It’s only fitting and appropriate that Lindsey Hansen and Chuck Lasher will enter the Connecticut Section PGA Professional Hall of Fame together.
After all, Hansen and Lasher both live in Southington and spent 23 years working together at Timberlin Golf Course in Berlin. It’s also fitting and appropriate that their inductions will come only months before Timberlin starts celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2020.
Hansen, Lasher and fellow PGA of America Life Member Mike Bailey comprise the Hall of Fame Class of 2019 that will be inducted Nov. 24 during the Connecticut Section PGA’s Hall of Fame and Special Awards Banquet at Lake of Isles in North Stonington.
“I have known Lindsey for 49 years since he opened Timberlin on July 4, 1970, and I am proud to call him my friend today,” said Lasher, who ironically learned of his selection while having lunch with Hansen. “I was completely surprised and very overwhelmed when I heard about it, and it only adds so much more that Lindsey and I will be inducted together. I haven’t been a head professional since 1981 at Clinton Country Club and never thought I had the resume to be recognized by my peers for such an honor.
“I guess the reason I am receiving this honor is because I was in the right place at the right time when a very special group of young boys and girls, now men and women, showed up at Timberlin around 1996. Lindsey and I made them feel welcome and helped them along the way to become good golfers and even better people. To this day, I see many of them, and, of course, Brent and Cody (Paladino) will forever be the most important people in my life.”
Lasher first met Hansen when he was an assistant pro at Woodbridge Country Club and Hansen was at Timberlin. Lasher soon took the head job at Clinton Country Club, and they met at various tournaments and became friends, even partnering in Pro-Pro events with limited success. In 1983, Hansen needed an experienced assistant and Lasher needed to show employment to be able to play in tournaments, so the two joined forces at Timberlin.
“It was a match made in heaven that lasted 23 years until we both retired at the end of the 2005 season,” Hansen said. “We were so close that it’s like a brotherhood. We still get together frequently for lunch, and as old people do, we solve all the problems of the world. We used to fight about the golf swing and the differences were very small, but it gave us something to argue about. It was such that the kids at the course thought we hated each other. Little did they know how close we were and continue to be. Just ask Brent or Cody about it.
“To go into the Hall of Fame without Chuck would be like leaving half of me behind. I can think of nothing I look forward to more. He is a friend of the highest qualify, someone who is always there for me and I for him.”
Hansen said his reaction to being selected for the Hall of Fame was surprise and humility.
“To be considered for this honor is overwhelming,” Hansen said. “I never gave it a thought in the past, but I’m most grateful.”
Bailey, the head pro at Wethersfield Country Club for 20 years who now lives in Estero, Fla., said he is delighted to be entering the Hall of Fame with two contemporaries whom he has much in common.
“We shared,” Bailey said. “We shared out mistakes, we shared new innovations about teaching, buying apparel, selling a club and running a tournament. We brought our members to the Pro-Officer, Pro-Lady, Pro-Club Championships and found any way to be the go-to person at our clubs. We slapped a high-five with a birdie on the last hole and consoled a three-putt. Now I’ll share a night with two gentlemen professionals who spent a career knowing the importance of sharing.”
Another person familiar with the Timberlin duo is Marc Bayram, who is in his ninth season as head pro at the club.
“Lindsey Hansen and Chuck Lasher being inducted into the Connecticut Section PGA Hall of Fame together is an amazing accomplishment for two great golf professionals,” Bayram said. “But what makes it really special is this honor comes right before the 50thanniversary of the golf course in 2020. Lindsey spent 35-plus years at Timberlin, including assisting in getting the course up and running in 1970. Being able to follow in his footsteps has been an honor, and I am fortunate enough to have Lindsey to lean on for advice and guidance as he still stops by to see how everything is going at the golf course.
“Chuck and Lindsey also set the foundation for an extremely successful junior program, and having the ability to continue the tradition they set has been special for me. I am looking forward to supporting both Lindsey and Chuck at the Special Awards Banquet in November.”
