SENIOR MASTERS PROFILE
Kevin Fitzgerald’s golf career finished in much the same way it began – as a family affair.
Fitzgerald grew up as one of eight children in Evanston where his parents and family were members at Evanston Golf Club. His mother and father played golf often during the season and all the kids played as well.
“Golf was very much a family activity for us,” says Fitzgerald. “Everyone played as much as they could with family and friends.”
And, for the past five years prior to his recent retirement, Fitzgerald and his wife, Megan, worked side-by-side at Kankakee Country Club.
“My wife was an integral part of the golf operation at Kankakee and a few other clubs I worked at too,” says Fitzgerald. “She knows the business very well and did all the buying and ran the golf shop. We were an excellent team working together.”
On Monday, July 25, Fitzgerald’s career will culminate with him joining the elite group of Illinois PGA Professionals as an Illinois Senior Masters honoree.
At Evanston, it was Johnny Revolta and Hal Miller who taught Fitzgerald the finer points of the game and it was watching these two Hall of Fame Golf Pros in action that got him interested in the business. He was part of Hal Miller’s junior golf program and wanted to be like Hal.
Vern Frazier was an assistant at Evanston who would turn out to be one of Fitzgerald’s mentors.
“My first job in the business was working in the bag room at Westmoreland where Vern went to become the Head Pro. I worked two seasons in the bag room and six years as Vern’s assistant. He was instrumental in getting me started in the business,” says Fitzgerald.
Following Westmoreland, Fitzgerald spent one season at Knollwood and then followed the legendary Tim O’Neal at Country Club of Peoria where he took the Head Professional spot after O’Neal headed to Florida.
“Tim and I became friends when we worked in the winters out in Palm Springs. We spent time together at Shadow Mountain and Rancho Mirage,” says Fitzgerald. “And, when I met my future wife out there, the four of us – Tim, Lynn, Megan and I – hung out quite a bit together.”
Palm Springs plays a significant role in Fitzgerald’s life and career. In his youth, his family vacationed there where he was able to play during Spring Break, he met his wife there, and the two times he qualified for the Senior Professional Players Championship, the tournaments were played in Palm Springs.
Following Peoria, Fitzgerald headed back up north to Olympia Fields where he was the Director of Golf and Head Professional for five years. While Fitzgerald enjoyed his private club experiences, in 1996 there was an opportunity he just couldn’t pass up. A new 36-hole public golf facility was ready to debut in Chicago, and he really wanted to be a part of it. Harborside International would be Fitzgerald’s home as Head Golf Professional for the next 17 years.
“I had a really good run at Harborside. Anthony Ianello, who was Executive Director of the Illinois Port Authority during my years there, was terrific to work for and the Port was a very loyal employer,” says Fitzgerald. “I really enjoyed opening up Harborside where I was responsible for the golf shop, the practice academy and also assisted in the establishment of the marketing plan.”
Harborside was a great match for Fitzgerald, but he had more adventures ahead. Following Harborside, he did a three-year stint with Billy Casper Golf where he ran George Dunne and Water’s Edge followed by one year at Ravisloe.
The “Old Pro” had one more go round in him and found a gem of a role at Kankakee Country Club. It was there that he and Megan would reunite as a team to manage the full golf operations including the golf shop that she managed.
“Kankakee is a wonderful place with a great group of people and membership,” says Fitzgerald. “We really enjoyed working there and the club was terrific to us.”
Membership thought highly enough of Fitzgerald’s work and dedication to bring some steadiness to the golf operations that they awarded him an honorary membership upon his retirement which was official this past January 1.
“We would’ve stayed longer but decided for us it was the right time to retire. We have no specific plans yet but I’m enjoying playing more golf and having the freedom of my own schedule. We’re going to spend some time with our three grown children and other family throughout the country.”
As for the Senior Masters Honor, Fitzgerald simply says “I have great respect for all the past honorees and to be a part of that group is pretty cool. I’m humbled by it.”
SENIOR MASTERS PROFILE
A career in golf seemed destined to be for Bob Malpede who grew up on his father’s 9-hole golf course in McHenry, Illinois. Starting off as a young wide-eyed golfer, Malpede never dreamed of capping off his career with a prestigious achievement. On Monday, July 25, Malpede will join the elite group of Illinois PGA Professionals as an Illinois Senior Masters honoree.
