'Growing game' Michael's mission

Apr. 13, 2014 @ 12:18 AM

John Michael lists “growing the game” as his chief priority at Henderson Country Club and he’s already sensing an increase in enthusiasm for golf as he enters his first spring as the club pro.

“We’ve seen a lot more excitement about the game in the last couple of months,” said Michael, who was named club pro last fall. “Spring brings excitement about golf as we get closer to the top PGA tourneys and everything — excitement for the game grows.”

The area’s top tournaments are on the horizon too, with the Henderson Country Club Invitational slated for May 3-4 and the Kerr Lake Country Club Invitational to follow May 17-18.

The Henderson Invitational will feature a lighted putting contest on Saturday night this year — a tweak Michael hopes adds intrigue to the annual tournament.

Additional revisions at Henderson Country Club include golf-only memberships and the implementation of Get Golf Ready, a PGA-sanctioned program designed to teach fundamentals.

Get Golf Ready, open to males and females, started on Saturday and will run for four more sessions before picking back up in the fall.

Junior and ladies clinics (beginners to advanced) have also been established at Henderson Country Club. The junior clinic is for ages 6-15 and is held on Mondays and the ladies golf clinic is on Thursdays.

“We’re working on developing a better product,” said Michael, “to make it more attractive to everybody out in the community and even farther out from Vance County, Granville, Wake — everywhere.”

Michael joined Henderson Country Club after spending four seasons as an assistant pro at North Ridge Country Club in Raleigh. He said coming from North Ridge’s 36-hole course was an adjustment, but he and his family are embracing the smaller club and city.

“You walk out here and you meet the folks,” said Michael, “and you play the golf course a few times — you fall in love with it.”

Michael grew up around The Woodlands Golf Course in his native Hampton, Va. His parents, employees of the city, often dropped him off at the municipal course for the day to play with a crowd that had — more than a few years on him.

Michael says he wishes he had a course like the one at Henderson Country Club growing up.

“This club is an important part of the community,” said Michael. “There’s not many places like this club with the amenities and the type of golf course and the facilities that we have in the area. So it’s very important, I think, to have in the community.”

Contact the writer at kholtzman@hendersondispatch.com.