End of an era

  • Wed Sep 13th, 2006 9:00pm
  • Sports

By Rich Mhyre / Herald writer

EVERETT – As a boy, Bob Borup sometimes slipped through an opening in the fence around Everett Golf and Country Club, sneaking in at dusk for a few holes of after-hours golf.

A club employee often came to shoo him away. Young Bob – he was Bobby back then – would scamper off, only to show up again a few days later.

A half century later he is still showing up, though his days are down to a final few.

An era of Everett golf closes at the end of this month when Borup, who first found employment at EG&CC during the Truman presidency, retires at age 65. His long tenure includes time as a caddy, a stretch during high school and college when he handled odd jobs like picking up range balls and watering greens, a 12-year stint as an assistant to previous head pro Ken Tucker, and the past nearly 29 years as Tucker’s successor.

Borup has, in other words, done it all. And he has done it with both an affection for the club and its many members, and an appreciation for a career that has provided so many rewards and so much enjoyment.

“There has never been a day that I didn’t want to show up at the golf course,” he said.

Others saw the same thing.

“This never really was a job for him,” said Bob Lee, a longtime EG&CC member. “I don’t think anybody ever loved Everett Golf and Country Club more than Bob. We all care a great deal about the golf club, but I think Bob is truly passionate about it.”

Borup’s childhood home was only a few blocks from EG&CC and he began caddying there in the summer of 1951. Caddies were permitted to use the course on Monday mornings, but once a week was not enough for a youngster finding his first love – golf – and so he would return to duck through the fence, sometimes by himself and other times with friends.

A bit of trespassing was evidently a minor sin and Borup was later promoted to other jobs. He worked at the club through his senior year at Everett High School (class of 1959) and a year at Everett Junior College, went off for a two-year hitch in the Navy, then returned to work another year at EG&CC before taking a job as an assistant pro at Waverley Country Club in Portland, Ore.

He was at Waverley two years before Tucker hired him for the same job at EG&CC. That was in 1965, and when Tucker announced his own retirement in 1977 he also nominated a replacement.

Borup, Tucker told the club’s board of directors, should be the new head pro.

“That’s why I retired, because I knew the board would hire him,” said Tucker, who still plays regularly at EG&CC. “He was a fellow that I knew would be happy to take care of the members, and that’s the No. 1 job (for the head pro at a private club).”

Understand, being EG&CC’s head pro essentially means having 375 bosses, which is the number of certificate members (add in spouses and children, and the figure easily doubles.) And, truth be told, people who pay several thousand dollars in initiation fees and hundreds of dollars in dues each month are sometimes quick to complain.

When it happens, Borup’s ear is often the one they seek.

“Sometimes it’s not easy to please all the members,” Lee acknowledged. “I’ve seen situations where Bob was obviously correct, but someone might still be upset and so Bob would apologize. Even if the member was totally out of line, Bob would do that to make the member feel good. I call it (Borup’s) ability to apologize even when he’s been right.”

“I’ve never seen him chew anybody out or talk down to anybody. Not once,” agreed Herb Knudson, another longtime EG&CC member. “I’ve never seen him get mad. Bob has his up moments and his down moments, but he always keeps it in the same mode. He’s always consistent, always a gentleman, and he does the right things at the right time.”

“Bob has a personality that everybody likes,” added Bob Leach, president of EG&CC’s board of directors. “At a golf club you have to make decisions that will not please some people, but I still don’t think he’s made a lot of enemies. He’s been able to walk the fine line of pleasing a lot of people and still running a good pro shop.”

Along the way he has influenced plenty of young golfers, many who have gone on to fine playing careers and some into the golf business themselves. One is Rich Friend, who was a junior member at EG&CC in the mid-1970s and is today the head pro at Tacoma Country and Golf Club.

“Bob has always been just a great role model for kids, and I especially see that now that I have a golf career myself,” Friend said. “He has a class personality, dignity, and all the things you’d need as a golf pro to last (nearly) 30 years at a club. He’s always been able to relate to everybody, from the young to the old, from the good players to the higher handicappers, and I’ve just always loved being around him.”

By Friend’s estimate, an average club pro lasts 7-9 years before moving on to another job, “so you can see how Bob kind of broke the mold. And that’s because of his personality, his temperament and his patience. When I was a young golfer, I’ll always remember how he was not only willing to help me with my game, but he would also help with a positive comment. He’d say, ‘Keep plugging, hang in there, you’ll get there,’ and things like that.”

Another Borup protege is Brent Webber, who will succeed Borup on Oct. 1. Webber, an Everett native, got his first golf job as an assistant at EG&CC in the mid-1980s and when he needed to travel to further his PGA education – difficult, on an assistant pro’s meager salary – Borup would “find a club member to pass the hat around,” Webber said. “He always found a way to get (those expenses) paid for his assistants.”

Kindness, it seems, is a Borup trademark, though rarely is it overt.

“Bob does a lot of things for a lot of people that nobody knows about,” Knudson said. “He has a big heart, but he’s very modest. He’ll let somebody else take the credit.”

Sometimes that generosity gets the better of Borup, as it did a few years ago when a guy showed up at the club, claiming to be an assistant pro from a club in Florida. His wallet had been stolen, he said, and he needed a loan to help him get home. Could someone spot him $100?

Oh, that’s not enough, said Borup, who promptly wrote the fellow a check for $200.

The man, as it turned out, was a con artist and he had hoodwinked Borup big time. “But in a way,” Lee said, “that story speaks to the kind of guy Bob is. He’s always willing to help out anybody.”

Lee also remembers the time he went fishing with Borup on the Olympic Peninsula. They were in a car accident and went to a hospital in Forks, where a state trooper showed up to ask some questions. One being, “Mr. Borup, were you wearing your seat belt?”

Borup easily could have uttered a small fib, but instead fessed up “and received a $77 fine for his honesty,” Lee said.

Already, Borup is making plans for his retirement years and a foremost goal is to play more golf. The club is graciously giving him a membership, which Borup expects to use two or three days a week. He wants to hone a game that was once very good – he was the state medalist as a high school senior and has a personal-best 65 at par-72 EG&CC – but which has slipped due to his busy work schedule.

It will, he admitted, be strange to show up and see someone else running the pro shop, “but I’ll get used to it.”

“I’ve had a lot of fun here, I really have,” Borup said. “When the members come out here, they’re here to golf and have fun. And even though I was working, I got to have fun along with them.”