The Hall of Fame was established in 2008 to acknowledge PGA professionals for their dedication and contributions to the game of golf and the Connecticut Section. Professionals inducted are honored for their service and historical impact on their fellow members, the golfers that they have served and for the support of the PGA mission statement of growing the game and making golf a better game for all.
The eligibility requirements needed to be met for consideration for induction are an individual must be at least 50 years old, have been affiliated with the Section for a minimum of 10 years and have been a member of the PGA of America for at least 20 years.
Lasher was born March 11, 1942 at Camp Drum in Watertown, N.Y., as his dad was preparing to go to Europe for World War II. He was introduced to the game by his maternal grandmother who was a member at Wepawaug Country Club, now Grassy Hill CC, in Orange. He had a great partnership growing up in his brother, Wally, who was 14 months his junior, and they began playing at Orange Hills CC for 50 cents all day. When they were old enough, D.F. Wheeler Golf Course in Bridgeport became their home base, and the 6:45 a.m. bus was their means of transportation.
Lasher was a good player and had what he called “a reasonable” junior record. The highlight was a tie for first in the 1959 CIAC Championship at The Patterson Club in Fairfield and being a member of the powerful Stratford High School golf team that captured several state titles and included Don Parson, one of the best players ever in Connecticut. While Lasher thought he was destined to be a golf professional, his love of “all things golf,” not just playing, has always been the driving force of his life.
Golf played no role in Lasher’s choice of college, so he stayed in New England and went to Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. He loved the small college atmosphere, and golf played a limited role but his love of the game never wavered. After graduation, he immediately took the assistants job at Martindale Country Club, Bates’ home course, and worked there from 1964 through 1966, when the head pro retired. He returned to Connecticut and spent three years at Rock Ridge Country Club in Newtown with Allie Fuchs, whom Lasher called “as fine a gentleman as you could ever meet.”
The next few years didn’t go as Lasher had planned, and in 1972, while in Florida, he read a note on the bulletin board at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens that Tony Amaral, just beginning his long association with Woodbridge Country Club, was looking for a top assistant. Lasher was a PGA member by then, and they connected for a round of golf at the Boca Raton Hotel course. Things went well, Lasher was hired, and the year went well. He made terrific contacts in the New Haven community, and when the job at Clinton Country Club opened in the fall, the recommendations from these people were the key to him being offered the position.
But the years at Clinton were not the highlight of Lasher’s life in golf. Club politics and group conflicts made things uncomfortable, and by the end of 1981, he had had enough and so had those at the club. One of his contacts at Woodbridge Country Club was someone just getting started in the financial world, John Baer, and Lasher was fortunate to latch onto his ascending star. By the end of 1981, Lasher was able to make “an easy decision to regain my sanity.”
“When I left Clinton, I was burned out completely, so I took a year off,” Lasher said. “One year off showed me that I was too young to do nothing, and the rest was history.”
Lasher and Hansen had been good friends for years and were playing together in the Del Kinney Championship at Tunxis Plantation Country Club in Farmington on Oct. 8, 1982. They were in contention when Hansen had an extremely serious heart attack that night. It led to communicating about Lasher’s need to get back into the game and he and the Section needing an experienced assistant. Lasher started in the spring of 1983, and his role expanded through the years and reached a crescendo in 1996 when Brent Paladino came for his first lesson and got bigger and better as one of the more top-notch young people who joined the Timberlin Junior Golf Program. For political reasons, Hansen decided to retire at the end of the 2005 season, and he and Lasher went out together after 23 years.
