Tee to Green: How Erik Tiele ended up back at Waubeeka
The 48-year-old has recently been named the head professional at Waubeeka Golf Links, returning to the job he held between 2000-07 and completing the Taconic Golf Club-to-Worthington Golf Club-to-Waubeeka cycle for the second time.
"Rick told me never to burn any bridges," said Tiele, whose return to the Williamstown has been well-received by the club's longtime members.
"I am very lucky and fortunate that I was able to get him to come back," said Waubeeka owner Mike Deep. "Erik is very well-liked and respected. Everyone here who knows him is very, very happy about this."
Tiele replaces Drew Keaffaber, who Deep praised for doing a "great job" in his year as the head professional. Deep said Keaffaber's departure was a mutual decision, with the pro's need to spend more time with his family a deciding factor.
The timing of the job offer to Tiele — within a few weeks of opening day at Worthington, along with the pro's loyalty to the club and its members — didn't make it an easy decision, even though Waubeeka is a bigger and more complete facility.
"We'd just had a board meeting the night before Mike called me, and I said 'my God, couldn't you have given me a little time?," Tiele recalled telling his longtime friend.
After talking about the job, Tiele said he would take it under two conditions: the first of which was that he wanted to be able to help Worthington make a smooth transition before his departure.
"The tough part was the timing. I told Mike I didn't want to leave Worthington hanging," Tiele said. "The board has been very understanding. It's always tough to leave friends, but luckily enough, things worked out."
Fortunately, for all concerned, the Hampshire County club has hired former Wahconah High School star Jon Jewell, who spent this past golf season as the golf shop manager for Matt Morrison at Wahconah Country Club, with the help of Jim Underdown of Underdown's Golf in Pittsfield.
The second condition for accepting the job regarded having an employee-worker relationship with a friend.
"I told him, 'Mike, we've been friends for 25 years and now I am your employee and I want to make sure that when there are times when we don't see eye-to-eye that we each take it with a grain of salt and remain friends,'" Tiele said.
That promise agreed to, a handshake sealed the deal.
Tiele isn't the only friendly face returning to Waubeeka. Mark Mills, who was the club's do-it-all general manager under previous owner Jim Goff, has returned to run the restaurant operation after several years at Greylock Bowl.
Tiele, Mills, course superintendent Brian Bartlett and general manager Vicki Richardello give Deep an experienced team at a time where much of the owner's energy is focused on his efforts to find investors to build an inn and conference center on the property.
The opportunity to replace Tiele came out of the blue for the 23-year-old Jewell.
"I had three houses to build with my dad this summer," said Jewell, a 2011 Wahconah High School graduate. "This came as a surprise."
But certainly a pleasant one.
"I'm very excited and glad to be at Worthington," said Jewell, who earned All-Eagle honors after leading the Warriors to a perfect regular season during his senior year in the fall of 2010.
After graduating, he spent 18 months attending the Professional Golfers Career College in Winter Garden, Fla. Jewell believes that educational experience along with last summer's job at Wahconah have helped prepare him for his new job.
"I think the golf shop manager job prepared me pretty well, but it is a pretty big step to be pretty much on your own," Jewell said.
Tiele believes Jewell has landed in a great spot.
"Worthington is a perfect job for someone looking to get a career started," said Tiele of a relatively small club known for its active membership.
Jewell said Tiele has been helpful in the transition.
"Erik has been helping me get to know all the members," Jewell said. "It's hard after being at Wahconah all my life."
Jewell reports that the course he will now call home has weathered the winter well.
"We had no winter kill and the course is in excellent shape," he reported.
While we are beginning a new golf season, it's also appropriate to look back and offer congratulations to four Berkshire County professionals that were honored in a vote of their peers for their work in 2016.
Wyantenuck Country Club's Tom Sullivan, who has been ranked as high as No. 2 as the top teacher in the state by Golf Digest, was named the 2016 Golf Professional of the Year, while Eric Mabee of the Country Club of Pittsfield was named the Teacher of the Year, Taconic Golf Club's Andy Treen the Assistant Professional of the Year and Taconic's Josh Hillman the Merchandiser of the Year.
Last fall, CC of Pittsfield's Mabee qualified for this June's PGA National Professional Championship with an impressive victory in the Northeast New York PGA Section Championship. It turns out he won't be making the trip alone.
Taconic's Hillman, who finished third in the NENY tournament, recently found out that he has gotten into the field for the tournament in Sunriver Resort in Bend, Ore., as the seventh alternate.
To contact Richard Lord: 413-281-2226.
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