giving lessons.
“Teaching is a big part of it,” he said. “Once I’m out on the lesson tee, I really get into it. I don’t use the new technology. I’m a dinosaur. I love the basic fundamentals of the game. I went to a clinic by Jim Ballard in 1985 at Doral, and he gave me so much confidence in my teaching. After that, I was never afraid to say this is what you need to do in order to be a better player. There are a lot of teaching techniques out there, but I love Jimmy Ballard’s.”
Haggerty has always been known as an outstanding tournament organizer.
“It’s so important to give them a good product when you run a tournament,” he noted. “I’ve spoken at several seminars on this subject. “In my opinion, a head pro has to be at the scoreboard for the club championship, the member-guest and the member-member. The members want to see the No. 1 guy out there. I really get into it. I produce a nice scoreboard and print well. Everything is legible. That’s very important to me and the members. I think it’s even important for our outings when they come here.”
Don’t forget his experience in selling golf equipment, as well.
“As I’ve gotten older, the merchandising has become more difficult because of all the new equipment and the constant changes,” he said , “But they updated and remodeled my pro shop a few years ago, and that helped me quite a bit. As a private club, we have to have enough products to satisfy our membership and guests. It’s all part of the deal,” he said. “I always make sure we have enough products and it’s priced at [a] discount for our members. I try to give them what they want.”
For many years, Glens Falls CC has been part of the NENY PGA’s second major of the season, the two-day Donald Ross Classic. The local pros play The Sagamore Resort in the first round and then conclude the tournament at Glens Falls CC, which has always been one of the favorite stops on the NENY PGA Tour.
“I’m very fortunate to have been at Glens Falls CC all these years,” Haggerty said. “It’s a marvelous place, and Donald Ross was a legendary course designer. We hosted the 1963 NYS Men’s Amateur, two NYS Mid-Amateurs and the U.S. Mid-Amateur qualifier here. We try to give back to the game. In fact, we try to give back as much as we can without tying up the course too much and affecting our members. The members always come first, and we’ve done that.”
Haggerty said there is one description he never tires of hearing from his members.
“What they say is that Tom Haggerty is Glens Falls CC, and without degrading anybody, that means a lot to me,” he said. “The course has changed a lot, and so has the membership in terms of demographics. But at the same time, being a PGA club professional has been a great profession for me. I’ve had an unbelievable run. And remember, I’m not going anywhere. You’ll still see me around.”
I’ve known Tom, and his late brother, Bob, for almost 35 years, covering Tom at tournaments and helping Bob run the Schenectady Classic, formerly the Gazette Men’s County Amateur. I’ve even played pro-ams with both of them, and truly enjoyed the experiences. All the Haggertys have been remarkable assets to the game of golf, and I wish Tom an enjoyable retirement with plenty of rounds with that little round ball.
Congratulations to Saratoga Springs product Dottie Pepper, 56, who won the Metropolitan Golf Writers Association’s Gold Tee Award at the 70th annual MGWA National Awards Dinner at Westchester CC. Pepper, a New York State Golf Association Hall of Fame member, won 17 times on the LPGA Tour, including two majors. She won 25 career tournaments overall. She’s currently an outstanding television golf commentator and author.
The 20th annual Saratoga County Men’s Amateur, now open to all Capital Region golfers, is set for Friday at Eagle Crest Golf Club and Saturday at Saratoga Spa Golf Course. There will be an open division and a senior division, for players 50 years of age and older. Defending champions are AJ Cavotta in the open division and Bill Paulsen Jr. in the senior division. Entry fee is $95 and includes golf, awards and trophies. Tee times at Eagle Crest begin at 7:30 a.m., and tee times at Saratoga Spa will be announced. For more information, contact Sal Romano at 518-339-2060 or [email protected].
Hales Mills Country Club’s 2-Person Dash for the Cash Tournament will be held July 30 with a 12:30 p.m. shotgun start. The format will be nine holes of best-ball and nine holes of scramble. There will be gross and net prizes, but teams can’t win both. All players must have an established GHIN handicap index. Top prize will be $500. Entry fee is $150 per team and includes hot dogs and hamburgers at the turn. Call 518-736-4622 for more information.
