Our local golf community lost one its finest recently with the passing of Gene Carbery, the former head professional at Spokane Country Club.
Carbery died on May 31 at the age of 82 following a brief illness. Earlier this week, many of those he mentored and befriended during his long career gathered at the club to celebrate his life.
“It was nice hearing all the stories about Gene again,” said Mark Gardner, the head pro at The Creek at Qualchan and a former member of the junior golf program Carbery ran at SCC. “He was a special person and one of the really nice guys in our profession.”
Carbery, a Spokane native, spent most of his adult life in the golf business and served as the head pro at Spokane Country Club from 1963 until 1991, when he retired – sort of.
“He actually worked a couple of years after that for me,” said Les Blakley, who spent six years as Carbery’s first assistant at SCC before replacing him as the head professional. “You might think that would be awkward, but it wasn’t.
“Gene didn’t know what ego was. He never thought he was better than anyone else, so he never seemed to mind working under me. I kind of think he enjoyed not having to deal with the pressure of being a head professional any more.”
Still, during his many years as the top gun at Spokane Country Club, Carbery conducted himself in a manner that impressed those around him.
“He was everything a golf professional should be,” Blakley explained. “He was respectful to the club’s members, he was a good player, a good teacher and a good businessman. He possessed all the traits you would hope you would find in a golf professional.”
As young boys, Gardner and Indian Canyon head professional Gary Lindeblad both caddied at the country club under Carbery’s watchful eye. And they remember him treating them with just as much respect as he showed the club’s members.
“Except for those times when he would catch us sitting on top of that old ice cream freezer he had in the pro shop and B.S.-ing,” Gardner recalled. “Then he would shoo us all out of there.”
Lindeblad remembers hitchhiking to his caddy gigs at the club and how intimidating it could seem for a non-member like himself.
“But Gene would always make you feel so comfortable once you got there,” Lindeblad said. “He was just always so nice; just a perfect gentleman.”
Carbery, according to his son, Pat, had suffered from emphysema in recent years, yet his passing came as a bit of surprise to family members and friends.
“He couldn’t walk very far any more, but he wasn’t real sick,” Pat explained. “It just seemed like after Mom died, he gave up a little bit.”
Carbery’s wife, Dixie, whom he married in 1951, died in 2004.
Carbery continued to make regular appearances at the country club after his wife’s death, but had not been out this year.
“I just don’ think it was that much fun for him any more,” his son said.
Carbery had requested there be no memorial services for him, but Pat and his brother Mike were convinced by several local golf pros to hold the country club celebration of their father’s life. It took place on Wednesday.
“And I’m glad we did it,” Pat said. “It was really nice hearing the other pros and some of our members talk about Dad.”
Not surprisingly, the underlying theme of the Gene Carbery stories most of them told focused on his gentlemanly nature.
“Gene wasn’t a guy you described as 6-foot and 200 pounds, or anything like that,” Lindeblad said. “You just described him as a genuinely nice guy and true gentleman.
“And, unfortunately, the world keeps losing the very few guys like Gene who are still left.”