Roy Pace had a chance to live the dream for a decade, the ultimate experience for anyone who calls himself a PGA Professional. The Longview, Texas, native competed on the PGA Tour for 10 years, squaring off against the likes of Jack Nicklaus and Lee Trevino and making a decent living.
He won the 1971 Magnolia Classic, befriended stars of the game, including Trevino, and then went on to a rewarding second career as the PGA head professional at prestigious Wee Burn Country Club in Darien, Conn., where he mentored nearly 25 assistants who have become PGA head professionals in their own right.
But nothing has meant more to Pace in his career than where he is now, coming home to work with fellow PGA Professional Mike Williams as proprietors of Alpine Target Golf Center in Longview. Pace, Williams and Williams’ father, Chuck, run the facility that is something of a golfing oasis in the area, given the plethora of private courses and dearth of public access facilities.
“We’re here for everyone, for golfers of all walks and skill levels, and it’s been a real source of satisfaction,” says Pace, 68, who directs most of his energies to instruction. Pace, who played baseball and golf in school for the elder Williams, moved back to Longview about a dozen years ago to start Alpine Target Golf Center, which features a practice range, par-3 course and a six-hole practice course for kids. It is also home to a First Tee chapter, for which Pace acts as president.
“If you love to play golf and compete, then playing the tour is special. I made it, but I didn’t really make it big,” says Pace, who played in five U.S. Opens and the 1974 PGA Championship. “But golf has been good to me, and I wanted to do some things to make it better.
“I wanted to move back to Texas, and having a chance to buy the property and partner with Mike and his father, it’s really been great. I love the freedom to teach. If I’m on the range, I’m happy.”
“Coming from a real high-end private facility to what we have here, I’m sure was an eye-opener for Roy,” says Mike Williams, 55, a fine PGA teaching professional in his own right who has never left Longview and, therefore, is a perfect balance to Pace in understanding how best to service area golfers. “The mindset is a little different here, but Roy is a great teacher, really conscientious and hard-working. He is, without any question, a ‘professional’ in every sense of the word.” Pace, who earned a degree in mechanical engineering and played golf at Louisiana Tech University, also runs a golf school in Vero Beach, Fla., with another fine PGA teaching professional, Ted Sheftic. Teaching, if you haven’t guessed, is Pace’s biggest passion.
“I just want to make people better any way I can,” he says.
To that end, Pace not only devotes his time to The First Tee program — as well as a pro-am that helps raise money for it — but he also visits area elementary and secondary schools and teaches the physical education teachers the game so they can impart some golf instruction to their students. He’s even helped create educational “SNAG” equipment (Starting New At Golf) that is comprised of clubs, balls and targets to help turn playgrounds and schoolyards into makeshift golf practice facilities.
To further their youth movement, Pace and Williams developed the six-hole Wee Links course that features Astro Turf greens and 8-inch holes to promote fun for youngsters intent on learning the game.
“We take pride in what we do. I know the city takes pride in what we do,” Williams says. “I think Roy and I have been able to accomplish a lot of what we wanted to do here, which is make the game accessible for people, especially kids.”
“Absolutely, my focus is to grow the game through kids,” Pace says. “You have to get them involved early or you’re going to miss them entirely, and that would be a shame because golf is such a great activity – for a lot of different reasons, from the core values to the challenge and recreational benefits.
“I’m slowing down a bit now, but this keeps me sharp,” Pace adds. “I mean, I’ve pretty much had a chance to do it all, and it’s been enjoyable, but this has been the high point of my career by far.”
Source: PGA Magazine