On a Friday in January, Manito Country Club sent a release to its members that longtime pro Steve Prugh was retiring.
Roughly an hour later, Prugh took a phone call from Bryan Tunstill, pro at Columbia Edgewater in Portland and president of the Pacific Northwest PGA Section. Tunstill began by saying, “Steve, this is one of the most rewarding calls I get to make.”
Tunstill informed Prugh of his selection to the section’s Hall of Fame. Prugh was momentarily stunned. Busy with other duties, he’d completely forgotten he filled out the required paperwork for eligibility last July with the Hall of Fame committee.
“Quite an interesting day,” Prugh recalled earlier this week.
And quite an interesting career, which continues with Prugh actually playing more golf of his own these days and maintaining a teaching schedule of 15-20 hours per week.
The Hall of Fame ceremony was held last weekend at Inglewood Country Club in Kenmore, Washington. Prugh’s wife, Susan, daughter Hillary and one of his daughters-in-law attended.
“The boys (Alex, who plays on the PGA Tour, and Corey, a fixture in regional events) were out playing golf tournaments,” Prugh said. “Imagine that.”
Prugh was born in Detroit but his family moved to Spokane when he was 18 months old. The Ferris grad won the state championship in 1972. Corey, in 1999, and Alex, in 2003, followed in their father’s footsteps.
Prugh played for the University of Oregon and then started a pro career on mini-tours and in Europe, once advancing to the final stage of Qualifying School. He was having a fair amount of success but his outlook changed when Susan experienced a “difficult delivery” with Hillary.
“Her health and the child’s health were very much in peril but both came out happy and healthy,” Prugh said. “Literally on the way home from the hospital I said, ‘Susan, we’ve been living out of a suitcase. This is probably a sign to do something else.’ ”
“Something else” turned out to be joining Manito’s staff as an assistant pro under Jimmy Shriver. Three years later Prugh was promoted to head pro and he’s held the position for the last 33 years.
“Actually 47 straight years,” Prugh said. “I started working there when I was 13.”
He officially retired April 1. Gordon Corder was elevated from assistant to head pro.
Prugh has been asked many times why he stayed at Manito. He dabbled with a few other golf ventures along the way. Prugh and a partner considered buying Hidden Lakes (now the Idaho Club) near Sandpoint but the figures didn’t add up.
“Susan and I made the choice as far as the golf business goes to stay here because it’s such a great place to raise kids,” he said. “And the environment at Manito for kids was great.”
Prugh said he knew when it was time to step down.
“I love Manito and being at Manito but I can definitely say the last couple years I wasn’t on top of my game and doing the job as well as I’ve done it, whether it was energy or whatever,” he said. “I looked at Susan at the end of last season and normally I get a couple weeks and get refreshed and ready to go for the next year and I just didn’t have that feeling.”
Prugh, 61, has been an influential teacher for decades. At one point, he’d instructed 70 youngsters that went on to play college golf.
His secret? “Couple things. Kids for sure never care about how much you know until they know how much you care. I literally live by that,” he said. “And Don Hurter, a top-100 teacher, told me, ‘Steve, never stop learning.’ That’s the attitude I try to take.”
Prugh’s pupils read like a who’s who of the best to come through the region’s prep ranks.
“He’s been through everything on the golf course. He knows exactly how I feel at all times,” said Derek Bayley, whose 15th-place finish at the Pac-12 championships was the best by a Washington State freshman in program history. “It seems I play my best golf a couple days after seeing him, which tells me he doesn’t teach each person the same way. He gets his message across by giving the most simplistic things to work on.”
Prugh’s reduced work schedule will afford him time to see his two grandkids, catch a PGA event or fly fish, a pastime that has grown on him the last five years. He concluded an interview by saying he had some spare time and was planning to hit the range or work on his chipping. He’s trying to play three rounds a week, “which I’ve never done before.”
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