Although many believe that the hallmark of being a PGA Professional is being a competitive player, the reality is that PGA Professionals wear many hats. At the top of the list of responsibilities they juggle is growing the game of golf.
The Illinois PGA honors two of its members as Senior Masters each year and has done so since 1993. Being honored as a Senior Master recognizes a career-long dedication to growing and promoting the game of golf. Senior Master honorees exemplify the role of the PGA Golf Professional within their community by displaying, through their actions, the values of honor and integrity that are so much a part of the game of golf. Carmen Molinaro is one of two 2021 Illinois PGA Senior Masters honorees.
Molinaro was drawn to the game in an unconventional way compared to most. With life dreams of wanting to be a baseball player, Molinaro became hooked on the game of golf when he was in high school. What intrigued him the most about the game of golf was its degree of difficulty.
“I had always wanted to be a baseball player,” said Molinaro. “It wasn’t until high school that I really got into the game of golf. I was fascinated by how hard it was to play the game and as I started to make headway and improve my game, I got hooked on it.”
Little did Molinaro know that this newfound fascination would lead to a lifelong career.
Molinaro went on to play high school golf at Addison Trail High School. Following his senior year, he attended College of DuPage where he was a member of the golf team. He finished out his college years at Northern Illinois University, where he was also a member of the golf team. After graduating in 1972, Molinaro took his first job as an Assistant at Indian Lakes Country Club.
“I got into the industry sort of by accident,” said Molinaro. “After I graduated college, I took an Assistant position at Indian Lakes Country Club. Working in the golf industry as a career never really crossed my mind until my first year at Indian Lakes. I just enjoyed all the different aspects of the business.”
When Molinaro first started at Indian Lakes, the facility was owned by Braniger. In 1973, Braniger sold Indian Lakes, and Molinaro was transferred to Buffalo Grove Golf Course, a Braniger managed facility. While working under Al Griffith, who was a member of the PGA for over 50 years, Molinaro began to learn the ropes of the role of a PGA Professional. Throughout this time, he kept junior golfers at the front of his mind.
“I’ve never been a great tournament player or someone that played in a lot of events,” said Molinaro. “As a PGA Professional, I pride myself on getting people involved in the game. If I’m getting people to enjoy the game, making sure the industry stays healthy and most of all getting juniors involved in the game, I’m doing my job.”
Molinaro remained an Assistant at Buffalo Grove until Griffith took a job in Florida. In 1977, Molinaro earned his Class-A Membership and was promoted to the Director of Golf at Buffalo Grove. He remained there in that position for 39 years before he retired in 2012.
There wasn’t one aspect of the industry that Molinaro didn’t love. He enjoyed the business aspect of the shop and buying and selling merchandise, he loved working with all of his co-workers and seeing all the different people that came to his facility, but he especially loved promoting and growing the game of golf.
Molinaro grew the game of golf in many ways, but he prided himself on being at the facility that always had room for high school golf. In fact, there was not a year during his time at Buffalo Grove that he didn’t host some sort of high school tournament, whether it be a conference match, a Regional, or Sectional.
“I enjoyed working with junior golfers and high school players the most,” said Molinaro. “I just wanted to make sure that high schools always had a place to play. It promotes the growth of the game. We can’t be satisfied servicing the players that are already playing, we need to continue to grow the game especially in the junior and high school ages.”
Although Molinaro never coached a high school team, his work in the high school golf realm earned him a spot in the Illinois High School Golf Coaches Hall of Fame. At the time he was inducted in 1995, he was one of the few people inducted into the Hall of Fame that was not a coach or teacher.
“I was mainly a facilitator when it came to high school golf to make sure that the kids had somewhere to play and practice,” said Molinaro. “High school golf isn’t a big money-maker so some courses may discourage opening up their facilities, but I was fortunate that I had administrators in the Village of Buffalo Grove that owns the golf course that understood the importance of growing the game of golf and getting children involved in the game. I worked mainly with the coaches and schools to make sure that on a daily basis they had somewhere to play. There wasn’t a year that went by I didn’t host at least one high school event.”
In addition to high school golf, Molinaro worked with a lot of different juniors and was even apart of the transition of the Northern Illinois Men’s Golf Association (NIMGA) to the Illinois Junior Golf Association (IJGA). Similar to high school events, Molinaro did his best to host at least one IJGA event a year.
The Village of Buffalo Grove also founded the Arboretum Club. Molinaro oversaw both facilities as the Director of Golf and oversaw the construction of new clubhouses and maintenance sheds for both facilities. To this day, both facilities continue the tradition that Molinaro started years ago of hosting at least one high school or IJGA event a year.
The Senior Masters Award marks the third Illinois PGA Section award that Molinaro has received throughout his career. He was the Illinois PGA Professional of the Year in 2007 and the Illinois PGA Public Merchandiser of the Year in 2005.
“Anytime you get recognized by your peers it’s very satisfying and rewarding,” said Molinaro. “This award is certainly rewarding especially as I start to get a little older and a littler grayer. Just when you think no one is paying attention, you get selected to be a part of the Senior Masters. It’s rewarding that I’m doing something that I really enjoy doing and apparently, it’s appreciated by my peers. It doesn’t matter what profession you are in, one of the best feelings is being recognized by your peers and fellow members in the industry.”
Molinaro retired from the industry in 2012 but was not out of the game long. A few months after he retired, he ran into Chris Bona, PGA, the Head Professional at Boulder Ridge Country Club. Molinaro ended up taking a position at Boulder Ridge as a Golf Ambassador. His main responsibly is doing what he does best, promoting the game.
