WINSTED — Bobby Gage has returned to Winsted’s Green Woods Country Club where his professional golf career began, as the new head golf pro.
“Every day I look at the picture of Stan (Staszowski) on the wall in the pro shop, and I think about how much he loved and promoted the game. If I can do that, then I will have succeeded,” Gage said.
Staszowski, who died in 2019 at the age of 101, was a mentor of a young Gage when the latter was attending the Gilbert School and learning to play the game. Staszowski was a mentor to so many golfers, young and old alike, and Gage was one of his most talented pupils.
“He taught you how to play the game right, act like a professional and always respect the game,” Gage said.
Staszowski was employed at Green Woods Country Club for more than 50 years, retiring in 1986. He was accepted as a member of the PGA in 1939, and was a member for more than 80 years. He served as an officer of the Connecticut Section PGA, and played with the likes of Sam Snead, Walter Hagen, Gene Sarazen, Tommy Armour and other golf legends.
Gage, 54, is living in Torrington while at Green Woods. He spends winters at The Fountains in Lakewood, Fla., where he is a teaching professional. Gage played a year each on the PGA and Champions tours and a number of years in golf’s minor-league tours. He continues to compete in regional and state events, and two years ago won the Connecticut State Senior Open.
“If I had listened to some of the people along the way I would have quit golf a long time ago,” said Gage. “I’ve told myself to just stick with it and never quit. I love the game so much, and have a passion for it. That has kept me going.”
After graduating from Gilbert, Gage continued to excel at the game at East Tennessee State University, where he earned all-America honors. He later attended the San Diego Golf Academy and then launched a professional career. Over the years, he has dabbled at several jobs in the area while he pursued playing the game for a living. He lived in Canton, Mass. in 2016, while teaching the game at Blue Hill Country Club, and also at Candlewood Valley Country Club in New Milford.
Gage played one year on the PGA Tour, competing in 28 tournaments and recording a lone top-25 finish. He also played 143 events on the Web.com Tour, bagging one runner-up finish.
In his sole year on the Champions Tour, for players 50 and over, in 2017, he won just shy of $60,000. In 2018, he had one of his best showings as a pro, finishing 32nd at the U.S. Senior Open as a qualifier and pocketing $22,155.
When the job of Head Professional at Green Woods opened up in 2019, Gage was approached by the club about taking the position. He was a bit hesitant, having been on the other side of the counter, so to speak, for his entire golfing career, except for a few stints helping out at courses here and there and teaching.
“Being a playing professional is a selfish occupation,” said Gage, as he sat in a chair on the small porch at Green Woods on a recent drizzly day. “It has to be. It’s all about being wrapped up in your game, trying to get better, competing and trying to win. That’s about all you have time for. This is different for me and there has been somewhat of a transition period.”
But Gage was lured by Green Woods, in no small way because the club is so intricately associated with Stan Staszowski, he explained. He says he has been able to tap into the wisdom and experience of Green Woods Golf Professional Ed Slattery, who previously worked at Green Woods and worked at New Milford’s Candlewood Valley Country Club for several years. The two men are good friends.
“Ed has been a tremendous help, teaching me the ins and outs, dealing with members, running tournaments and everything associated with the job,” Gage said. “I don’t know if I could have done it without his help.”
While Gage says he is still learning the ropes, he is comfortable at Green Woods.
“People are great here. It’s been a pleasant experience thus far. The members and daily fee players want to play golf and have a good time,” he said. “I really love the camaraderie between the members. You don’t have that sometimes at a bigger club.
“I’m trying to set a good example and establish a professional atmosphere and I think the members and visiting golfers appreciate that,” he said. “We changed the pro shop around some and made some improvements.”
Gage is also continuing to teach the game, a task he enjoys. And he will try to remain as active a player as he can, given his job responsibilities.
“I definitely want to continue to compete in state and regional tournaments and I think I can win. I believe the members enjoy having someone who can go out and play a high level and in important tournaments.” He also enjoys getting out onto the historic course at Green Woods whenever he can, a track on which he once fired a sizzling 61.
Balancing duties at the club, teaching, practicing and competing is no easy task. But Bobby Gage is committed to giving it his best shot.