There may have been a few golf balls flying down the fairways and rolling into cups this week, but there seems to be just as much news in and around the game.
Even with the golf season not totally tucked away as the calendar year clicks off the final few days, there is plenty happening. As 2020 dawns in a few days, there will be some familiar faces who are moving on from their current positions in the Quad-Cities and a former prep standout who has decided to end his playing hiatus and get back in the action.
Mike Downing, head golf professional at Short Hills Country Club in East Moline, finished his run in that capacity on Sunday. He is taking a newly created position with the Iowa PGA Section as Director of Player Development/Director of Membership Development.
Ryan Sergeant, a former Moline prep who also played at Black Hawk College and St. Ambrose University, has decided to end his tenure as an assistant pro at Crow Valley Golf Club and enter the business world.
Kurt Slattery, who made a huge splash when he rallied to make the 2017 John Deere Classic field out of the Monday Four-Spotter qualifier, said he is ending his time away from the grind and looking to get back into playing professional golf.
Downing off to new position: Downing called it a “bittersweet” decision to leave the club at which he grew up and spent the last five years as head pro. However, the call to a new and exciting opportunity was just too much to pass up.
“In a nutshell, I'm the ambassador on behalf of the Iowa PGA Section and will go to all of the facilities in the section and help them implement programs to build junior golf and create a stronger network between the section and the golf professionals and facilities,” said Downing, noting this was part of the Iowa Section's strategic planning moving forward.
One of the draws to the new job, according to the 45-year-old, was more normal Monday through Friday hours. He said he was also excited about starting something from scratch – which also is a bit daunting. A tug was created by the fact that he will no longer have the daily interaction he enjoyed for years being in the pro shop. His new job will have him working out of his Bettendorf home.
“The ability to go in and help facilities and professionals, as well, do what they do everyday,” said Downing, who played at Black Hawk College and Western Illinois. “Whether that's build on their junior programs, ladies programs … kind of use my expertise over 20-some years and give back to the game.”
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Sarge into selling: A number of issues went in Sergeant making the decision to leave Crow Valley at the end of the year as also taking a different direction with the game.
“I like the golf business, I don't love it, though,” said Sergeant. “And I hate the hours. Trying to get an afternoon off to go to my niece's softball game is tough when it's not my operation. A weekend for a wedding just throws everybody in the shop under the bus.”
That led to him deciding to join Mel Foster and work in the insurance business.
“I just turned 30 and it was time to make a move,” said Sergeant, who is starting the process of getting his amateur status restored.
Slattery dusts off the sticks: After the 2018 season, Slattery lost the zest for chasing 300-yard drives and his dreams on the minor league circuits. While serving a self-imposed 18-month exile from playing competitive golf, the now 29-year-old never left the game. He has been working at Scottsdale National in Arizona and also spent the 2019 season caddying for Steven Ihm on the Korn Ferry Tour.
That will change in 2020.
“I'll be throwing my hat back into the competitive ring for the summer months,” he said in a recent text chat. “I'm looking forward to another chapter and this one will be filled with gratitude playing the game again. … That door isn't locked anymore.”
And it sounds as if he is looking forward to getting back at it and being able to find the right balance between golf and family.
“I'll chase some qualifiers and play in some opens,” said the 2008 Rockridge High School and 2012 Western Illinois University graduate. “I still have the game and got fully healthy; no shoulder or hand pain anymore.