Golf Bucks County

By Bob Oliver

Middletown Country Club

Middletown is a compact 80 acres of challenging golf, with rolling hills and large specimen trees that have watched many golfers travel its fairways over time. It has retained its old time feel with tees and greens in close proximity, allowing golfers to walk the course if they choose.

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Bristol's Wahal assumes Blue Bell head pro slot

Written by Bob Oliver on .

 

When Stephen Wahal Jr. gets to the workplace each day he sees beautiful fairways and greens.

 

It is not nirvana, though. Like most golf professionals, the closest he gets to playing the game on work days is being on the practice range when he's giving lessons or playing in an occasional pro-am.

 

The irony of the situation is that most head club golf pros simply don't have the time to play a lot of golf. It's sort of like the engraver at the Philadelphia Mint not getting a chance to spend all those greenbacks printed.

 

Golf professionals spend their days overseeing the activities of the pro shop, coordinating tournament play, meeting with vendors, and providing good old customer service. Appointment calendars are filled with budgeting, inventory and lessons - all of the things managers must do in their job whether at a company office or a pro shop. The only tee times he secures are, unfortunately, for others.

 

Still, Wahal wouldn't have it any other way. He's a man who loves his job even when the weather is perfect and the golf course is beckoning. The lifelong Lower Bucks County resident recently assumed head golf professional duties at the prestigious Blue Bell Country Club in Montgomery County.

 

"This is an outstanding opportunity for me," said Wahal, who began his new position Dec. 1 after 10 years at the Philadelphia Cricket Club and earlier Northampton Valley Country Club in Richboro. "Every club professional wants to oversee the golf activities of a club, and being able to do so here at Blue Bell is a dream come true for me."

 

Wahal grew up in Morrisville, a long-iron golf shot away from the Morrisville Golf Farm, and attended Bishop Egan High School. There he played competitively on the school's baseball team as a pitcher until he tore a rotator cuff and had to give up the game.

 

"I wasn't able to pitch any more, and after some recovery time I realized I could swing a golf club," said the current Bristol resident, who oversees all golf operations at Blue Bell, an Arnold Palmer Signature Course. "I thought I'd try out for the golf team."

 

It wasn't as if golf was foreign to Wahal. He had been playing the game for years with his father and grandfather at area layouts such as Middletown, Northampton Valley, Oxford Valley and Mountain View. He earned a berth on the Egan squad as a junior and formed a one-two punch with senior Greg Dymek as each captured All-Philadelphia Catholic League honors. Wahal repeated that feat in his senior year.

 

At Blue Bell, Wahal is developing a customer-oriented philosophy that places member satisfaction as job one.

 

"We strive for a top-notch pro shop and want to provide our membership with the best possible service," said the pro. "I learned long ago from [former head professional] Tom Borsavage at the Northampton pro shop that you can't do too much for your customers, and I've carried on that philosophy."

 

Wahal credits Borsavage with getting his club pro career kick-started.

 

"Tom had been through it, he saw my love for the game, and he gave me my first opportunity," Wahal said. "He guided me into the [PGA of America] program. He had been through it, knew the ins and the outs, and helped me greatly."

 

Wahal earned his Class A PGA Professional status from the PGA of America and is certified by several manufacturers as a club fitter.  

 

After working his way through the ranks at the Cricket Club, watching the club grow to a 45-hole enterprise, a member mentioned the Blue Bell opportunity. Head professional positions, especially at top notch clubs, don't come along often, so he threw his hat into the ring. Several in-depth interviews later it was realized that he and the club's management clicked.

 

These days he's getting the pro shop in order for the coming season, meeting the members and staff. Along the way he and wife Adrienne (of Bristol) welcomed daughter Kaylee into the world on Dec. 29. Talk about a juggling act, even with the recent fine weather there was no way for Wahal to due battle on the golf course.

 

"It's been an exciting time - a new job, a wonderful daughter - not a lot of time for sleep," Wahal said with a smile.