Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation has named 20-year Professional Golf Association member Gary Whitacre as manager of golf operation.
Whitacre is responsible for giving lessons, scheduling leagues and outings and the overall operation for the three municipal golf courses. An assistant at each location will be in charge of taking money, selling snacks and golf items, supervising the pro shop and getting players off the first tee.
“The fact that several area courses have closed in recent years has helped bring more players to our facilities. We offer a nice variety of course styles at a reasonable price. We have the par-three Shoaff Park Golf Course, an executive course at McMillen Park and a regulation course at Foster Park,” Whitacre said.
The three courses opened last week. The first to open was McMillen Park Golf Course Monday noon. “The weather was windy, the temperature was around freezing and it was generally pretty nasty. One golfer came to play and a cameraman from one of the TV stations showed up to interview and shoot the season’s first golfers. Shoaff and Foster opened up Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively,” Whitacre said.
Whitacre, a New Haven native and Heritage High School graduate, has been a presence in the local and area golf community for two decades. He held assistant pro positions at Greenhurst Country Club in Auburn and Fort Wayne Country Club before taking the head pro job at Whispering Creek Golf Club in New Haven. He was there for four years before becoming head professional at Orchard Ridge Country Club for eight years.
After playing on the Heritage High School golf team all four years, he graduated and went to Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he earned a degree in business. The school did not have a golf program at that time. Whitacre became a PGA member in 2001 and the state’s first certified golf professional in 2006 after passing his PGA exam in San Diego, California.
“I started playing golf at a young age and the reason was my dad played, and I wanted to be with Dad,” Whitacre said. “It grew into an opportunity to work and I’ve worked on golf courses, I’ve worked at golf courses, I’ve caddied. I’ve done everything there is to do in golf. And when I got out of college I made the decision to make that my career. That’s all I’ve done my working life.”
His father, John, still lives in New Haven. “He was a career Zollner guy,” Whitacre said.
Whitacre now finds himself with responsibilities for three courses, including Foster Park, which was the home course for his Heritage High School team. He said four high schools made Foster Park their home course in those years. Several school teams call McMillen Park and Shoaff Park their home course today, but none play their home matches at Foster Park this season.
“If there is a silver lining in this pandemic as far as golf is concerned,” said Whitacre, “it has essentially revitalized interest in the sport. The game automatically socially distances players and is played outside on wide fairways. Though a number of adjustments had to be made to the game because of COVID, it’s an activity people feel they can participate in safely. Our job is to continue to serve the public and provide a pleasant golf experience.”
He added that he is looking to hire persons interested in working at the courses as cashier/starter/pro shop supervisor. He can be reached at the Parks & Recreation office at 260-427-6016.
Golfers are asked to call ahead to confirm course availability and to reserve tee times. Courses open at 10 a.m. under normal conditions.
• Foster Park Golf Course, Rudisill Boulevard and Old Mill Road, 260-427-6735, www.fostergolfcourse.com
• McMillen Park Golf Course, Oxford Street at Hessen Cassel Road, 260-427-6710, www.mcmillengolfcourse.com
• Shoaff Park Golf Course, 6401 St. Joe Road, 260-427-6745, www.shoaffgolfcourse.com
Season memberships are on sale at the Main Office, 705 E. State Blvd., and at all of the clubhouses. Golfers can arrange for a league or plan a golf outing for a business or organization by contacting Whitacre at 260-427-6016.
Staff writer Garth Snow contributed to this report.