“The first thing they asked me was, ‘What do you want? “” Remember Sibley.
He remembers thinking.
“I just want to be… You just want to be yourself,” said Sibley. “That’s the only way to say it. To do that, play golf and do things in life that you’re supposed to do. At 50 you don’t think it’s going to be the right time, but here’s the right time. You think it’s going to be later in life, you always think that You have time to do whatever you want. You’re just trying to figure it out.”
Sibley decided to play the ball where it fell. Do what you do. And so, on a Monday morning in late August, with Gannon hosting a picnic in the Grand Lynn Chamber of Commerce, Sibley addresses 104 guests in electric carriages awaiting the start of Venice.
“When you’re done,” buzzes into a microphone, “bring your scorecards to the golf shop. Just put your name on and start punching in them, we want to give proper credit to those great hits we’re going to shoot today. So have some fun, have fun, and hopefully see you soon “.
Trolleys go, and Sibley rushes to the pro shop, for reports, payroll, events and schedules. In the middle of the morning, climb up to the second floor of Gannon’s 1930s stone clubhouse overlooking the scenic setting. His face lights up.
“This is the office…You come here, you see the golf course, you look at 1, 9, 10, 18, you see the Boston skyline, it’s beautiful and relaxing and you hear the fountain, it’s just so easy to look and smile… I don’t know what you can to ask for more.”
I kinda lost love
As comforting as golf Sibley is, he remembers a somber time when it didn’t. In 2011, he left the business. “I was really burned out,” he recalls.
He was 39 years old and worked nine golf jobs during the 16 years he graduated from college.
Sibley shrugs off a bleak memory: “It has to be like… I don’t want to say much… It’s work, and I kind of lost my love for what I did for a while.”
The club pro is a poor distant cousin of the celebrity tour pro. A professional club is where members, customers, employees, suppliers and bosses turn to when they need something right now. Who runs outings, tournaments and clinics. Professional Store Inventory. whose bottom line requires endless hours, weekends and holidays.
In November 2021, PGA CEO Seth Waugh spoke at the annual meeting: “We have moved on from the demand problem in terms of [club pros] to the display problem. lack of supply [due to] Hours a day, lack of balance in our members’ lives and lack of talent to replace our aging population… Almost everyone has been asked to level up, do more of the same, and work crazy hours. It is totally unsustainable.”
Golf Digest later reported a “crisis” in the industry – a shrinking supply of club professionals and assistants. Vacancies have been reported due to insufficient pay, relentless schedules, and declining enrollment in the university’s golf management programs.
PGA America counts about 8,500 professional presidents and assistants nationwide in 2022, down from about 9,500 in 2018. PGA New England currently lists 266 presidents, 271 assistants, 69 directors, and 41 general managers.
None of this was news to Sibley, who had suffered from exhaustion long before it spread. “I felt kind of disenfranchised,” he recalls.
His golf journey began innocently and happily enough, in the mid-1980s, when he was 14 years old in Augusta, Maine, that his father taught him the game. “The first time I went out there I loved it,” Sibley recalls. “I forgot everything I was doing.”
The passion flared up, and he played golf at his high school, and for the University of Maine, then found his way to Methodist College in Fayetteville, North Carolina, where in 1995 he earned a degree in Business Administration with a PGM (Professional Golf Management) concentration.
Over the next decade, he was a professional assistant at Benvenue CC, Birchwood CC, Carolina CC, Pinehurst Resort, and Cohasset GC. He was professional head of the Wild Wing Plantation in Myrtle Beach, SC, and at Harman Golf Club in Rockland, and he lost both jobs, painfully, due to financial headwinds.
In 2007 he became General Manager at Wentworth GC, a public and private course in Plainville. Then he met Cecilia Keeler, a pediatric physical therapist at Tufts Children’s Hospital in Boston. To be near her, he took the job of professional head at Ipswich CC private company in February 2009. They married in May and settled in Melrose.
By mid-2011, Sibley wanted out. “He was really tired and miserable,” Cecilia recalls. “He felt like we didn’t have enough time together. I said, ‘This is who you are. This is what you went to at school, all your friends. What will life look like after golf? Will you be happy?’”
