After serving 41 years as head golf professional at Hickory Hills Golf Course, John Olson is retiring.
The new pro at the 9-hole Brownstown course is Lyle Lingenfelter.
Lingenfelter began his career as a golf pro as an apprentice at Rea Park in Terre Haute when he was a student at Indiana State. His wife was in the Air Force in Shreveport, La., so Lyle moved to Shreveport and worked as an apprentice at Shreveport County Club.
He was an apprentice there for two years, and when the head pro left, he became the head pro for seven years. From there, he moved to Rochester, Ind. to be head pro at Round Barn Golf Club, formerly called Mill Creek. He was there 2002-2021.
“Then I was kind of burned out with golf a little bit,” he said, and left the sport for a couple of years. “I had been doing it for 30 years.”
He was boy’s golf coach at Rochester High School for 10 years.
He said he then went to work for Clint Payton, a life-long friend.
“We’ve known each other since elementary school, grew up playing golf together. So I sold cars at Payton Place for two years, and I wanted to get back into golf, but my wife didn’t want to move again,” he said. “So, I was hoping something would come open around here and this one sounded very interesting. So I sent in a resume. Adam Sparks called me and asked if I was interested and I did an interview with the board. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”
He starts at Hickory Hills this Saturday.
“John has been great, too, just helping me understand the processes of it. He’s been here 41 years and there is just a wealth of knowledge there,” Lingenfelter said of Olson. “A lot of things have been done a particular way for a long time, so I’m a big believer in not coming in and changing a bunch because maybe it was done that way for a reason. He’s been a big help and I’ve enjoyed being around John.”
“He’s going to be here doing a lot of the hard work, like cart maintenance, the irrigation, spraying, stuff like that,” Lingenfelter added. “He’d kind of had both of those duties for years, and that will free me up to do more lessons and fitting and things like that.”
Lingenfelter said he plans to get a feel of the membership, and how the course operates, before he makes any changes.
“The board had mentioned possibly, at some point, getting a simulator,” he said. “I think that would be a great goal. I know, from a personal preference standpoint, it would be great to have a practice green somewhere other than where the current one is located. The board had mentioned they are working on a practice area between two, three and six, and eventually maybe doing a driving range. So all of those things would benefit the players in the long run.”
Lingenfelter expanded on those potential changes.
“I would love to have the simulator to be able to do stuff in the wintertime, to teach and to fit, and get activity in those months when there is really not much going on,” he said. “The practice areas, I think, are huge to developing players and giving people, who maybe don’t have time for a round or when the course is busy, an ability to go and spend time at the club.”
He would like to see more junior golfers at the club.
“You can never have too many juniors. I have traditionally started the junior program, where I have been, at about 8 years old. I understand John has stated as young as three. I have been in touch, not only talking to John about it, but with Roger Lundy with the IGA, as to how I can do some things suitable for 3-year-olds, just because I’ve never done it with kids that young.
“You’ve got to have stuff for them to do that’s enjoyable so they don’t get bored.”
Hickory Hills has the ladies league on Tuesdays, men’s league Wednesday, men’s league Thursday, and couples on Friday.
“So it’s very active there,” Lingenfelter said. “I understand the Thursday group is very large.”
“This time of year is my favorite time, high school golf season. A lot of time there are not a lot of other people around. Its rainy today and they’re out practicing. So you always have a captive audience and generally those are the guys that are really wanting to get better, and I just love being around people that want to get better.
“A lot of times when someone gets a little older, maybe the competitive aspect or the desire to get better is not as important as just spending time with friends. That’s great too, but there is something about being able to talk to someone about how they can get better and then seeing the improvement, and seeing their reaction to that is a lot of fun.”
Lingenfelter said when the various clubs and organizations at school, and clubs and organizations around the community have their fundraisers, those events will receive a lot of attention. “Those are fantastic for the golf course as well.”
He said the membership at the club has increased in recent years.
“The future looks bright here and just a great golf course,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed being out on it and I haven’t even played yet. I’ve gone out and hit a few shots. It’s got a great look and a great layout and nice contours. The whole area is just nice.”