The Junior Golf Program had several top players, led by the Paladino brothers, Jon Veneziano, who won the Connecticut State Golf Association and New England Junior Championships, and Kyle Gallo, a standout at Central Connecticut State University who played on the Nike Tour and has won a record-tying four Connecticut Open titles. Steve Motyka and Jeff Busnarda lost in the CSGA Junior Championship finals, Steve Galotti won the Northeast Junior and Ryan Lee won two Northeast titles. Sadly, Lee was tragically killed on April 26, 2011 by a cab while attending Long Island University on a golf scholarship. During a 10-year period, both the boys and girls golf teams at Berlin High School won multiple state championships with Timberlin as their home course.
Brent Paladino, the former CSGA Director of Competitions and Competitions and now executive director of the Kentucky Golf House, an umbrella that includes the Kentucky Golf Association and Kentucky Section PGA, holds virtually every record at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. Cody Paladino captained the golf team at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and is the only player to win all of the state’s adult championships: Palmer Cup, Tournament of Champions, Amateur Championship and Connecticut Open. He also played on the PGA Tour LatinoAmerica, and the brothers had considerable success in U.S. Golf Association tournaments.
Many other players at Timberlin have had success in many fields. Ron Scheyd is the head pro at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, home of the Travelers Championship. Ron’s cousin, Mike Scheyd, is the No. 1 assistant superintendent at the prestigious National Golf Links of America in Southampton, Long Island, and is considered one of the top young agronomists in the country.
“There are probably 20 players from those years who are now successful in various fields,” Lasher said, “and I am very proud and very equally proud that they still remember me.”
Lasher’s golfing career followed a path that, only now as he looks back, far exceeded what he thought it was as it was happening. He saw himself as a decent player, but he accomplished a nice list of achievements. He won the Connecticut Section PGA Senior Championships in 1993-94, three Manchester Opens, the Noonan Classic, Brownson Classic, Glastonbury Hills Open and Pro-Junior Championship amazingly twice 45 years apart as a junior and then a pro, which likely has never been duplicated. In 1959, a 17-year-old Lasher and pro Jack McGoldrick beat Ed Kowalski and Drew Pierson in a playoff at Manchester Country Club and then teamed with Steve Talbot, one of the top junior players at Timberlin, to notch the final victory of his career in 2004 at 62 at Fairview Farms Country Club in Harwinton. Talbot is now a successful Wall Street executive whom Lasher sees at many gatherings of the group that still stays in touch with each other.
Lasher also qualified for 13 PGA of America National Club Pro Championships, played in eight various renditions of what is now the Travelers Championship, was the Section Player of the Year in 1974 and played in 17 Julius Boros Challenge Cup Matches against the CSGA team. Lasher, who has been a PGA of America member for 49 years, was also the Section’s secretary, Junior Golf Leader in 2003 and Teacher of the Year in 2014.
Lasher now only teaches a few old friends who occasionally call for a tune-up. He still plays somewhat, but his passion these days is gardening.
“I attack that with the same grit and determination that I did when I was teaching all the great kids at Timberlin,” Lasher said.
And there’s one final thing that has always meant a lot to Lasher.
“Back when Brent and Cody were growing up and I was trying to fill the gap that having no father in their lives leaves, we would often go and play other courses throughout the Connecticut Section PGA,” Lasher recalled. “Whether it was Tony at Woodbridge or Dave Dell at Springfield or every other professional whom I would call, the answer was always yes. The boys seemed surprised that we could play these top courses, but I told them that if you treat people properly and with respect, they will treat you the same way.
“I like to think that the reason the answer was always yes was because I had earned the respect of all of my friends in the Connecticut Section PGA. I guess this honor is the culmination of just trying to do the best you can and trying to be the best golf professional you can be.”
Hansen, who has been a PGA of America member for 50 years, was born in Logan, Utah, and moved to Twin Falls, Idaho, at the age of 10. He loved to play baseball and basketball at an early age and discovered golf late by today’s standards at 15. He was quickly competitive and won the State Junior Championship and was a member of the State High School Championship team.
