This month, we feature an essay written by Norm Blandel, PGA Master Professional. We hope you will enjoy this inspiring journey through Norm’s memories, featuring photos from his personal collection.

 “Throwback PGA Golf Professionals”

by Norm Blandel, PGA Master Professional

As I sometimes look back and reflect on where and how my journey and path of my golf career as a PGA Golf Professional began and developed, I am forever grateful to God for the plans and blessings he has had for my life.  I grew up as a young boy raised by my mother, a single parent in the poorest community of Detroit Michigan in the early 1950’s.  Golf was never an option or opportunity in my life, although throughout High School, education and sports ‒ primarily baseball, basketball, and football ‒ were a very important part of my learning and growing process.  I was grateful even at a young age to be surrounded and encouraged by mentoring relationships that helped me learn and inspired me to pursue excellence in everything I worked at and tried to achieve.

Early on, I learned the importance of making good choices in our lives.  I learned that through my faith, I could have great opportunities if I was willing to learn and develop important values such as honesty, respect, integrity, courtesy, responsibility, perseverance, confidence, sportsmanship, and judgment.  At that time, I had no idea that years later I would learn that these same core values would become the nine core values that represent many of the positive values connected with The Game of Golf.  As I continued to grow both in my knowledge and education, I learned the value and importance of life experiences.  I also learned that several other core values such as kindness, discipline, forgiveness, hope, results, truth, wisdom, freedom, teamwork, caring service, and success would also be very important factors that could lead me in my pursuit of excellence in doing my work and providing outstanding service in every way that I can.

When people talk or discuss “throwback,” I often find they or we are speaking of a reflection or reversion to an earlier ancestral characteristic, or a person or thing having the characteristics of a former time.  Photos can often lead to reflection of where and who we may have been at a time long ago in comparison to where and or who we may have become following years of education and experience.

Like many, I have had the blessing and privilege of being helped and mentored throughout the very early years of my career path as a PGA Golf Professional, as well as continuing to learn from others of various ages, education, knowledge, and experience throughout my entire career.  I believe there is tremendous value and benefit for all who are open and willing to share knowledge and experience in the pursuit of excellence and working to be “the best you can be” in any given work or career path.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to share a few photos that allow me the privilege of sharing insight and my grateful appreciation for the blessings and some of the people that many may refer to as living in a “throwback” era in time when The Game of Golf was growing and developing in various ways of golf operations and management, executive leadership, and teaching & coaching.  With that said, although I will always treasure my experiences and relationships from early in my career, I also remain extremely grateful for the transition and place where my career is in present time, and greatly appreciate all those that have continued in our journey and commitment to “lifelong learning” in the PGA of America.  Through our journey and careers as PGA Golf Professionals, and our steadfast and enduring commitment to serve and continue to grow and make golf a better game, we just may experience a career that we may not have ever imagined.  I remain forever grateful to the PGA Golf Professionals who have inspired and mentored me throughout my life and golf career. I hope that I can follow in their footsteps of kindness and caring support that they shared with me, as I hope to “pay it forward” in helping and mentoring other PGA Professionals and Associates in the development and experience of their careers.

I hope the following photos are an inspiring example and reflection of my appreciation of my change in career paths. It starts from a plan to pursue a career in law enforcement, to being introduced to The Game of Golf and learning the possibilities that the game offered me, then realizing the ways the game enhances and brings joy to all who learn, play, experience, and engage in the game of golf.

 

Norm Blandel - Police Officer & California Police Olympics

Photo #1 – Norm Blandel – Police Officer & California Police Olympics

Photo # 1- In 1971, the day following my honorable discharge from serving as a United States Marine, I entered the Los Angeles Police Academy and began what I thought would be a career in Law Enforcement.  I had never been introduced to or played the game of golf throughout my life until age 24, when my wife and son lovingly gifted me a set of golf clubs as a Christmas present in 1974.  As I began to learn the game of golf through various teachers and players and experiences, I began to learn of new possibilities through education and career opportunities in golf.

In 1974, through an incredible life-changing random act of kindness by a remarkable PGA Professional, I began to realize how that one experience and act of kindness and generosity could inspire me to pursue the possibility and decision to become a PGA Golf Professional.  This photo depicts a very special time and memory during my years from 1974-1979 participating in the California Police Olympics, which over time grew and is now known today as the United States Police & Fire Championships.  During my participation and involvement, I was grateful for my opportunity to compete in the five golf championships, winning two silver medals and three bronze medals representing California.  These championships, as well as other college golf playing opportunities, were an important part of my decision to pursue and become a PGA Member and Golf Professional.

 

Norm Blandel photo 2 - Arnold Palmer - Norm - Orcas Island -1982

Photo #2 – Arnold Palmer – Norm – Orcas Island -1982

Photo # 2- In 1981-1982 following my completion of working and serving as a PGA “Apprentice” Golf Professional at Irvine Coast Country Club (now known as Newport Beach Country Club), I achieved my goal of becoming a PGA Member.  Soon thereafter, I was selected as the new “PGA Head Golf Professional” at Navy Golf Course in Los Alamitos, California, where Tiger Woods learned to play The Game of Golf.  In 1983, I made the decision to accept an opportunity to become the first PGA Professional of Orcas Island Golf Club, in the San Juan Islands (WA), and a PGA Member of the Pacific Northwest Section of the PGA of America.  My role as PGA Head Golf Professional/Manager entailed various responsibilities involving clubhouse/restaurant operation and management, golf course maintenance, golf operations, teaching and coaching, and other responsibilities as needed.  This photo depicts another very special time and memory of me and our dog, “Arnie”, named after Mr. Arnold Palmer.  Following a wonderful personal experience with our PNWPGA Section and Mr. Palmer at Tacoma Golf & Country Club in 1982, Mr. Palmer graciously signed the photo, which, along with the blessing of engaging with Mr. Palmer and other PNWPGA Section Members and Professionals, made this one of my treasured experiences, and photos of my golf career.

