Carlson has been the golf pro at the Syracuse course for 40 years now, and its owner, along with his wife, since 1986. But Carlson’s connection to the course goes back much further than that.
“Actually, as a youngster I came here with my dad in 1958 and played my first round of golf ever,” he said.
“I grew up in Syracuse and started as the assistant golf professional in 1969. I had that job for four months before I was drafted. Some years later the job for head professional came open in the spring of 1975 and I was contacted about it and ended up taking the job.”
Since that time Carlson has undoubtedly become a “Who’s Who” of area golfing communities. But it’s the interaction with all of the other “who’s” that gives Carlson a sense of enjoyment when he comes to work everyday.
“I think the people are what make this so enjoyable,” he said with a smile. “I love the game, I think it’s the greatest game ever invented. Being around all the people that we’ve been able to meet through the years has just been wonderful. Just being a part of the community has been really fun as well.”
The game has certainly changed since Carlson’s beginnings as pro in 1975 — and definitely since his first round in 1958 — but the enjoyment of meeting new people never grows old. Helping to introduce the game to new people every year for so long could not be done as well without such a great facility and the evolution of the course is something that definitely gets Carlson beaming with a sense of pride.
“Seeing the golf course progress and come into the modern age of technology, and still be a very good course, one that people love to come and play, that’s been great,” Carlson stated. “Being able to nurture it into that era is something that has been very gratifying.”
But, behind every great man there has to be an even greater woman, right?
Every step Carlson has taken in the past 43 years has been taken with his loving wife, Rena. When asked if she had been a part of the course as long as he had, Carlson did not hesitate.
“Oh my gosh, yes,” Carson said with a laugh. “She certainly is co-owner. I’m out front most of the time, but she’s the one behind the scenes taking care of all the things that make me look good.”
A now-jubilant Carlson continued, “We work well as a team. We tell a lot people that we’ve worked together for 40-plus years and they act surprised, but we have our system. She has her spot and her area and I sort of have mine and we don’t cross into the other territory unless asked. It works very well for us.”
For Bob and Rena, the day-to-day hassle that can certainly come with running a golf course does not even compare to the joy of being able to work together in a community that they both cherish.
“Being a part of the community is something that really is important to us,” added Carlson. “We host the Wawasee girls and West Noble boys golf teams and every other year we’re fortunate enough to host the Warrior Open. We get to host events for the chamber of commerce and a lot of others, like the Junior Achievement event, that help us do our part in helping the community. Being a part of the community and being able to help out has really been good.”
The Carlsons show no sign of slowing down, and it’s safe to say that the Wawasee community is as happy to have them as they are to have the community.