Malpede learned the game through living with the game. Sharpening his skills on his dad’s course, Malpede attended Carmel High School, where he played golf all four years. After graduation, Malpede attended North Texas State University.
“After high school, I went to college at North Texas State University,” said Malpede. “I didn’t play golf there but growing up on a golf course and having a father that owned a golf course, I knew I wanted to work in golf.”
Following graduation, he went to Germany to work for the U.S. Government. While traveling to see his brother, a military officer in Stuttgart, Germany, Malpede landed his first job in the golf industry at Stuttgart Golf and Ski Club.
“I went over to Stuttgart for travel purposes,” said Malpede. “I ended up working at Stuttgart Golf and Ski Club for three years along with some smaller clubs in the area. I met Willy Hoffman while I was out there and the two of us worked together to coordinate U.S. Military and German National events.”
Hoffman, a German Golf Professional, was more commonly known as being Bernhard Langer’s teacher.
In the mid-1970s, Malpede returned to the States where he worked for Kent Henry at Glen Flora Country Club and Sherm Finger at Knollwood Club. In the winter months, Malpede headed west landing jobs at Bel-Air Country Club and Riviera Country Club.
“While out west, I worked for Eddie Merrins at Bel-Air Country Club and then ended up at Riviera Country Club,” I learned a lot at both clubs, and I took a little bit of everything with me as my career progressed.”
While at Bel-Air Country Club, Malpede had the honor of playing golf with the likes of Joe Namath and Glen Campbell, receiving a personal serenade on the 18th fairway from Campbell.
In 1983, Malpede gained his Class-A Membership and assisted in the hosting of the PGA Championship.
“I got my first Championship experience in 1983 while at Riviera,” said Malpede. “We hosted the PGA Championship. This was the year that Jack Nicklaus and Hal Sutton went head-to-head. It was a great experience all the way around.”
The experience gained at Riviera proved to be valuable for Malpede who went on to receive his first Head PGA Professional position at Columbine Country Club in Colorado. During his five years here, Malpede met his wife. Shortly after proposing, the couple moved back to the Chicagoland area.
“I’ve had some great memories while in this industry,” said Malpede. “I’ve met some great people and had some great experiences. This industry led me to a trip to London where I met my wife, and that is the most wonderful experience I can remember.”
After returning to the Chicagoland area, Malpede was called upon by PGA of America Past Presidents, Mark Kizzar and Joe Black to assist with the opening of Stonebridge Country Club.
“Mark (Kizzar) and Joe (Black) were looking to host Championships at Stonebridge,” said Malpede. “They thought, based on my experiences at Riviera, that I would be a good fit for this position.”
With the guidance of Malpede, Stonebridge went on to host the Ameritech Senior Open from 1992-1995. One of the most notable experiences of this tournament for Malpede was the pairing of Michael Jordan and Arnold Palmer in the 1993 Pro-Am.
“That was quite the experience,” said Malpede. “There must’ve been 40,000 people out there watching them. It was nuts.”
After a few years at Stonebridge Country Club, Malpede partnered with Arthur Hills to create Stonewall Orchard in Grayslake, Illinois before taking his last job in the industry at White Deer Run Golf Course. Malpede spent his remaining 16 years at White Deer Run.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at White Deer Run, said Malpede. “Teaching young people the game and watching them get excited about playing the game of golf is something I will always cherish.”
Aside from teaching the game of golf, Malpede has a long history of mentoring his own staff including the likes of Suzy Whaley, who worked for Malpede for a summer, and John McNair.
“I’ve had a fair number of assistants go on and do very well in the industry. Grooming assistants was a very important part of my career. I always thought it was important to guide them and teach them how to act properly. It was also something that I took pride in and enjoyed doing.”
Malpede strived to be involved in the game as much as he could. Sacrificing his own playing needs to help manage golf for others, Malpede ended his career as the General Manager of White Deer Run and also served on the Illinois PGA Board of Directors and the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame Selection Committee in the 80s.
As for the Senior Masters Award, Malpede’s career has come full circle. Starting as a young boy watching his father operate golf courses to having his own peers recognize him for this prestigious award.
“I’m honored to have been recognized as a Senior Masters recipient. I’m a little stunned,” said Malpede. “You never realize that your peers are watching you throughout your career. It’s such an honor. It’s a great feeling knowing that all the hard work and long hours I’ve put in over the years, people were out there watching and saw everything that I did. I could not be more excited about this award.”