January 4, 2002
William “Butch” Holtzclaw, Jr. understands the difference between public golf and country club golf. After all, he’s worked in both environments.
The 33-year-old Cape Region resident is the head golf professional at The Rookery, and works with Director of Golf Pete Oakley and Course Superintendent Chris Adkins. He started at the Milton-area course two months before it opened in mid-summer of 2000.
“It was a great experience being here before it opened,” Holtzclaw said in a recent interview. “I helped put the boundary fence in. I also learned how to use the maintenance equipment, such as the mowers. It was a part of the golf business I hadn’t been exposed to in the past.”
“Just the same, I was happy to get back into the pro shop at the end of those two months. Chris Adkins was probably happy to see me get off his equipment, too,” Holtzclaw grinned.
The 1986 Cape Henlopen High School graduate took a fairly circuitous route to his current position.
“I didn’t really start playing until the 10th grade, but I had a great time with friends like Chris Travis, Terry Smith, Scot Anderson, and Brian Barrows. Chris won the state and conference championships. Brian’s now the head pro at Baywood Greens, and Scot’s the course superintendent at Sussex Pines.”
Buoyed by his high school experience, Holtzclaw started at the University of Arkansas in the fall of 1986, but left after a single semester. “It was a long way from home, and I couldn’t make the golf team as a walk-on. So that spring I started going to Delaware. I was still interested in golf, though, so then I enrolled in the golf management program at Mississippi State. That didn’t work out either, so I ended up going back to Delaware. I eventually finished up with a bachelor’s degree in marketing in 1992. That degree was probably just as good for me professionally as any golf-related program. Much of my work as a golf pro requires good marketing skills.”
Holtzclaw turned professional after graduation, and started his career as an assistant under John Wallet at Kings Creek Country Club in 1992. During the winters, he worked at the Everglades Club in Florida. After two seasons at Kings Creek, he became the first assistant at Rehoboth Beach Country Club under Ron Barrows. “I learned an awful lot working for Ron. There’s just no substitute for the kind of on-the-job training you can receive as an apprentice working for a good PGA golf professional who knows how to run his business.”
In 1993, Holtzclaw gained his first head professional position, at the public-access Salt Pond course near Ocean View. “Public golf is a totally different kind of operation than the private courses. Public courses survive on green fees. You’ve got to keep ringing the register. There’s not as much member relation work, since you normally deal with a daily variety of customers. Working at private courses gives you the opportunity to know your players better, because you see them so often.”
Now that he’s at The Rookery, Holtzclaw enjoys playing golf more at other places, such as Rehoboth CC. “I play better off the course. The Rookery is a great place, with a wonderful practice facility. It’s just that when you work here, it’s hard to relax and enjoy yourself when you see something two holes over that needs a little work.”
Holtzclaw believes that being people-oriented and having good communication skills are the most important requirements for being a successful golf professional. “I don’t know how you can do this job if you’re not a people person. You have to maintain a lot of flexibility in your dealings with people, since there are so many different personalities that you’ll come in contact with. You also need good communication skills, especially in teaching. You learn how to use different ways to reach different students.”
It’s nice to meet someone who knows what he’s doing, and doing it well.