Len Ziehm: Time to relax for Malpede of White Deer Run, Morrison of Olympia Fields
The 69th PGA Merchandise Show is this week at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., and that's generally a big week for club professionals nationwide who use the event to begin preparations for another season.
It won't be quite the same this year for two of Chicago's longest-standing club leaders. Bob Malpede and Brian Morrison retired once the calendar turned to 2022. Malpede, who will attend the show to renew acquaintances, finished a 16-year run in a dual role -- general manager and head golf professional -- at White Deer Run in Vernon Hills.
Morrison, who spent 21 seasons at Olympia Fields and was the storied club's director of golf, is now living in Florida. The 2003 U.S. Open, 2015 U.S. Amateur and 2020 BMW Championship were all held at Olympia during Morrison's tenure. Douglas Farrell has moved up from head pro to become Olympia's new director of golf.
Malpede isn't ready to end residence in Illinois, where his golf roots are deep. He got started in the business at Pistakee Bay in McHenry, when his father owned the club. He formally entered the professional ranks in 1972 at Glen Flora in Waukegan, and also did time as an assistant pro at Knollwood in Lake Forest, and Bel-Air and Riviera in California.
After landing his first head pro job at Columbine in Colorado, Malpede returned to Illinois where he got the golf operations started at two new clubs. He was the first head pro at both Stonebridge in Aurora and Stonewall Orchard in Grayslake, and remains a managing partner at Stonewall. He'll remain on staff at White Deer Run as pro emeritus.
Another club has announced a change in head pros. Stonebridge has named Steve Gillie to the job. He had been a teaching pro at Boulder Ridge in Lake in the Hills.
New WGA chairman: Joe Desch is the new chairman of the Western Golf Association. The Cincinnati resident succeeds Kevin Buggy of Park Ridge Country Club.
Desch, along with four of his brothers, attended college on an WGA Evans' Scholarships. Desch attended Miami of Ohio after working as a caddie as a youth.
"It's exciting and very humbling, being an (Evans Scholars) alumni and having a chance to do this," said Desch, who has lofty goals for the organization that has raised money for college scholarships for caddies since 1930. Over 1,000 students are now attending colleges on Evans Scholarships. He's been on the WGA board of directors since 2021.
"Now the goal is to have 1,500 Evans Scholars by 2030," he said. "We're moving to a more nationwide organization and trying to be much more than a Midwest scholarship. We also want more diversity -- women and kids of color among our caddies as well as at our staff headquarters."
Here and there: Naperville Country Club, celebrating its 100-year anniversary, has broken ground on a $2.7 million clubhouse renovation. ... Luke Donald, the former Northwestern star and world No. 1, has struggled with back problems in recent years but he made the cut in his first 2022 start at last week's Sony Open of Hawaii. He tied for 27th, his best finish of the PGA Tour's 2021-22 wraparound season. ... Neither Chicago club manufacturer -- Wilson or Tour Edge -- will be represented at the PGA Merchandise Show, but Zero Friction of Oakbrook Terrace will have a prominent role. It has created the official tee and indoor hitting range for the show and will also introduce its new pushcart golf bag and TheraTech golf glove.
• Illinois Golf Hall of Famer Len Ziehm co-hosts the "Ziehm & Spears Golf Podcast Series" on social media. Past columns are at lenziehmongolf.com.