 

Photos # 3 & 4 – In 1983, my fiancée Ali and I had planned to be married on November 5th.  Life was great living in the beautiful San Juan Islands, and my role as PGA Head Golf Professional of Orcas Island Golf Club was exciting and a wonderful opportunity to continue to gain experience as I began in the early development of my career.  My work as a golf professional and ability to develop meaningful relationships with members and visitors that enjoyed the unique 9-hole golf experience that our club offered was truly a blessing in our lives.  Ali and I considered the possibility of where and how we could develop a very special and memorable golf outing for our members and guests.  I suggested the possibility of us developing a “golf outing to Hawaii”.

We began to develop a golf outing for our members and guests to visit and play golf at the newly opened Mauna Lani Resort on the Big Island of Hawaii.  As I continued to serve my club as the PGA Golf Professional, Ali and I developed our first group golf outing for 22 guests to join us for a 7-day golf trip.  The third day into our golf outing, the PGA Director of Golf, Jerry Johnston, asked me if I would join him for a round of golf and have lunch together.  I agreed and we scheduled our round of golf.  After playing nine holes and shooting 31 on the front nine, Jerry asked me if we could pause and have lunch together.  At lunch, Jerry shared with me that Mauna Lani Resort was seeking their first PGA Head Golf Professional/Teaching Professional and that they would like to offer me the opportunity to serve in those roles.  Naturally, I was surprised and honored that they would offer me such a wonderful opportunity and role to be a part of their team and I gratefully accepted the position.

The purpose of me sharing how this career opportunity developed, and became one of the most memorable and treasured employment opportunities of my career as a PGA Member, is to encourage other PGA Professionals to continue to pursue lifelong learning, knowledge, and experience. It is important to be open to future employment opportunities that may develop at a time when you may not be pursuing new employment. Always be working on teaching, coaching, golf operations, relationship development, and other ways of being prepared for new opportunities to serve as a PGA Golf Professional.

The next three photos relate to my special memories and blessings of meeting and developing relationships with other mentors or various legends of The Game of Golf. They inspire, influence, and/or motivate our passion and commitment to serving and giving back to The Game of Golf and the people who play and enjoy it. Photo #5 is a picture of Mr. Byron Nelson and me. Photo #6 is a photo of Mr. John A. Solheim, Ping Chairman and CEO, and photo #7 is a photo of Karsten Louis Solheim, oldest son of Ping Founder, Karsten Solheim.

 

Norm Blandel photo 5 - Byron Nelson and Norm - 1988

Photo #5 – Byron Nelson and Norm – 1988

Photo #5: In 1987, I had the privilege and blessing of sharing an evening and dinner with Mr. Byron Nelson, Carl Welty – PGA Director of Golf, LaCosta Resort, and Jim McLean – PGA Teacher and Coach.  While I was visiting LaCosta Resort, during the PGA Tour “Tournament of Champions”, I had one of the most memorable evenings of my golf career.  I joined the three of these very special PGA Golf Professionals and legends and was blessed to listen to them share several of their stories and most memorable experiences of their golf careers and journeys in golf.  Certainly, I hope to always remember that evening.

 

Photo #6 is a photo of John A. Solheim and me at one of the national PGA Merchandise Shows we have attended and met at over the years. Photo # 7 is a photo of Karsten Louis and me on my first of many visits to the “Ping Vault”, which provides storage of the golf clubs from the Ping Gold Putter Program that was initiated by Karsten Solheim (Founder of American golf equipment manufacturer Ping Golf) to commemorate a championship golfer’s victory using a Ping Putter.  Karsten Louis, like his Father, is truly one of the most amazing men I have ever met in life. He truly carries on the “legacy” of his father and the Solheim Family.  Mr. Nelson and both John A. and Karsten Louis Solheim are truly men of Legacy Golf and “Throwback” golf generations, inspiring countless people and PGA Golf Professionals throughout their careers in The Game and Business of Golf.

 

Photo #8 – Norm and Mr. Palmer

I will end my story with the photo of Mr. Arnold Palmer and the treasured memories and blessings of what he meant to The Game of Golf.  In 2014, I had the privilege of leading our Youth for Christ USA national “YFC Champions” event at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Club & Lodge.  Mr. Palmer’s impact and inspiration on my career as a PGA Golf Professional, as well as his impact on other PGA Golf Professionals and The Game of Golf, were unrivaled.  He was truly one of the golf’s greatest legacies.

Mr. Palmer was truly considered a “Throwback” PGA Golf Professional.  He was the spirit of the game and the heart and soul of golf.  His legacy and influence go way beyond the golf course and represent everything that is great about The Game of Golf.  He was a great mentor in my life, and an inspiration and friend everyone blessed to know him and his career in golf.

Thank you so much for the privilege and honor to be a part of your PNWPGA Throwback Thursdays, and I look forward to being with you and others whenever it works for our time and schedules.

God Bless,

Norm Blandel
PGA Master Professional
Teacher & Coach
nbmasterpro196@gmail.com