Member Highlight | Bob Intrieri
We have to keep that fire burning and that intensity growing.”
Bob Intrieri is a Master Professional who is quickly approaching his half-century PGA membership. Throughout his decades-long career, Intrieri has witnessed the evolution of the sport first-hand and has adapted accordingly. No stranger to the North Florida PGA Section, Bob chaired the committee that relocated the Section office from Daytona Beach to Kissimmee and was involved as the chairman with the conception of Yours & One Other, the Section’s charitable affiliate. From his lasting impact on the Section — to a career that has included playing more than 4,000 courses and garnering some noteworthy accolades, Bob comments on the journey thus far:
Who introduced you to the game and what is the story behind that?
When I was about 9 or 10 years old, and from a relatively poor family in Philadelphia, my sister went to work at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. I thought I’d go up and learn how to caddie. When I got up there to learn, I was too small, so they had a practice range, but no range balls. The Philadelphia Cricket Club is a very affluent, elite country club & everyone had their own bag of practice balls. They would pay you as they hit the balls down the practice range to pick them up. So I did that for a little bit, and I made more money doing that than I could being a caddie. They were paying $3.50 for 18 holes to carry a bag back then. I could go to the range for 4 or 5 hours and make close to $10.
I met a gentleman named Fred Johnson. He was the golf professional at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. I was cleaning clubs and sweeping the caddie shack to get a free soda, and eventually, by the end of the summer, he put his clubs into a little Sunday bag, and I would carry his clubs on Saturdays and Sundays when he would play. Fred took a shine to me, and I was there a couple of years. I got infatuated with the game. Then, I started to play a lot of baseball, so I got away from caddying, but I went back when I was 17 because I wanted to make more money, and I was big enough to caddie.
I got infatuated with it, and I got the disease. And I still have the disease!
What has been your proudest career accomplishment?
It was my idea to bring the PGA of America to Penn State in 1981 and put a golf management degree together. I went to university administrators, and the idea was softly received. I went to the person in charge of education at the PGA of America at the time and started the process. Penn State was interested… and it took about six years because the university didn't really need students, and of course, the PGA was thrilled to be able to make Penn State their fourth golf management program. We were finally able to get it done. It’s been operating for about 27 years, and it is an elite program. Two years ago, they added a master's degree.
The other proudest career moment is when I became Master Professional #31 back in 1986.
And the proudest moment of my life has nothing to do with golf! It was meeting and marrying my wife Dottie in 1979!
What is your favorite thing about golf?
The independence. The absolute individual requirement it takes for every person to reach their own potential and satisfaction. A lot of people try to play for someone else or something they may not be able to attain. The game challenges us emotionally, physically and psychologically. If you want to play socially, you don't have to challenge yourself on those things too much, but you still have to perform to accomplish your own satisfaction. You have to rely on yourself and learn to adapt.
Least favorite thing?
It’s changing around the country, and it’s happened here at the Villages, where golf has become more palatable to society, diverse and accessible. When I got into the golf business, 70 percent of the clubs were private. Now, 70 percent-plus are public or resort. It has turned around the other way. I think what has helped is the personalities that play. At the Villages, there are 42 executive golf courses, which are Par 3, 9-hole golf courses. People can go out and play 9 holes of golf in 1 hour and 45 minutes and enjoy the game and be challenged. Years ago, that wasn't possible. Today, golf is more accessible and affordable, and you don't have to strive to be PGA Tour quality.
Which course has been your favorite to play?
I've been lucky enough to play golf in over 45 countries and over 4,000 golf courses. I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of golf courses and be a lot of places. The top four:
- Augusta National
- Merion Golf Club
- Pebble Beach Golf Links
- Pine Valley Golf Club
You will be a Half-Century Member quite soon, so what is your advice to people on staying passionate and dedicated to the game?
I believe the reason we as golf professionals get into the business is that we have an infatuation with the game. I’ve been lucky to have some wonderful assistants and associates who have worked for me, and I made sure they played golf at least once or twice every week. I made sure they would get out and play, challenge themselves, learn about the game and understand what other people at their club wanted to accomplish when they came and visited.
I designed a personality approach at Bay Colony Golf Club, where we wanted to make certain all staff members give a warm welcome, create magic moments and deliver a fond farewell to all members and guests.
If we have a fascination for the game and an infatuation to play the game, as well as challenge ourselves to learn it, we can understand more of what our customers, clients and members are going through, and make certain they have fun.
Of all the staff I’ve had, about 15 have gone on to be Head Professionals or hold Director of Golf positions. A lot of people who have worked for me have excellent careers, and I always made sure they played the game and that we talked about the game.
Who would you credit as your personal or professional role model?
I've always admired and deeply appreciated my friendship with Gary Player and Arnold Palmer. They were role models by the way they handled themselves. A person I wish people would know more about is Mike Souchak. He was a great man. All three of them set wonderful professional standards and guidance for me, especially Gary and Mike. If I could just emulate them 10 percent, I knew I would be okay.
Bob wishes that all who play the game of golf experience the same success and prosperity that he has been able to achieve throughout his career.