AIKEN - When Tom Moore took the job as head golf pro at Palmetto Golf Club, he expected to stay "two or three years" so he could put on his rsum that he'd been a head pro.
More than 22 years later, Moore is as much a fixture at the 112-year-old club as the moss on the huge trees around the course.
"The golf course, the people here, we became a family," Moore explains. "It was just somewhere where I wanted to spend the rest of my life."
No one in the area has been a head pro at the same club as long as the 55-year-old Moore, who has probably set a national record for the number of times he's said "golf shop" when he answers the Palmetto phone.
Moore is beloved by the 500 members of the club, not just for who he is, but for what he did to bring the golf operation back to life.
When Moore arrived for an interview in 1982, the course and the club's facilities were in disrepair. He let the members of the golf pro search committee - Billy Howard, Frank Lock and George Brelsford - know it.
"I said, 'It's a shame you've got such a great old club like this and it's falling down,'" Moore said. "The clubhouse was falling down and the golf course wasn't in very good shape. I thought saying that might hurt my chances. But I told them if they hired me, I'd help them bring it back."
"I do remember him saying that, and he was right," said Howard, the only member from the search committee who is still living.
Moore's comment got the attention of the search committee, which was leaning toward promoting an assistant pro at the club. The only reason Moore got an interview was because a couple members at West Lake Country Club in Martinez asked if the search committee would talk to Moore, a West Lake assistant at the time.
"What Tom said at the interview (about the state of the course and club) probably got him the job," Howard said.
Soon, the Palmetto Board of Directors was taking Moore's suggestions to heart. What was literally a diamond in the rough was shining again. No wonder two-time Masters Tournament champion Ben Crenshaw plays the course each Masters Week.
Even Britain's Prince Andrew, who attended the 2004 Masters, came over and played.
"He said he enjoyed his round at the Palmetto," Moore said of Prince Andrew.
Early on, the changes that were being made, and the way the members took to Moore, convinced him he'd found the club for him.
"Over the years, I've had some places I could have probably made two or three times as much money as I make," Moore said. "Just being here is where I want to be."
"Some wonderful clubs up North have offered him jobs," said Moore's wife, Kathy. "But Tom, he'll tell them right quick this is where he wants to be."
Head pros typically don't stay at one club as long as Moore has. Inevitably, some conflict with the board of directors or members arise, and the relationship sours.
The low-key Moore hasn't had any run-ins.
"Tom has a personality that balances other personalities," Howard said. "He handles members well. Palmetto has never been a showoff course, and neither has Tom. He fits in. He's solid and non-confrontational. Not that Tom doesn't have opinions. He does and he'll voice them. But he doesn't get in the middle of anything."
Moore cares about the members so deeply that when older members don't show up to play for a couple of days, he calls their homes to see if they're all right.
"Most members would say Tom is a good friend," Howard said. "I think that means a lot. He's lucky to have a job he loves that much, and we're lucky to have him."
Moore's wife works side-by-side with her husband. She's been a shop assistant for 14 years.
"This is his life and the people here mean so much to him," Kathy Moore said. "It means everything to him."
"I think she feels the same way I do (about the club)," Tom Moore said. "I think she feels like this is our life here. All of her friends, basically, are here."
When Tom Moore says his work is as much a hobby as a job, he's not kidding.
"Everything I like to do is centered around right here," said Moore, who is an acclaimed instructor, spending half of his day teaching.
Ask his wife the last time her husband took a day off, and she says he takes off four days each October when the course is closed for overseeding. And he also takes off Christmas Day, the only holiday the course is closed.
And other than that? Kathy Moore pauses while she thinks. Oh yes, he took a weekend off last year for Kathy's birthday. They went to Asheville, N.C.
"I was surprised; that's a beginning, isn't it?" Kathy Moore said.
Tom Moore did call the course each day to check in.
"I have the option of taking days off," said Moore, who arrives at the course each morning at 8:30. "I just enjoy the people here; I enjoy everything about my job."
Twice, the board of directors passed a rule that the course would close at 7 p.m. each night "so Tom would go home," Howard said.
It didn't work. Moore still followed his long-standing rule of staying until the last member left.
"I feel like people, whenever they get off work, they ought to be able to come out here and play golf," Moore said. "The thing that aggravates me sometimes, is right about the time people get off work, some golf shops close up. These people are members here to play golf. We're here to provide a service."
Moore will continue to work more than 80 hours a week until he knows it's time to leave.
"I feel like if I get up one morning and I don't feel like coming here, I probably need to figure out something else to do," Moore said.
Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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