Sibley tried to sell residential real estate in Boston and didn’t hate it. However, there was something deep inside, a burning longing, which he would not let go. In mid-2012, a friend, Dave Dion, head of the Beverly Golf & Tennis team, convinced Sibley to work for him part-time. Murphy and Carter, who run their company Beverly, were influenced by Sibley’s seriousness and gentle style. They were about to take over Gannon’s management, as longtime professional manager Mike Foster was due to retire, and Sibley was offered the position. Sibley wanted to avoid the unhealthy grind of his past jobs, and he got the assurances he needed.
Sibley discussed the offer with Cecilia. Before he accepted, he insisted that they play a round at Gannon, a high target layout through Lynn Woods Reservation.
“I’m like, ‘Seriously?'” Cecilia remembers. It’s late October or November  It’s cold and I only have golf skirts. I don’t play in the cold. So we played round and my hand froze. But she was beautiful and I was like, “Okay, take the job if you’re happy.”
The club pro is born again. Business days 7am-6pm, member issues, tournaments, outings, promotion, teaching, club repair, all of that. “In a small facility like this you don’t live based on the job description,” Sibley says. “Whatever comes. If the toilet needs to be flushed, I have flooded the toilet. I changed the lights. I try to make the club as elegant as possible.”
Sibley and Gannon proved to be a match made in Lane. Rounds played went up, from about 40,000 in 2014 to 50,000 in 2021. And membership went up, about 500. Tournaments and outings fill the calendar. The reservation was introduced online, and a new $2.5 million irrigation system was introduced, coordinated by Sibley and supervisor Patrick Manning.
Some members get annoyed when tournament payments are transferred from cash to Pro Store credit, and when non-members are allotted desirable play times, but most respect Sibley’s fixed distribution.
“Dave listens to people’s problems and tries to calm them down,” Murphy said. “He doesn’t play favorites and seems to get along with everyone. He is a straightforward shooter, very organized and gets the job done.”
Sibley says Gannon is a perfect fit because he’s humble and generic. “I grew up playing golf in places just like this,” he says. “You go to school… and of course I thought I wanted to be in a private club. And I had opportunities. But at the end of the day this is where I am supposed to be.”
stoic and imperative
Cancer wasn’t in the script, and it never was. Sibley gets chemotherapy and continues to work. It’s seven in the morning to nine in the morning now, and if his energy and mood wanes, he’s off.
“He amazes me every day – he never misses a lot of work,” Cecilia says. “He comes every day, so I can’t sit at home and cry — I have to work too. It gives him a sense of routine, and we just stick to the routine, hopefully for as long as possible.”
Murphy estimates that Sibley worked until twilight in the height of summer, and shows up on weekends, when the course is busiest. He’s fighting through it,” Murphy said. “He seems to be keeping his chin up, and is in the best spirit possible under the circumstances.”
Sibley is completely at peace with golf; Keep up with its news. He and Cecilia want to play Pebble Beach later this year. He is at a reunion with his college buddies in North Carolina. He wants to see Australia.
Some days Sibley rides buggies to Gannon’s furthest hole, the 16th hole, parks in the adjacent turf nursery, the chips are few, and contemplates the universe, big, after golf. Raised a Catholic, no longer practicing, he is stoic and imperative.
“First you ask the question why,” Sibley said. “I have always believed that things happen for a reason, and I have always believed that there is a balance, one way or another, in shape or form. If you do something bad, there is a consequence, and if you do good there is a reward. I think at the end of the day it balances out, but how and why? That, I don’t know. That’s hard to understand.”
He knows the difficulties. Knows golf metaphors is life.
“How do you want to be remembered here?”
He replies, “I don’t want them to start remembering me for too long, that’s for sure.”
Brief chuckle, thoughtful pause.
“You want to do what you’re supposed to do,” Sibley says. “I want people to think that the time they spent here while I was here was a good time.”
Steve Marantz can be reached at email@example.com.