After more than 25 years at Morgan Creek Golf Course – and more than 60 years in golf as a touring player and head pro – Wayne Vollmer is retiring to the 19th hole.
In a post on the South Surrey golf course’s website earlier this month – and in a newsletter that was emailed to club members – Vollmer, who has been at the club since it first opened in 1995, announced he would be retiring from his post as head professional and director of golf in the new year.
His last day will be Feb. 28.
“It’s hard after so long… and it’s so enjoyable, being here at the club, and I’ve enjoyed all the challenges, but it’s time,” Vollmer, 75, told Peace Arch News this week.
“I have lots of things I want to do.”
Though he admits some of his plans for retirement may have to wait due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – “It’s put sort of a question mark on when you can do anything,” he said – Vollmer and his wife Susan have plenty of ideas, nonetheless.
For starters, they’d like to spend more time with their family, especially their grandchildren, he said, while also noting that taking time to improve his fitness is one of his goals, as well, noting in his letter that “excuses will be much harder to come by” once he has more free time on his hands.
“The gym will be a big thing on my schedule,” he said.
Mostly, Vollmer said he’s excited to spend his first summer in decades doing, well, whatever he wants – including golf.
“I’ve never had a summer off in my life. We’re busy (at Morgan Creek) starting the first of March, and then it just goes solid the rest of the year. Even today (in the middle of December), we have about 165 players booked to play,” he said.
“So it’ll be nice to relax a little bit, and get out and play some golf. I still love playing the game, and to be able to just play a round of golf and not go running out to the first tee from your office, it’s going to be nice.”
Should he choose to, Vollmer will also have plenty of time to reflect on his career – one that’s included four years on the PGA Tour, rounds of golf with Arnold Palmer and rock legend Alice Cooper, and a handful of B.C. and Canadian championships, too.
He met Cooper in 2008, when the rocker, known for songs such as School’s Out and Feed My Frankenstein, was in town to play a Vancouver concert, and wanted to get in 18 holes beforehand.
Cooper is a well-known golf aficionado – he’s said focusing on the sport helped him kick other habits, such as alcohol and drugs – and had a connection to a Morgan Creek member through another course in the Phoenix area, where Cooper lives.
Vollmer remembers the round well.
“The first hole, he hit it down the left-centre of the fairway, and then hit a five-wood about three feet from the hole. That’s not an easy hole – he’s a pretty good player,” he recalled.
To hear Vollmer tell it, none of those experiences would likely have happened if not for a childhood friend who pushed him to sign up as a junior member at Vancouver’s Marine Drive Golf Club, which was just a few blocks away from where Vollmer grew up.
“I’d played (golf) a little bit with my dad, but I was also playing basketball, baseball, football and hockey. So I had a full life, and then a friend of mine who lived down the street, one day we were talking and he said, ‘Here, sign this form, we’re going to put in an application to join Marine Drive,’” Vollmer explained.
“And I said, ‘What? I don’t have time to golf.’”
Vollmer’s first year at Marine Drive was 1958, and he credits playing there – and learning from the bevy of talented members and pros there – with helping him improve to the point where he won a Canadian junior title in 1963 and then secured a golf scholarship to Arizona State University.
From there, he turned pro in the late 1960s and joined the Canadian Tour, winning his first-ever event, the Alberta Open. Next, after a third-place finish at ‘Q-school’ he earned his spot on the PGA Tour, where he spent the next four years, while also winning the BC Open in 1971 at his home course, Marine Drive – which Vollmer told PAN is one of the highlights of his career.
On the PGA Tour – which, he notes, was a far cry from the big-money enterprise it is today – Vollmer was thrown right into the fray: in his first-ever tournament, the 1969 L.A. Open (now called the Genesis Invitational) he was paired with Palmer for his third round.
“Saturday morning, 10:30 a.m.,” Vollmer recalled.
“He was a childhood idol, so getting paired with him, it was one of the highlights of my career. The fairways were lined (with fans) on both sides, every hole.”
He doesn’t remember the final number on his scorecard – “I didn’t finish first and I didn’t finish last,” is how he explains it 51 years later – but he does remember how much he won that weekend: $250.
“It wasn’t quite the business that it is now,” he laughed. “The total purse (for the tournament) was about $100,000 – first prize was $20,000 and it dropped pretty fast after that.
“It was tough (to make a living).”
The travel started to get to him, too, Vollmer admits. On the PGA Tour, golfers were typically on the road 45 weeks of the year, he noted. So before he turned 30, he decided to retire and return home to B.C.
“It was just a feeling I had. I just decided I didn’t want to travel, travel, travel anymore. It’s hard on you, and I wanted to settle down.”
After one year in the brokerage business, Vollmer was offered a job as a golf pro at a course in Prince George. He spent seven years there, before taking a job at Vancouver’s Point Grey Golf and Country Club, where he worked for a dozen years. He spent one year helping open Kelowna’s Quail Ridge course – which is now one of two courses that make up the Okanagan Golf Club – before taking the job at Morgan Creek.
In the years since, he’s been instrumental in growing the course into one of the province’s best, while also developing programs for golfers of all ages. In 2007, he was inducted into the BC Golf Hall of Fame.
“It worked out great. Golf has absolutely had a positive effect on my life. But now it’s just time to sit back and smell the roses a little bit, and just enjoy life with no schedules.”
Tee times excluded, of course.