Sunday February 17, 2013

PITTSFIELD -- Berkshire Hills is keeping its head golf professional job in the family.

A little less than two months after learning that Josh Hillman was leaving, the club has hired his cousin, Mike Hillman, who had served as Josh's assistant professional.

A search committee interviewed other applicants, but in the end made the choice many -- especially the club's members -- expected.

"Mike had the support of a large number of members," said search committee member Tim Breen. "The committee received 40 or 50 letters of recommendation from them supporting Mike. Having worked here for four years, the members know him and what he is capable of."

Breen said the committee would have been comfortable hiring several of the others they interviewed but, "based on Mike's experience at the club, none of them made us feel they were more qualified. Giving his familiarity with us, this should be an easy transition."

The 28-year-old, as one would expect, is thrilled.

"I'm excited to start a new chapter in my career," Mike said. "I'm confident. I know the operation. I've had my hands in everything and have had great preparation for the job."

Josh Hillman, who left to become the head professional at Taconic Golf Club and golf coach at Williams College, prepared his cousin well.

"Josh let me take the reins. I'm grateful to him for coaching me up to be ready for this position," said Mike, who was given more responsibility than ever last summer at a time when the club's members were aware the job their head professional coveted was coming open and that his departure was a distinct possibility.

"Everyone knew that Josh was going to be one of [Taconic's] top candidates," Breen said. "It was good on Josh's part to get Mike out there with people at our club events and outside tournaments so that everyone could see that he could handle it."

"Josh runs an A-plus operation and I was taking notes," Mike said. "He had Berkshire Hills on the way up and I will work to continue that trend."

With most golf clubs in the Berkshires starving for younger members, Mike's youthful look -- he probably still gets carded if he orders an alcoholic beverage -- and boundless enthusiasm should be a plus.

"He has the youth and personality that can hopefully help us attract more young professionals into our membership," Breen said.

"I hope that knowing I'm a younger guy and will be here for years is a strength," said Mike, who has spent the winter working at the ski school at Vermont's Mount Snow. "I'm not looking to be here for just a few years. I'm looking to make this my home."

Speaking of youth, Mike, who earned his PGA Class A membership in 2008 and spent five winters working as an assistant in South Florida, will continue as the coach of the Taconic High School golf team and is also looking to boost both the club's junior and women's programs.

"There is a lot of potential here to get more women involved and we have a big pool of junior players," said Mike, who is currently close to hiring his assistant pro.

"Mike has run our junior clinics the past few years and our junior membership has increased significantly," Breen said. He's also run a ladies' clinic at night and is probably looking to expand on that."

To contact Richard Lord:
rlord@berkshireeagle.com
or (413) 496-6236