July 4, 2009 in Sports

Hite knows how to get the most out of drives

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Head golf professionals are not simply ordained.

Most find their way to the top only after serving extended stints as assistants. The money isn’t great, and the hours can be brutal.

But it’s hard to imagine any of those in our region paying bigger dues than Andy Hite, now in his 11th year as the head pro at Dominion Meadows Golf Course in Colville.

Hite, who grew up in Kettle Falls – where he still lives with his wife, Laurie, and the youngest of their three sons, Shelby – launched his quest to become a PGA Class A profes- sional in 1994 when he hired on as an assistant under Bob Scott at Liberty Lake Golf Course.

While Hite enjoyed the working environment there, the job did have its drawbacks – such as having to get up at 3:30 a.m. and make the 102-mile drive from Kettle Falls to Liberty Lake each day during the summer.

Those predawn commutes, he said, were killers – literally.

In fact, Hite might have done more to thin out our region’s wildlife population during his three years at Liberty Lake than some avid hunters do in a lifetime.

“I hit three deer, a bear and a parked pickup truck making that drive,” he said. “It was tough on me, and my cars.”

According to Hite, he hit the three deer and the pickup with the same vehicle – a Chevrolet Celebrity that hardly satisfied his fascination with “anything that goes fast” but got good gas mileage. The bear he hit with his Dodge Stealth, a sleek sports car better suited for speed, but one he rarely drove to and from work.

Hite repaired his Celebrity after his first encounter with a deer, but lived with the damage after hitting the second and third.

He totaled the car when he ran into the pickup, which had been stolen and abandoned on the highway near the small town of Addy.

“Whoever stole it had parked it sideways in the middle of road,” Hite said. “And I came up over the hill in the dark and T-boned it.”

After leaving Liberty Lake, Hite spent two years as an assistant at Painted Hills, continuing to make the long drive from Kettle Falls.

Even as recently as three years ago – despite having settled in at Dominion Meadows – Hite was still making an occasional commute to Spokane to help out at Indian Canyon Golf Course while the head pro there, Gary Lindeblad, was undergoing cancer treatments.

“I tend to put a lot of miles on cars,” Hite said, adding that he owns nine different rigs.

“I park some of ’em in the backyard, some of them in the front, and some I loan out for other people to drive,” Hite said.

Among Hite’s collection of vehicles are a Dodge Ram SRT-10 pickup that is powered by a Viper engine capable of producing 650 horsepower and a Jeep with a Chevrolet V8 engine and big tires that he uses as his “rock-crawler, hill-climber.”

He also owns a four-wheeler, a motorcycle and a ski boat, and in his younger days raced a hand-built 1958 Volkswagen with a 468 big block Chevy engine – known as The Black Widow – at Spokane Raceway Park and other tracks throughout the Pacific Northwest.

“I waste all my money on toys,” Hite said. “I don’t have any kind of retirement fund, because I’m stupid. But if I die tomorrow, I’ll probably be the only golf professional in the area to die completely happy, because I did all I could to enjoy all I’ve got.”

Not only is Hite wired a little differently than your typical golf pro, but he is built differently.

He is quick to admit that his stocky 5-foot-10 frame – which comfortably carries 225 pounds – has served him well, both as a linebacker on his high school football team and as an enforcer of sorts during his three-year stay at Liberty Lake.

“Whenever there were guys who were acting up or getting rowdy out on the course, Bob would always send me out to deal with them,” said Hite, who was a bit of a hellion while growing up.

He still laughs when thinking back to his high school days when a “hippie” English teacher was threatening to suspend him from the football team for “mouthing off.”

The threat prompted Hite to bring in a 400-pound Siberian tiger from the Kettle Falls Game Farm his parents operated and lock it in the same school room with his English teacher.

“I knew he always ate his lunch at his desk, so I put the tiger in the room and then held the door shut while all my football buddies were watching through the window,” Hite said. “One of them came and held the door so I could look in.”

By then, the tiger had the terrified teacher pinned in a corner butting his chin with its head, so Hite had to scramble to the rescue and subdue the spirited feline.

“I got in big trouble for that – a two-week suspension, if I remember right,” he said.

Not surprisingly, it was the power aspect of golf that first hooked Hite, who made it to the finals of the National Long-Drive Contest in 1991 and 1992.

His longest drive on record is the 393-yard rocket he launched during a regional qualifying event in Chico, Calif.

“I’ve just always been able to hit the ball a long way,” Hite said, adding he is much more at peace with the game of golf than he was as a youngster.

“I haven’t played much golf lately, but I’ve been playing well when I do get out,” he said. “I think I’ve matured throughout the years to the point where I’m not expecting to go out and shoot real low scores anymore.

“The way I figure, I don’t deserve to get mad at the game when I don’t put in the time.”

These days, the one-time hell-raiser seems perfectly content working 65-hour weeks as the only paid employee at Dominion Meadows.

“The reasons I’m happy up here are the people and the quality of life,” he said. “I raised a family here and just wanted to stay. The membership here is the best around.”

And the 12-mile commute from Kettle Falls to Colville isn’t bad, either.

Steve Bergum can be reached via e-mail at steveb@spokesman.com or by phone at (509) 475-9689


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email