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Carrie DeGree makes her way as a PGA Professional – lucky us

by Candy Puterbaugh

For Carrie DeGree, the new PGA assistant golf professional at Royal Oaks Country Club in Vancouver, Wash., slope rating may refer to more than golf. It can also conjure up the slopes she skillfully skied near Bend, Ore. where she was born.

Carrie DeGree

Both golf and skiing are music to her ears. Add to that her years of playing violin, piano and viola, and it reveals a varied life.

Fortunately for the golf community, she carved her career path on fairways not slopes.

“If it wasn’t for my parents, I don’t know where I’d be,” Carrie says. “Thanks to them, my two younger sisters and I were always involved.”

She picked up her first golf club around age six. Her grandparents lived next to Bend Golf Club, which offered junior golf and a tournament every Monday morning. During summer, Carrie and her sisters took part.

“It was just something to do then, as both my parents worked,” she said.

Carrie has always found something to do. And does it well. That’s why her PGA peers recently voted her the 2021 Assistant Golf Professional of the Year by the Pacific Northwest Section PGA, the highest honor an assistant pro can get. She had received the Oregon Chapter Assistant award in 2017 and 2021, and so her name was put into the Section pool.

“I was a little surprised to win that,” she said. “I always think an award is for going over and beyond. For me, it’s every day involvement. I’m not better than any other assistant out there.”

But Carrie does go over and beyond. She is the Pacific Northwest PGA Education Chairman as well as an Oregon Chapter Board member. She serves the PNWPGA’s 1,200 members and associates through her extensive knowledge.

Growing up, Carrie was involved in soccer, track and volleyball as well as golf. “I was shy in high school,” she says. “My parents told me I was going to go out for golf. I had no choice. If it was not for them, who knows what path I would have taken.”

It was during her junior year spring break that she went with a friend to see Tim Berg, PGA, for a week-long lesson. At the time, Berg was the Director of Golf in Vallejo, Calif. “He told me I was good enough and convinced me to play college golf. I was recruited by Gonzaga University.”

Starting college on a music scholarship, Carrie played the viola in the Gonzaga Symphony during her first two years. “Golf was more important to me though, so I dropped music and then got a golf scholarship.”

As a junior she accepted a position at Manito Golf and Country Club in Spokane, where she worked for PGA Head Golf Professional Steve Prugh, later saying, “His leadership and guidance inspired me, and he talked me into going professional.”

She graduated with a business administration degree with a concentration on marketing, then started working for golf clubs, going through the pro schooling “the traditional way” all on her own. Moving to Lake Tahoe, she took on a first assistant golf pro and ski manager position for three years.

“I loved it but trying to do both of my passions – golf and skiing – gave me no time off,” she said. “I never saw my family and missed the Pacific Northwest.”

Back she came to Oregon for a job at Eugene Country Club, where she stayed three years.

“It changed my perspective,” she said. “We hosted the 2016 Men’s and Women’s NCAA golf championships, a $10.5 million clubhouse renovation, 2018 U.S. Senior Amateur, and the 2019 PAC-12 men’s championship. I learned a lot about the massive coordination of those tournaments, about food and beverage, and how to keep members happy.”

Her boss at Eugene, PGA Head Golf Professional Bill Morach, was key on encouraging his staff to add something to their resume every year, so she finished all four parts of a Certified Professional Program in four months – like getting a Masters in golf, she said. She read and researched on her own, and wrote four research papers – one of 23 assistant pros in the country to pass all four certifications.

Next stop in 2019:  Columbia Edgewater Country Club in Portland, where she was not only first assistant professional but director of junior golf, and handled all the club’s tournament operations with direction from PGA head pro Adrian Burtner.

“I worked behind the scenes with Adrian,” she said. “He led and I followed. I did all that I could to make his life happy! I was so fortunate to work with him. He allowed me to grow and play with members and be involved.”

What makes Carrie a good golfer? 

“I’m the last one to talk about myself and to say I’m good,” she says. “People are wary when they see I’m a pro, thinking I’m too good for them to play with. I just like spending time with other people who enjoy golf. I’d play every day with the members if I could. Columbia had a fantastic membership. I loved talking and listening to them, and enjoyed the walk. It was fun, it was outside, and I got to know members. They are invested in the employees as much as employees are invested in them.”

Life was bittersweet for Carrie in early April of this year as she worked her last day at Columbia Edgewater and, the next day, began a job as lead PGA assistant golf professional at Royal Oaks.

“I don’t know what I’d do with time off,” she said. “I like to work. I tell others, ‘If you have the opportunity to do something, do it!’ Travel? Do it! You can always work but try to get experiences besides work, too.

Good advice from someone who has already given so much.

Candy Puterbaugh has been a feature writer and award-winning humor columnist for The Community Press, a columnist for Boom! Boomers and Beyond, a writer for The Oregonian education page, and now writes for 50plus Magazine