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Thursday, Nov 27, 2014
Northwest News

Air Force came first for TPC Tampa Bay head pro


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LUTZ — To say that Bobby Parker’s route to becoming a head golf professional was unusual isn’t a strong enough term.

Parker works at TPC Tampa Bay, one of the most famous in the country, has hosted PGA Champions Tour events and is arguably the toughest 18 holes in West Florida.

At the helm is Parker, who, unlike his contemporaries, was never a golf prodigy. In fact, his early career path included a stint in the military and never included a thought about playing or teaching golf. At the age of 22 — while most potential PGA pros are working as an apprentice or going to college — Parker was asked, finally, if he wanted to play a round of golf.

The future head pro at TPC Tampa Bay barely broke 100. But his journey had started.

“A buddy of mine asked me to play a round with him,” Parker said. “I was better than I thought. I beat him.”

Parker was at an Air Force base in Alabama, and he was hooked. He may have spent 20 years in the Air Force, but golf had gotten into his blood. He played for the base team and traveled to England where he scored two holes-in-one. He played throughout the rest of his military career, and then entered into a career in civil service.

After remarrying, work took him to MacDill Air Force Base. He had become involved in military health care but didn’t want to get into nursing, which was where he was headed.

Instead he decided to roll the dice with golf.

“I had become so close to golf, so why not go for it?” Parker said. “I knew what I wanted.”

First, he passed the player’s ability test to earn professional certification. So when the assistant professional job at TPC opened up, Parker went for it.

Parker said his people skills helped him a lot since being an assistant professional requires an awful lot of interaction with members, and his military and civil service backgrounds helped a lot.

“Things just started to happen,” Parker said. “I became an assistant pro and when our general manager left for a course in South Carolina and our head pro, Justin Wink, moved to general manager, once again I thought, ‘why not?’”

He applied, got the job and loves every minute of it. He teaches most of the day, which means he doesn’t get out on the course as much as he’d like, but he’s happy how the twists and turns on his way to becoming a head pro at a nationally renowned golf club turned out.

“You can’t play much when you are in this business because there’s so much to do,” Parker said. “I used to play five days a week and tried to play on the other two. Now I get to play maybe once a week, but giving lessons is rewarding.”

For lessons with Parker, call (813) 949-0090.

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