Hansen was pushed by the legendary Idaho golf family of Jim Hiskey, now a club pro in Annapolis, Md., and Babe Hiskey, who played on the PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions. He occasionally beat Babe, but Jim defeated him in their only match. He was paired with Jim when he shot a competitive course-record 59 at the Twins Falls Golf Course in 1960 that still stands. The next week, Hansen was the low qualifier for the Utah Open, which was won in Salt Lake City by Dow Finsterwald, who edged Arnold Palmer.
Hansen played on the University of Idaho golf team and graduated in 1960 with a business degree. Idaho was a member of the old Pacific Coast Conference and played against teams from California, Washington and Oregon.
“It was a great experience, just wonderful years,” Hansen said.
Hansen then went on Denver, Colo., on a family business opportunity that never developed. When it failed to materialize, he became the assistant pro at the Overland Park Golf Course in 1964. It was there that he had the most satisfying round of his career, a 10-under-par 62 in which he eagled three of the four par-5 holes and lipped out an eagle on the other.
When winter arrived in 1964, Hansen went to southern California, where he got an assistants’ job working for John Ruedi at the Coronado Golf Course in San Diego, where he stayed until moving with his new wife, Brenda, to Connecticut in 1969. The day they left Coronado, June 1, the town of Berlin broke ground on what has become Timberlin Golf Course.
“I would like to take credit for all the innovations that I introduce to the golf community here, but I just stole the procedures I learned in Coronado under John and his predecessor, Don Collett,” Hansen said. “They are the best that I have ever seen.”
During his 35 years at Timberlin, Hansen received the Connecticut Section PGA’s highest award, Professional of the Year, in 2002 and served as the organization’s vice president, vice president at large and tournament chairman and was a member of the PGA membership interview committee.
“I really enjoyed serving as Section vice president working and fighting with the legend Walter Lowell during the formative years of what is now the best section in the country,” Hansen said. “I particularly enjoyed being tournament chairman and developing procedures that I hope are still in use.”
One of the innovations begun by Hansen and Lasher at Timberlin was the introduction of a starting times system seven days a week that was unheard of at a public course at the time, a men’s club that at one time had more than 600 state handicap card holders and a ladies club.
“We would have people sleeping in their cars overnight to get starting times for the weekends,” Hansen recalled. “It was not uncommon to have an hour’s wait at 6 a.m. on weekends without leagues. Play was great, and seniors’ groups and, in my opinion, the best junior program in the state if not all of the Northeast were given starting times for tournaments. This was also unheard of at the time.”
The large number of players helped the men’s club to be a consistent winner in the New England Public Links Golf Championship along with the strong junior program that produced the numerous state boys and girls high school championship teams and many players who reached match play in the CSGA Junior Championship.
“We made the kids feel welcome from the beginning of the course’s opening,” Hansen said.
Despite retiring 14 years ago, Hansen still grows the game through his passionate involvement with The First Tee of Connecticut, a non-profit organization headquartered at the TPC at River Highlands dedicated to teaching young individuals of all backgrounds about the game of golf and nine core values of confidence, courtesy, honesty, integrity, judgment, perseverance, respect, responsibility and sportsmanship.
TFTCT now serves more than 70,000 youngsters throughout the state and has the mission of impacting their lives by providing educational programs that build character, instill life-enhancing values and promote healthy choices through golf. It tries to achieve those goals through in-school instruction, group lessons, teams, golf squads and scholarships. In addition to established programs with more than 125 schools and 50 community organizations, it has four main learning facilities at TPC River Highlands, Alling Memorial Golf Course in New Haven, Prospect Driving Range and D.F. Wheeler Golf Course in Bridgeport.
“I love the game of golf and have enjoyed and continue to enjoy working with the kids at The First Tee,” Hansen said. “I cannot ever see myself not being involved in some way with this great game. It is only second to my wonderful wife of 50-plus years. I don’t know how I could have survived without her. She is indeed the love of my life.”
Bailey, 68, compared being selected for the Connecticut Section PGA Hall of Fame to other luminaries being inducted into their sports shrines.
