Bobby Breen believes that the smaller golf courses in Ontario are popular because they are reasonably priced and that public golf courses need good management to control crowds. He states that organizational skills are as important as tournament experience in becoming a golf professional.
Derrydale pro-Bobby Breen shares his thoughts about public courses, player etiquette, younger golfers, and life as Ontario’s senior statesman
The Smaller Courses are so Busy
After nine years as head pro at Glen Abbey, what attracted you to a smaller, public course?
BB: After leaving the Glen Abbey scene, I started helping out at Derrydale, and got to know the family who own the course. Before you know it, I was here for fourteen years. The owners let me do my thing, which includes playing competitive golf, and I like that.
After more than a decade at Derrydale, what’s your take on the state of public golf in Ontario, especially the smaller courses?
BB: The little golf courses are doing just fine. Playing at one of the top courses can now amount to over $200 a day per person. Even if it’s a corporate outing, it’s a lot of money. But those days seem to be ending. There are lots of people out there who just want to pay about $30 to play golf, and that’s why the smaller courses are so busy.
Some people criticize the public and semi-private courses because they’re too busy, with pro shops running golfers through and jamming up the courses. Do you agree that this is a problem?
BB: Yes, public golf courses try to get as many people playing as possible because that’s how they make their money. Ending up with six or seven groups backed up on a tee is not golf as far as I’m concerned. But responsible public courses do not jam up the golfers, and good marshals will keep the golfers moving.
If You were a Good Player You could probably Get a Good Golf Job
What about golf etiquette? Sometimes people with little or no golf experience will show up at a course with insufficient knowledge or inappropriate dress. What do you do about such golfers?
BB: I’ve been running up against the dress code issue for at least fifteen years, and I think we’ve finally convinced public course golfers that they must dress appropriately. Years ago, at Derrydale, we kept inexpensive shirts and pants on hand for golfers who showed up in T-shirts and jeans. Today, we don’t have to do that, so I think we’re winning that battle.
Speaking of newcomers, do you think we’re working hard enough to promote junior golf in Canada?
BB: I think the juniors themselves are working as hard as they can on their game, but in Canada, they’re always battling the weather, and can play for only six months here. So, I do sometimes wonder if we are doing enough to get young golfers down south on school scholarships where they’ll also have the opportunity to play with good players.
Based on your experience as a golf professional, would you encourage young people to get into the business?
BB: I think it’s a good profession, although it is getting tougher. Years ago, if you were a good player you could probably get a good golf job. Today, if you filled out an application listing all the tournaments you’ve played, many clubs wouldn’t want you because they’d think that you played too much. These days, employers are looking for someone who is a good player and teacher but can also get in there and organize the entire golf operation. You have to have the proper schooling, and you have to learn computers and marketing. That’s the kind of person I would want if I was hiring.
Finally, what did it take for Bobby Breen to become one of Ontario’s very best senior players?
BB: I’ve always liked competition. Even as a kid playing hockey and golf I loved to play with other kids, and that competitive nature has stayed with me ever since. I worked hard at learning the game and listened carefully to teachers like George Clifton, who helped me out a lot. Being around the top players over the years has also helped me. Watching Trevino, Nicklaus, and Chi Chi on the practice tee made it easier for me to acquire good practise habits. And watching and listening to Lee Trevino has certainly helped me to become a straight ball striker. Last year it really clicked in, helping me to win eight tournaments. I still have a strong desire to play on the Senior PGA Tour, having just missed qualifying a couple of times. I’m not giving up on that!
Bobby Breen has been a golf professional for thirty-six years and has served as head pro at Derrydale Golf Course in Mississauga for the past fourteen years. Prior to that, he was a head pro for nine years at Glen Abbey in Oakville. He is also part owner and pro at the Top of the Tee Golf Centre in Brampton.