By JOHN DELL
It’s appropriate that Chad Newton has a couple of baseball mitts on a shelf in his office.
Those gloves have a hidden meaning for Newton, 36, who is in his ninth year as the Head Golf Professional at Pinewood Country Club in Asheboro. It was baseball that was Newton’s first love, however his second love of golf has turned into a very nice career.
Newton, a Winston-Salem native, was recently named the winner of the 2011 Horton Smith Award, one of the highest honors given to a club professional in the Carolinas Section. The award is given to a club pro in the section (both North Carolina and South Carolina) who is a model educator, demonstrates strong moral character and contributes to building the image of the PGA and PGA Professionals.
“It means even more because the Carolinas Section is the largest section in the PGA of America with about 2,000 members,” Newton said. “So to win from a pool of so many qualified candidates is very humbling.”
Newton, an outgoing people person, has been that and more during his career in the business that started very innocently in 1997.
“It’s kind of a funny story how I got involved in golf,” said Newton, a former baseball player at East Carolina who graduated in 1997 hoping to get a shot at playing baseball professionally.
Newton had lived and breathed baseball since an early age. He also played a lot of golf growing up — mostly at Reynolds Park and Grandview, a couple of courses in Winston-Salem. But he gave up golf to focus on baseball when he reached South Stokes High School.
After a solid career at East Carolina, where he was a 6-foot, 160-pound left-handed pitcher, Newton went undrafted in June 1997 and nobody called to offer him a free-agent contract.
“So I was in Greenville, and I don’t know why but I went to a golf shop and bought some old clubs,” Newton said.
Newton ran into a local head pro at that golf shop and he played a round of golf with him at Greenville Country Club.
“I had earned my degree in business and I actually didn’t play that bad for not having played in about 10 years or so,” Newton said. “So after four hours of playing a round and the guy getting to know me a little he said “Have you thought about the golf business?'”
And a career was born.
Newton was soon hired at Wilson Country Club, and from there started a steady rise through the club pro ranks utilizing his business background, his love of golf and his desire to succeed.
“At the time after graduation my dad told me I had 30 days to decide what I wanted to do,” Newton said with a laugh.
Newton spent two years at Wilson Country Club, a year at Sapona Country Club then moved to Forsyth Country Club for three years. After becoming a head pro for the first time at Bermuda Run Country Club he later moved to Asheboro and Pinewood Country Club.
“The No. 1 thing about Pinewood is the Black family, Davis family and especially JB Davis, who has been the president of the club, and is now the retired CEO of Klaussner Furniture. He has been so supportive through the years and like a second father to me,” Newton said. “When you have great management that supports you it makes it easier to do your job.”
In recent years Pinewood, which opened in 1971, has played host to several big Carolinas Golf Association tournaments and last summer played host to a Hooters Tour event. There has also been U.S. Senior Open and U.S. Amateur qualifying as well as a Wyndham Championship qualifying round.
“The main thing is Pinewood is a great club and Asheboro is a great community, and what I like about all these events is it brings the attention and prestige that Pinewood deserves,” Newton said.
With shrinking budgets at some courses throughout the country Newton and his staff can be stretched thin, but he makes it work thanks to his love of the job. Newton is married to Lisa, and the couple has two small children. He says the sacrifice of a golf pro’s wife is often overlooked.
“We’ve got a 3 ½-year-old girl and a 6-month old boy so we stay busy,” Newton said.
It’s a challenge during the peak summer months when Newton routinely puts in 60- or 70-hour weeks.
“The fortunate part of what I do is it doesn’t feel that it’s that many hours because I love what I do and I’m passionate about my job and career,” Newton said.
Ron Schmid, the executive director of the Carolinas PGA, gave high praise to Newton for winning the award.
“The Carolinas PGA Section is ecstatic to have one of our best and youngest PGA professionals attain his second major award,” Schmid said.
In 2006, Newton was named the Carolinas PGA Section Merchandiser of the Year.
Newton doesn’t think about baseball much anymore, saying it’s hard to believe he’s been in the golf business for 14 years.
“I truly feel like I’m doing what I should be doing,” Newton said. “My dad is a long-time banker and he is my hero. I always grew up wanting to be a businessman like my dad but playing sports all my life I didn’t want to give that up.
“I was hoping the Yankees or the Orioles would call but they didn’t,” Newton said with a laugh. “But that’s OK. It has worked out great for me.”