Originally created 07/19/00

Westin: Pro returns to business of golf



The pull of the golf world was too much for Augusta's Gregg Hemann, the new head pro and general manager at Belle Meade Country Club in Thomson.

For nearly two years, the former Club at Jones Creek head pro worked at a computer networking company in sales and later at a mortgage loan company.

"They were good jobs with great companies," said the 38-year-old Hemann, a former Augusta State golfer. "Most people would have been happy with them, but I wasn't."

Hemann discovered that when you're a former mini-tour player and one of the state's top professionals, it's hard to face a desk every day.

"In the simplist terms, I'm in my element at the golf course; it's where I belong," said Hemann, the winner of the Georgia section of the PGA of America's state match play title in 1992 and 1995 and winner of the state Assistant's Championship in 1993 and 1994.

Hemann made a living as a mini-tour player in the mid-1980s, then took a job as an assistant pro at Jones Creek in 1987.

It marked the end of his PGA Tour dreams, but the beginning of a life he found fulfilling.

"It's been the only job that I've had where I didn't mind going to work and wasn't in a hurry to leave work," Hemann said.

When Hemann decided to get back into the golf business, he wrote a letter to Belle Meade. The course was in need of a general manager and head pro, a spot that had been vacant for six years.

"After talking to (club president) Ted Reese, I found out about the opportunity that existed," Hemann said. "Less than 24 hours later, I was hired by the board of directors."

"He had the experience as a general manager at Jones Creek that we were looking for," Reese said. "He had the credentials that we feel can help Belle Meade take another stop forward. He's a perfect fit for us. We're real excited about having him here. All the board members feel the same way."

"It's a great situation," Hemann said. "I'm at a club that has basically had the same ownership for years with a great group of members that have welcomed me and made me feel at home immediately."

Hemann will be a busy man, which is the way he likes it when it comes to golf. In addition to his general manager and head pro duties, he'll give lessons and also play in Georgia PGA section events.

After four years playing on the Florida mini-tours, Hemann decided he'd given it his best shot. The next move was to be a club pro.

"I was afraid of waking up in my mid-30s still trying to get on the PGA Tour," Hemann said.

He also ruled out regaining his amateur status and playing a regional or national schedule.

"Having a wife and three children, I didn't see myself getting back into golf in any way competitively as an amateur," Hemann said. "I couldn't justify the amount of time away from my family when it's not contributing to your income."

TOPS IN STATE:

Augusta Country Club head pro Tommy Brannen is ranked seventh among teachers in the state in the August issue of Golf Digest magazine.

Brannen, who has been at "the Club" since late January, established his teaching reputation at Atlanta Athletic Club, where he worked for 18 years before coming to Augusta.

At the Athletic Club, Brannen started as the third assistant pro, went to head pro and then director of golf, which was a teaching position.

Jack Lumpkin of Sea Island was the top-ranked Georgia teacher, followed by Charles Sorrel, Gale Peterson, Scott Davenport and Mike Perpich.

David Leadbetter, who has been Augusta pro Charles Howell's teacher since Howell was 11, was ranked No. 1 in the magazine's listing of the 50 greatest teachers.

Leadbetter was followed by Tiger Woods' teacher Butch Harmon, Jim McLean, Hank Haney and Rick Smith.

Rounding out the top 10 are Jim Flick, Dave Pelz, Chuck Cook, Bob Toski and Jimmy Ballard.

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.