“My first thought about the concept relates to other types of Hall of Fames where it is required to throw so many touchdowns, win so many Super Bowls, hit so many home runs or strike out so many batters,” Bailey said. “Statistically you are better, but not the case with the Connecticut Section PGA. Somewhere along the line, my fellow professionals were appreciative of my activities in our quest to be the best at what we do. What a brotherhood, the PGA, trying to give the average player a great golf experience.”
Bailey was born and raised in Springfield, Mass., in a city full of children like him. It closed the Memorial Golf Course to build a highway and opened Veterans Memorial Golf Course in 1960. Bailey could get to the course by bicycle, and he used the range and looked for golf balls as he could not afford the 50-cent junior rate. He found golf there, and most importantly, he met Joe Perry, a local declared professional who played the East Coast black circuit. He taught Bailey how to play to be competitive and get the ball in the hole and was Bailey’s first important mentor without realizing it.
Bailey made the golf team at Cathedral High School, which won Western Massachusetts Team Championship two years in a row. He was the medalist his senior year and then won the Western Massachusetts Junior in 1969. That was the most important day of his life because there was a free clinic given by PGA Tour player Kermit Zarley after the tournament. Eighty juniors thought he had a funny name, and he turned around, dropped two balls on the ground and told us he was going to hit them down the range and have them collide in midair. A high soft fade started out and was sought by a low hard hook that missed its target by an inch. It was how to shut up 80 not-so-smart junior golfers.
Zarley asked the group if they knew how to shape a shot. Bailey didn’t know what that meant, but over the next 90 minutes, he listened to every word, every move on how to shape a shot. Bailey and Zarley met in 1982 during the Greater Hartford Open when Bailey was the head pro at Wethersfield Country Club. Bailey stopped Zarley and reminded him of that day that changed his life. Bailey told Zarley that he was a pro because of him, that he was enamored with being a teacher and won awards as one of Golf Digest’s Top 50 teachers. Bailey told Zarley that that day set his career path. They had lunch the next day, and Zarley said he had no idea he had mentored Bailey. Zarley’s mouth was wide open because he couldn’t believe what Bailey had told him.
Bailey’s other mentor was Henry Bontempo, the head pro at Franconia Golf Course in Springfield for 51 years. Bontempo had retired when Bailey picked him up to go to Connecticut Section PGA meetings. Bailey said Bontempo knew exactly what he was doing as his mentor, and Bailey listened to every word the wise man said on the rides back and forth.
Bailey said his only regret is he didn’t play college golf on a scholarship. His advisor at Cathedral High School was a nun who knew nothing about golf and his parents never attended college. They were unaware of the possibilities, but Bailey’s regret was short-lived. As an assistant pro, he worked for two outstanding merchandisers, Harry Matteson at Springfield Country Club and Jim Galleher at Franconia Golf Club. Bailey said Matteson could sell anything to anybody, and while Galleher didn’t have the charisma, he had excellent business sense and opened the first Discount Golf Centers in Connecticut. He was years ahead of Golfers Warehouse, and Bailey observed, which was part of the job. Bailey said there is a fine line between doing your job and being mentored.
Bailey, a PGA of America member for 42 years, graduated from American International College in Springfield as an accounting major and was inducted into the school’s Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. He started his club pro career in the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the Connecticut Section PGA, where he was the vice president of the assistants and eventually the president of the Western Massachusetts Chapter, sat on the board of directors for four years and was chairman of the Tee Party, the largest golfing dinner in New England until the Ouimet Scholarship dinner began. Bailey never took lightly his commitment to be an officer in the Section, and while raising two daughters, he decided to work on sub-committees.
As Bailey’s children were growing older, he became a Section director and was back attending board meetings under the guidance of Lowell and Terry Crawford. He became an officer in 1996 and had an eight-year commitment. As secretary, he took on the task of rewriting the entire Section constitution and by-laws, composed the first complete set of tournament rules and regulations and served as treasurer and chairman of the tournament, awards and ethics committees.
