Chris Grandy retires after 42 years, has new ‘start’ at the Highlands
Shortly after he retired after 42 years of running the South Winds Golf Club in Southgate, Chris Grandy missed seeing golfers every day at the city-owned golf course. So he applied for another golfing job and was hired as a starter at Riverview Highlands Golf Club.
His wife Linda, a top golfer in her own right, went with Grandy to become part of a “package deal” at the Highlands, working in the pro shop and selling merchandise. Both new positions are part-time.
It didn’t take long for the Grandys to run into familiar faces and chat with long-time friends in the new location.
“The golf program has really grown here nicely,” Grandy said. “The course is in great shape. I have nice people to work with. It’s very stress-free. I’m really enjoying it.”
As director of golf operations and a Class A Michigan PGA pro for four decades in Southgate, Grandy often faced a seven-days-a-week job with long 15-hour days. In the last year during the COVID-19 global pandemic, he found himself doing most of the work, even sanitizing the portable restrooms and bathrooms to keep up with protocol.
So retirement wasn’t as tough a decision as it might seem.
“Life is short,” said Grandy, who turns 66 in July. “For all of those years, I watched people come out and play and be with their families and friends and I never got to do that stuff. It just hits you: I need to do that.”
In addition to running the course, Grandy provided lessons and oversaw pro shop operations.
“Golf was so intense – so busy,” he said. “We had tremendous revenue. We were up six digits from the previous year, which was a really good year. To work that hard seven days a week – all day, every day – it really made me think.”
Grandy never shied away from hard work. Lincoln Park High School friend Jack Moreno introduced him to golf at age 15. He remembers getting one par the first time he golfed and two pars the second time – and only lost by a couple strokes to Moreno.
“I was hooked,” he said.
Grandy remembers practicing “all the time,” then joining and winning a golf league. He played at other courses and then heard of a counter job opening in Southgate. He took the job, worked and played golf.
“I noticed how the operations ran,” he said, “and I thought I could do things differently.”
He made a proposal to the city to manage the course in 1978 and a career was born.
Grandy was a good player and knew how to teach golf, so he entered a PGA apprentice program. Five years later, he was a Class A PGA pro, which provided the credentials he needed. In addition to passing a 36-hole ability test, participants had to take business classes all around the country.
Grandy started the Southgate junior golf league, which drew up to 300 young golfers. Junior league players learned the game, grew older and got their own children involved in golf, starting the cycle all over again.
Grandy started a Frostbite Open golf outing, which became a mainstay on in the first weekend of December. He greatly increased leagues and outings at the course. In recent years, he started The Footie, a course designed for a game of golf played by kicking a soccer ball into 24-inch holes in a separate golf course layout.
One thing Grandy is proud of is his involvement in teaching golf to students at the Asher Alternative Education Program through Southgate Adult Education. He said graduates of the program still thank him for teaching them the lifelong sport.
“I felt I was able to make a difference in their young lives by introducing them to the history and the game of golf,” he said.
Grandy also faced budget challenges that required him to make cost reductions while providing “top-notch quality service to our golfers. At least in my mind, I was always able to pull that off.”
In addition to teaching golf to countless players, Grandy said the highlight of his career has been getting his family involved in the sport – and all became accomplished players. Wife Linda, whom he married in 1976, has won a women’s tournament in Taylor seven of the last eight years. These days, they play together in a couples league.
Sons Ben and Beau were captains of the varsity golf team at Gabriel Richard High School and Ben played at Cleveland State University. They each played their first holes of golf at age 3. Their dad was the teacher.
“I always felt I ran an operation that made people feel like family: playing at a course that welcomed them, that they could bring their family to and enjoy themselves,” he said. “I had people tell me that they liked playing here because they feel like part of the family. That’s a terrific feeling.”
In his quarterly column to residents, Southgate Mayor Joseph Kuspa thanked Grandy for his years of service to local golfers.
“Through the years, his commitment to this community and the sport of golf is unprecedented,” Kuspa said. “Best wishes to Chris on his well-deserved retirement.”
Grandy has been succeeded by the Davey Golf Company in management operations of South Winds. Grandy had brought Davey aboard to oversee maintenance operations. Now, the same company is running the entire golf course with Jeramie Lopez serving as manager.
Meanwhile, Southgate’s loss of Grandy has been Riverview Highland’s gain.
“Chris and Linda are a delight to work with,” said Riverview Golf Director Mike Kettler. “Chris obviously has experience, having dealt with Downriver golfers for the last 42 years. It was nice not to have to go into full-mode training with him. He has been very friendly with the golfers and always talking to them. It’s always nice to welcome a smiling face to my staff.”
Like Grandy, Kettler is a Class A Michigan PGA professional.
And like so many other Downriver golfers, Kettler got his start in Grandy’s junior golf program in Southgate.
“I played in the junior league when I was a kid,” Kettler said. “He probably doesn’t remember me because it was 30 years ago.”
Grandy said he is enjoying everything more these days.
“Riverview is the first place I considered,” he said. “I’ve played here. The people are really friendly. I’ve known Mike the pro. It’s close to home for us – just a 10-minute drive from Southgate.
“We’ve got new golf carts this year. There’s a nice successful busy driving range. We have got a massive size practice green and a great three-hole practice course. It’s such an ideal place for new golfers.”
As a starter, Grandy welcomes golfers, answers questions they may have about the course, verifies their tee times, keeps play moving and more. He’s still giving private lessons. Call (734) 231-5524 to learn more.
“I’m loving life,” he said. “It’s so great. Last year, I played one round of golf. This year, I’ve played 24. I’m working at Riverview Highlands as a starter. It’s really cool!”