by Joe McLean
“From the moment I started working behind the counter at the Glen Eagle Golf Club in Bolton, Ontario, I knew that I wanted to stay in the industry.”
The above words by Prescott Golf Club PGA of Canada Professional Thom Miller referred to his start in the golf industry at the age of twenty working for Head Professional Glen Phillips. Forty-five years later, he’s still going strong and has the same attitude about the profession he chose many years ago.
Along the way, Thom has been part of the ups and downs in the golf industry but at all times he has kept his enthusiasm for the game and his devotion to his members and public players foremost in his life.
Thom got his start in golf as a caddy around the age of 13 even though he knew nothing about the game initially. He would make his way to the Islington golf course by bike, lug a golf bag for 18 holes and receive a $3.00 fee. As he says, “If I was lucky, I got a $1.00 tip and if I was really lucky I got a hot dog and a coke at the turn.”
He also learned the basic mechanics of the golf swing by watching the better players and would practice his swing when the players he was caddying for weren’t looking with their clubs.
“I remember the first club that I purchased”, said Thom. It was a Fernwood #5 iron and it cost $5.99 at Canadian Tire. I used to go to a local field near my house and hit golf balls until my hands were sore. I still remember that first great swing when my golf ball rose into the air with the proper trajectory. It was a great feeling.”
“I had a lot of time to practice on the golf range during shotgun-start tournaments and I became a mid to high 70’s player during my time at Glen Eagle”, said Thom. “I was doing what I wanted to do by playing golf and being given free clubs and balls.” Thom’s first games were played with a set of Campbell’s Dynamax clubs and he then moved on to a set of Jack Nicklaus Muirfields made by MacGregor.
Growing up in Toronto, Thom was and still is a Toronto Maple Leaf fan and he was fortunate to meet many of the Toronto players while working at both Islington and Glen Eagle golf clubs.
After three years at Glen Eagle Golf Club, Thom joined Sam Young’s new Shelburne Golf & Country Club as professional, superintendent and manager. Three years later, Thom left to assume the professional and superintendent jobs at the Picton Golf & Country Club. Thom stayed at Picton for 10 years and then the Prescott Golf Club job came available.
“Busy” is how Thom describes his introduction to the Prescott Golf Club. After just a few years into the job on the then nine-hole course, the Club decided to purchase an additional 60 acres of land and with the help of noted Canadian golf course architect Graham Cooke and a lot of work by staff; an additional nine holes were built and opened to great fanfare.
Thom and his wife Anne have raised a son (Adam) and daughter (Rebecca) during their stay at the Prescott Golf Club. In fact his son has joined the golf profession as is currently working as an assistant professional at the Smiths Falls Golf & Country Club.
During the interview for Thom’s profile conducted in the pro shop at Prescott with Thom behind the counter, this writer watched the interaction between Thom and his customers. Whether it was a member or public player, Thom treated them all the same. Members were greeted by their first name and purchases handled in an orderly and friendly fashion as you would expect from a seasoned professional. Thom learned early in his career to treat people the way he would like to be treated and it shows.
This writer attributes Thom’s longevity in the business to his easy going and accommodating manner as well as his reliability and attention to detail.
Asked about a golf highlight in his career, Thom didn’t have to give it a lot of thought. “It was a meeting with Jack Nicklaus at Glen Abbey at a Canadian Open’, said Thom.” Our club was part of the Fletcher Group and all of our professionals were invited to a private meeting with Jack. I had my picture taken with him and had the opportunity to talk golf and fishing. He’s just a down to earth guy.”
Thom has also been fortunate in his career by having good assistants working with him at Prescott including Steve Martineau, Chris Veltkamp and Bill Minkhorst and having a few members receive golf scholarships.
Apart from his the support of his wife, Thom wanted to mention a few people in his golf career who made an impact in his life including Glen Phillips, Sam Young and the late Al Hosick, a former President of the PGA of Canada and Ontario and former golf professional at the Kawartha Golf & Country Club. “Al was very down to earth and honest with people”, said Thom. “I learned a lot from him as well as from Sam and Glenn on how to handle myself as a golf professional.”
Thom is also grateful in his time at the Prescott Golf Club for the various Boards of Directors he has had the privilege of working for and with. As he says, “The Prescott Golf Club is lucky to have people on our boards that have had vision in shaping the future progress of our Club.”
When asked about his future, Thom indicated that he’s not ready to retire yet and that he thoroughly his job and also the time he gets to spend with his 18-month-old grandson Cameron as “He keeps Anne and me young.”
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it”, was Thom’s reply when asked about any regrets in his time as a golf professional. “A bit of life has walked and continues to walk through my pro shop doors every day.”