“I spent an entire winter amending an outdated constitution and presented the revisions in unison with PGA National,” Bailey said. “The most important thing is it opened up the opportunity for future proposals to stay current. When I presented it at the Spring Meeting, I was about to read and present 32 amendments to the constitution when someone, probably Chuck Lasher, stood and proposed to accept all 32 as written. I consider it a real feat of mine.”
Bailey was an assistant pro at Springfield Country Club in 1975 and head pro at Veterans Memorial in 1976-81 and at Wethersfield Country Club for 20 years before becoming the Director of Golf at Brae Burn County Club in Newton, Mass., in the New England Section PGA. He also was a club fitter and instructor at Grey Oaks Golf and Country Club in Naples, Fla., and taught at the 36-hole Stow Acres Country Club in Stow, Mass.
Bailey was the Connecticut Section PGA Teacher of the Year in 1990 and Professional of the Year in 1996 and the Spalding Northeast Merchandiser of the Year in 2010. He was president of the Western Massachusetts Chapter of the Section, the New England Section PGA Merchandiser of the Year in 2010 and was named among Golf Digest’s Best Teachers in Massachusetts in 2003-04. He was on the NEPGA membership committee in 2002-06, Senior Director in 2008-2010, chairman of the selection committee to hire a new NEPGA executive director and amended the New England Section constitution and Chapter by-laws in 2010.
Bailey also was an active participant in education involving Golf Shop Design, Professional Scoreboard, New England Teaching Summit, Merchandising, U.S. Golf Association Rules, Club Repair, Small Business Computers and Club Relations. He taught at the premier golf school in the Northeast Proficient at various types of schools designed for age, gender and specific game enhancement. He wrote articles for local newspapers and PGA Magazine and attended many symposiums, notably one at Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the best 40 teachers in the country.
On the playing side, Bailey qualified for six GHO/Travelers Championships and three PGA National Club Professional Championships and won the Brownson Classic, Ernie Kaulbach Classic, Western Massachusetts Open, Western Massachusetts Assistants Championship and multiple Connecticut Section pro-ams. And he is the only player to win the Western Massachusetts Junior Championship, followed by the Western Massachusetts PGA Assistant Pro Championship, the Chapter Championship and Western Massachusetts Open, all major events in the chapter.
“Playing and teaching were two of my favorite activities,” Bailey said. “I loved to play, won and lost and always showed up. I chose to be a club professional, not a tour player, for many good reasons. Besides major tournaments that I won, I’ll never forget the Challenge Cup Matches and also matches against the Metropolitan (N.Y.) Section and Northeast New York Section.
“And I had a passion for teaching and developed a reputation where I needed to restrict my lessons to members and their family or important relations like their boss. Balancing time on the lesson tee and operating an active club like Wethersfield was a challenge for sure. And receiving the Teacher of the Year Award was the one that I treasured more than any. The reward of a student telling you that he had the best round of his life was so rewarding. Giving Rev. Michael Motta a lesson on Wednesday night and him making two holes-in-one on Thursday let me know that God had more to do with it than I did.”
Bailey and his wife, Marti, now live at Pelican Sound Golf and River Club in Estero that he calls “an adult playground.” The club has 27 holes, two clubhouses and access to the Gulf of Mexico, and Bailey said it feels very strange to be on the other side of the counter.
“Although I’m retired, there is a big piece of my heart that still lives and breathes in the Connecticut Section PGA,” Bailey said. “But being retired 24/7 is very interesting. I am active at Pelican Sound and recently became the Grounds Chairman. I also invented a game called Bocce Putting that will become a new rave. I also stay busy two days a week as a starter at The Colony Golf Club.”
And Bailey’s parting shot?
“I hope that I mentored someone,” Bailey said. “I feel lucky and fortunate and lived large. I’d do it all again and am honored to be in the Hall of Fame of the Section that meant everything to me for 29 years.”