The McGregor Links Invitational is scheduled for July 30-31. There will be three scratch divisions and will be limited to the first 54 teams that sign up. Entry fee is $350 per team and will include golf, cart and prize money. The championship division will play from the gold markers, the senior division will play from the white tees and the legends division will play from the white/green tees. Top prize will be $900 for all three divisions. For more information, contact McGregor Links CC head pro Michael Decker at 518-584-6664 or [email protected].
Colonie Golf & Country Club will host the local qualifier on July 5 for the NYS Boys’ & Girls’ Junior Amateur Championships July 26-27 at Soaring Eagles. There is a $25 fee to qualify and a $150 entry fee for the 36-hole stroke play championship.
McGregor Links CC hosts the 92nd annual NYS Women’s Amateur and Mid-Amateur July 11-12.
Town of Colonie GC’s Noel Gebauer and NENY PGA tournament operations manager Christian Torres will play 100 holes for hope to raise money for the veterans and their families to learn the game of golf at no cost. They will play a match on July 8. To donate, go to: https://neny.pga.com/about-the-foundation/
Canajoharie G&CC will host the third annual Ladies Invitational July 11. Entry fee will be $150 per two-person team and includes golf, cart, Continental breakfast, buffet lunch and cash prizes. There is a limit of 36 teams. Make checks payable to Canajoharie Women’s Golf Committee and mail them to Canajoharie Women’s Golf Committee c/o Betsy Baker 131 Walnut St. Canajoharie NY 13317.
Schenectady Municipal Golf Course will host the 14th annual Schenectady City School District Athletic Hall of Fame Golf Tournament Sept 18. The format will be a modified four-person scramble. Entry fee is $420 per foursome and includes golf, cart, buffet and prizes. This event is named after SCSD Hall of Fame member Pete Famiano. Call Bob Pezzano at 518-346-9297 for more information.
Briar Creek Golf Course will host the Coors Light Tournament July 15. Entry fee is $75 and includes golf, Continental breakfast, lunch at the turn and a grill buffet after golf. Contact the Briar Creek pro shop (518-355-6145) to reserve your foursome.
The second annual 9 & Dine Golf Scramble, to benefit To Love a Child, Inc., will be held July 22 at Fairways of Halfmoon Golf Club. There will be registration at 3:15 p.m., followed by a 4 p.m. shotgun start. Entry fee is $85 and includes 9 holes of golf with cart, prizes, an Italian buffet dinner and a cocktail hour. There also will be a themed basket auction and a 50/50 raffle. For more information, contact To Love a Child, P.O. Box 165, Clifton Park, NY 12065 or call 518-859-4424. Proceeds will benefit Food Forests & Clean Water in Zimbabwe and Thyme to Thrive Educational Programs in the Capital Region.
Schenectady Municipal Golf Course is the site for the Schenectady High School Football Golf Tournament July 9 at 9 a.m. Entry fee is $135 and includes golf, cart, Continental breakfast, hot dogs/hamburgers/refreshments at the turn, dinner, a golf towel, T-shirt and golf divot/marker tool. Contact Schenectady High head coach Carmen DePoalo at 518-495-6555 for more information.
The Epson Tour’s Twin Bridges Championship (formerly the Symetra Tour) is set for July 8-10 at Pinehaven Country Club. The Epson Tour is the official “Road to the LPGA.”
Michael Hylan aced the 141-yard 12th hole with a 3 hybrid at Stadium Golf Club.
At Western Turnpike Golf Club, Ethan Kreisel hit a 9-iron for his hole-in-one on the 155-yard seventh hole on the red nine, and Gemma Clancy hit a 3-wood for her hole-in-one on the 157-yard sixth hole on the white nine.
Bridget Frank, 29, of Saratoga Springs, aced the fifth hole on the Saratoga Spa State Park par-3 course.
Bob Frawley scored his second career hole-in-one by using a 7-iron on the 119-yard 17th hole at Fairways of Halfmoon.
Joe DiMaio registered a hole-in-one with a 9-iron on the 110-yard eighth hole at Hales Mills Country Club.
Cliff Ruth eagled the ninth hole at Schenectady Municipal Golf Course.
Reach Bob Weiner at [email protected].
More from The Daily Gazette: