The stars have aligned for Bill Wogden, both personally and professionally, in 2009.
The head professional at the Barrie Country Club in Barrie, Ont., turned 50 last summer and will celebrate his 25th anniversary this year with wife Carolyn, who he says has been a career cornerstone with her understanding of the long hours needed for his job, as well as being mother of his two children, Heather and Darryl.
Those long hours and Carolyn’s understanding paid off last month when Wogden was named the recipient of the Canadian PGA Club Professional of the Year Award, which offered him an opportunity to reflect on the past and look forward to the future.
The past includes fond memories of mentors who guided him to the position he currently holds at Barrie, a tenure that is now into its 18th season.
Wogden’s career began in 1979 at the South Muskoka Golf and Country Club, where he got the chance to work with Ron Webb, a well-known professional in Ontario’s cottage country and father to some fine golfers including Brennan, now playing on the Nationwide Tour, and Ryley Webb.
“He’s a guy who, in hindsight, saw some potential in me and gave me the challenges and opportunities to work on my own and grow up and develop very quickly,” said Wogden, adding that Webb and his wife Jennifer were busy with their duties around the club.
“I had the responsibility of being the only one running the shop and trying to control the carts and do the backshop, all while you’re in the pro shop,” said Wogden, who still sees the Webbs regularly when Barrie juniors play inter-club events in the area.
The experience he gained at South Muskoka set Wogden up for his next job, a choice position at The National Golf Club in Woodbridge, Ont., where he worked for the late Ben Kern, a former PGA Tour player widely respected as a club professional and as architect of junior golf and Canadian PGA teaching.
“Ben was certainly a real guiding factor in my career, a true mentor in every sense of helping guide you through growing up in the golf business and encouraging all of his staff to be quality people, good golf professionals,” said Wogden.
“He encouraged us on the playing side of it too, which is something that I’ve never forgotten and try to make those opportunities for any of my staff that have an interest in playing. I still try to play and compete whenever I can myself,” said Wogden, who is now passing along the lessons he learned to a new generation.
One of those important lessons is for Wogden, who joined the Barrie club in 1992, and his assistants to get to know their members out on the golf course through the “Play with the Pro” program.
“You get out there and get that additional relationship with as many members as you can, get a chance to play golf, to show your skills as a golf professional, help (members) a little bit with their games and just create a fun atmosphere,” he said.
“You can learn so much about the individuals and create a relationship that will go on for many years like it has done for myself at the Barrie Country Club,” added Wogden, who runs his own shop.
“You always hear stories of golf pros that only play with their little group of buddies. Here’s a program where, between myself or the assistant pros, we’re playing with over 100 different members each summer, men or ladies,” said Wogden.
“It just gives us a chance to get their feedback, get them in a relaxed atmosphere – what is it you like about the club, what can we do differently that would be a little better? Those tips, those words of advice, those suggestions pay off at a marketing committee meeting,” he added.
As important as day-to-day duties are at the club, Wogden says it’s important to look beyond that and he has active junior programs that include 85 youngsters in inter-club play, junior leagues and summer camps and he’s pleased to see kids signing up at younger ages these days.
Wogden and the Barrie club also see the importance of community events such as hospital fundraisers, the local chamber of commerce, Rotary Clubs and he has also established relationships with local media outlets.
Even if he is the veteran now, Wogden says he isn’t losing any of his passion for the job.
“That’s the advantage of the pros – we get to call ourselves seniors at 50. We don’t have to wait until 55,” he said.
“I’m thrilled to have been at Barrie Country Club 17, now going into an 18th season and winning this award’s got me excited. I look forward to this season as much as any in the last 17 and I just can’t wait for that last bit of snow to melt and some green grass.
“Winning this award is by no means the end. It’s got me re-energized.”