Phillips retires from Lehigh Country Club - The Golf Association of Philadelphia

Apr 08, 2024

Phillips retires from Lehigh Country Club

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Lehigh Country Club, News

Long-time head golf professional leaves LCC legacy

“I remember driving down the driveway that day and just saying, ‘I did all I could.’”

Soft parting words from Wayne Phillips, Lehigh Country Club’s long-time head golf professional, on his retirement day. While nearly 40 years spent at Lehigh ended Dec. 31, his time in golf began as a junior.  

“I grew up caddying at Lancaster Country Club from age 10 on,” Phillips, 66, of Bethlehem, Pa., said. “When I was in high school, I worked on the grounds crew.” 

While taking advantage of evening playing privileges at Lancaster alongside his younger brother Ken, the Phillips boys sought out the area’s junior golf opportunities. Throughout their childhood, both played in several Lancaster County Golf Association events.

“Hard work was very important in our family growing up, and also just to treat people with respect,” Wayne said. “Being around a private club atmosphere like that was a perfect situation to grow up in.” 

While Wayne celebrates his retirement from nearly a lifetime of service to the golf industry, the Phillips family celebrates another milestone. On Dec. 13, Ken was elected GAP’s 35th President during the GAP Annual Meeting at Overbrook Golf Club.

“Kenny was always one who is such a generous person both with his time and everything else,” Wayne said. “He’s always wanted to give back as much as he could, especially to golf. Golf has been part of our lives forever. He’s competed competitively over the years and has been very successful in playing.”

Wayne is a 1975 graduate of Conestoga Valley High School. He played on the school’s golf team. Wayne said he placed eighth in the PIAA (Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association) Boys Golf Championships his senior year. Following graduation, Wayne attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), where he studied business administration and played on the golf team. During his time there, the Crimson Hawks earned Top-10 finishes in the Division II Men’s Golf National Championship (1977-79). Individually, Wayne said he earned honorable mention All-American honors his senior year (1979).               

“Growing up at [Lancaster], I always admired the golf professionals,” Wayne said. “It was something that I always strived to do.”

Following graduation from IUP, Wayne landed an assistant professional position at Brookside Country Club of Allentown. The opportunity was offered to him by Rick Rounsaville, a former assistant professional at Lancaster who later became the head golf professional at Brookside. 

“I was new to the business, so I basically worked in the bag room and pro shop, and engaged in some tournament activities,” Wayne said. “I taught very little during the first year because I wasn’t qualified to teach.”

Wayne continued to sharpen his game while at Brookside. In 1981, he won the Doylestown Open, an event annually administered by the Philadelphia PGA Section.  

Committed to advancing his career, Wayne began applying to clubs in Philadelphia, Pa. and the surrounding areas in 1982. In the spring that same year, he was offered a position at Lehigh as the teaching and playing professional. He would work under tenured Lehigh head golf professional Lane Creech. 

“Lehigh obviously worked out the best because we lived in Bethlehem and my wife Kathy was a school teacher in Washington, N.J.,” Wayne said. “Not having to move was key.”

Having already assumed the responsibilities of the position, Wayne’s title was changed to assistant golf professional at Lehigh in 1983.

Wayne, with a fervent desire to become a head professional someday, understood the value in having relevant experience in the position. In spring 1984, he left Lehigh and earned his first head golf professional job at the now defunct Mahoning Valley Country Club in Lehighton, Pa. Directing employees, running tournaments and maximizing the membership experience were all tasks under Wayne’s care. 

“When I went for the interview in the spring of 1984, they basically offered me the job that night,” Wayne said. “I wanted to make sure everyone was treated with respect and treated like a country club member.”

The Lehigh head golf professional opportunity materialized near Labor Day in 1986. Several rounds of interviews later, Wayne was back to his former home as head of the club’s golf staff.

“The membership here was supportive of me in those two years I was an assistant professional,” Wayne said. “I remember showering here in the locker room and getting dressed in a coat and tie for my first meeting as head golf professional and just how excited I was.”

Wayne has witnessed changes to Lehigh in the form of master plans designed to restore the course to its original William Flynn design. He recalls restorative work on the course on three occasions.

“The game of golf has changed so much, especially in the last 10 years. It’s become a game of power,” Wayne said. “Here at Lehigh, we’re kind of landlocked with things. We don’t have a lot of room for expansion, but the golf course has held up through even the power game.” 

Wayne looks fondly on the degree to which he and his staff treated everyone with respect and worked hard everyday to ensure a positive experience was had by everyone at the club.

“For 37 years, Wayne was an integral part of our golf community and Lehigh Country Club as a whole,” Lehigh Country Club’s General Manager Jennifer Felegy, 46, of Emmaus, Pa., said. “He will forever be remembered for the many golf traditions he executed. Wayne is well-respected within the golf industry and has created many meaningful relationships.”   

Golf remains an important part of Wayne’s life in his retirement. For starters, he assumed the title of golf professional emeritus at Lehigh. Wayne is also set on continuing to teach clients privately. Giving back to the golf community peaks Wayne’s interest. Offering tournament-operations support to nearby clubs and assisting GAP and the Philadelphia PGA Section with new adaptive golf initiatives are also in his plans. Although golf remains prominent even in retirement, there’s one aspect of Wayne’s life that takes precedent.           

“Number one of importance is to spend [a lot of] time with my family,” Wayne said. “I’ve neglected them to be honest over the years in trying to provide for them.”

While Wayne leaves Lehigh professionally, his memories, relationships and affinity for the club and its members remain with him forever.

Celebrating Amateur Golf since 1897, GAP, also known as the Golf Association of Philadelphia, is the oldest regional or state golf association in the United States. It serves as the principal ruling body of amateur golf in its region. The organization’s 345 Member Clubs and 110,000 individual members are spread across Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland. The GAP’s mission is to promote, preserve and protect the game of golf.

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