“In April of 2013 I started my position as Golf Ambassador at Boulder Ridge Country Club,” said Molinaro. “My main responsibilities are taking care of the members and making sure that everyone is enjoying themselves out on the course. It fits my personality perfectly, and the Boulder Ridge membership has been fantastic. The main thing I love about the industry is dealing with people and that continues today. I always enjoyed getting people away from whatever it is that is troubling them and getting them on the golf course. It’s just part of my nature to try and make people a little bit happier and I think the greatest place to do that is the golf course. It’s just heartwarming that if you give a little to people they will give back, and I’ve found throughout my career that being nice to people goes a long way in promoting golf and the integrity of the PGA and what we stand for.”
As the son of a career Army Specialist, Wally Hynes moved around a lot as a youngster but one thing always remained constant – playing golf at the military base golf course. Introduced to the game by his father at age four while living in Arizona, golfing at the military base provided him great recreation in his youth as well as an adult when he was in the Marine Corps.
“My Dad did two tours in Viet Nam and I remember when he returned after the first one we moved to West Point, New York and lived on the base there. I was about 8 years old and he bought a season pass to the West Point Academy Golf Course for the family,” recalled Hynes. “I spent a lot of hours there playing golf with friends and other servicemen.”
Hynes played well enough to capture a few junior club championships while living in West Point and also played in several Tournament of Champions competitions in the area that pitted the various junior club champions against each other.
Hynes would later look back on his career and note the influence John Buczek, the Head Professional at West Point, would have on him. “I appreciated his warm and friendly personality and how he treated everyone. He played with all levels of players at the club and even did all the handicapping by hand! He was a great guy and really made a positive impression on me as a teenager.”
Hynes’ father retired from the Army in 1972 and the family moved north to Cornwall, NY where Wally attended Cornwall Central High School and played on the golf team all four years and was captain his senior year.
Following high school graduation, Hynes enrolled in the Marine Corps and after basic training was stationed a Kaneohe Air Station on the Hawaiian island of Oahu just south of Waikiki Beach. He was trained as a heavy equipment mechanic and while in Hawaii played golf during all of his free time.
“There were five holes that ran right along the ocean and I got to play there every day and joined the Marine Corps golf team,” says Hynes. “The top four players from each branch – Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines – played in inter-service tournaments on the island. I played in many of them.”
Hynes placed well enough in the Hawaii tournaments to earn a coveted spot on the All-Marine team twice which earned him a trip to Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to compete as one of the top Marine golfers in the nation against the top golfers from other branches.
“We worked all day and played golf in the evening just about every day on the island,” recalled Hynes. “It was a lot of fun and I got a lot of playing time to hone my game.”
He left Hawaii and returned to New York and enrolled in college for a time but the military life called him back and he re-enlisted for another four years this time stationed at Camp Pendleton in San Diego for three years and one year in Okinawa, Japan.
“I loved to play the game and it had become a serious hobby of mine. I played every day I could while in San Diego and Okinawa,” said Hynes.
After leaving the service for the second time, he moved to Arizona and began working at Foothills Golf Club which was newly-opened in 1988. It was there where he met fellow Illinois PGA Professional, Dan Kochevar, who upon return from his wedding in Illinois told the guys there were lots of golf jobs back in Illinois. Several of the them pulled their resumes together and started applying. Hynes was hired by Mike Harrigan and began working at Medinah Country Club in the 1989 season. “I had never been to Chicago before but thought it would be a good career move for me and it was,” says Hynes.
After around two years at Medinah, Hynes moved on to Rolling Green to work with John Schickling for three years, and in 1993, one year after he was elected to PGA Membership, he got the head job at Cress Creek Country Club following the retirement of Frank Witt who had been at the club since its opening in 1963.
Cress Creek membership had purchased the club in 1988 from the original owner and Hynes came in five years after that with orders to take the club to the “next level.” In 2003, a new clubhouse was built and in 2008 the golf course was renovated.
“Cress Creek proved to be a great place for me and my family,” said Hynes. “It’s an amazing place, has a great membership and is a great course. We had our challenges over the years but finally defined ourselves as a family club and grew from there building up the swim, tennis and golf programs through junior and family programming. I also served as a volunteer coach for the Naperville North boys and girls golf teams for over 10 years.”
In 2012, the club named Hynes General Manager to go along with his Head Professional duties and he kept things moving forward. “I wanted to make sure we were growing for the future and the Board backed me all the time,” Hynes says. “I introduced a junior membership program that attracted top local players, ran a strong caddie program and always hosted high school golf tournaments.”
Golf is a family sport and business as Hynes’ wife, Pam, is a volunteer walking scorer for several tournaments with the USGA where her brother is Director of Scoring. And, the Hynes’ son works for Sports Media Technology based in Jacksonville which specializes in innovative real-time and wireless data and display systems in every major international sport including football, soccer, tennis and golf.
“The golf business is a demanding job and to spend as much time as we do at the club you really need the understanding and support from your family, spouse and kids. The sacrifices my wife and son made for me allowed me to do what I love and have the long career at one club that I did,” says Hynes. “Plus, the membership was incredible to me and my family. They allowed me to live my dream.”
Following retirement from Cress Creek earlier this year, Hynes and his wife decided to postpone moving out west and headed up north to Minnesota to live near his in-laws in Brainerd and he quickly got back in the business. He’s serving in an assistant professional capacity at Cragun’s Legacy Golf Club which is undergoing major renovations to both the resort and golf course. When finished in 2023, it will include a Tom Lehman championship 18-hole course plus 27 existing holes. The club hosts 400 rounds a day and will do even more once the Lehman course opens in two years.
“I do a little bit of everything here now from teaching, running the shop, outside services and mentoring,” says Hynes. “And, I try to do as much fishing as possible.”