By Greg Echlin, PGA Championship Journal
What stands out to Mike Scully more than anything else in his three years as the PGA head professional at Medinah Country Club is the membership's savvy when the time comes to do something big. Having grown up in nearby Mt. Prospect, Ill., Scully was already aware of the impressive events that had taken place at Medinah in his lifetime ("How can you not be?" he says) -- the 1975 and 1990 U.S. Opens, the 1999 PGA Championship -- but had yet to experience what it took behind the scenes to prepare for those major championships.
Now that he has tasted the other side, Scully says, "The communication with the villages, the towns, the townships, the state, all of those details have been worked out. It's the behind-the-scenes workings that nobody really thinks about -- parking venues, access roads -- and their planning sessions have gone right on the schedule. The members, and the various committees on which they serve, are on their game."
As an imposing figure, this 6' 5?", 265-pound former football lineman -- with a firm handshake that suggests he is still in great physical shape -- doesn't shy away from challenges. Especially not by the prospect of moving from his position as the PGA head professional at The Forest Country Club in Fort Myers, Fla., to accepting a similar post at Medinah, knowing the club had the PGA Championship already marked on the calendar for August 2006.
"Obviously, you want to be the head professional at a facility like this," says Scully from his office in Medinah's golf administration building, newly constructed since he came on board. "No. 1, it's Medinah. Getting to work for these members every day, but also to be host professional for events like this, it's great for your resum?, it's great for your career, it's all things in one. It is an unbelievable experience."
With a college degree in hospitality management, Scully was unsure of his career path after a short stint in professional football. While working at his father's Chicago steel company, he dabbled for a couple years in coaching close to home at Buffalo Grove High School under his former high school football coach, Rich Roberts. But it didn't take Scully long to figure out that coaching football was not his bag.
By the time he turned 30, Scully realized he needed to change his line of work before he found himself, as he put it, "in a regretful situation."
Knowing that his father, John Scully -- now 66, retired and often as a 4-handicap beating in his son's brains on the golf course -- spent a considerable amount of time in Florida, Mike Scully decided to look for a job at a golf facility "doing something."
At The Forest, the first place where Scully applied, the first person he met was the one he now stamps as his mentor, Jim Butler, the PGA director of golf there.
When Scully expressed his interest in a food and beverage position, Butler instead inquired about Scully's interest in a position as an assistant golf professional.
"My vision of a golf professional was Jack Nicklaus, the Arnold Palmers. I had known the club professionals, but I had never shot in the 60s," says Scully, who soon learned that Butler had not shot in the 60s either for years and years.
With an entry-level salary ($18,500 annually) and a 90-hour work week, Scully accepted the job as a fourth assistant. After one week of work, Scully declared he was hooked.
Scully zipped through The PGA of America's challenging Golf Professional Training Program and was elected to PGA membership in 1999. Three years later, content as he moved up the ladder to become the PGA head professional at The Forest, Scully had it written in his multiyear contract that the only other club he would consider leaving for before his contract was up was Medinah.
"I'm a huge believer in fate," says Scully. That clause was prompted by Scully's first visit to Medinah as an adult in 2002 to address around 120 members about joining The Forest for a winter membership. From that visit, Scully absorbed everything about the operation under his predecessor, PGA Head Professional Mike Harrigan.
Not only has fate taken him home, but so has the open-armed welcome by others such as Michael Miller, the executive director of the Illinois PGA Section.
"I think he has been a great addition to the section," says Miller. "I know he has been very involved since he arrived at Medinah for the (PGA) Championship, obviously. He also has picked up a pretty active role in getting involved in the various community events."
Scully's goal for members and guests who walk into Medinah is to knock them off their feet every day. Like the club members who have been diligently preparing for this week's PGA Championship, Scully is on his game.
Greg Echlin is a free-lance writer originally from the Chicagoland area.
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