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Boston Globe Article - June 11, 1998

Still Following Their Dream       (By Paul Harber, Boston Globe Staff, 06/11/98) 

Bill Flynn is a creature of habit. You can almost set your clock by the movements of the newest member of the New England PGA Hall of Fame. 

Still following their dream 

"For entrepreneur Bill Flynn, working hard is just par for the course"

                  By Paul Harber, Globe Staff, 06/11/98 

 Bill Flynn is a creature of habit. You can almost set your clock by the
 movements of the newest member of the New England PGA Hall of Fame. 

 He can be found at dawn in his office in North Reading. He and his assistant,
 Joanne Christopher, work their way through a mountain of paperwork. There
 are orders for golf equipment, bills to be paid, requests for proposals, and
 telephone calls to return. 

 Once that has been accomplished, Flynn enters his mobile office, a huge
 white Cadillac. He spends more time on the highway than any other golf
 professional, piling up thousands of miles on the odometer visiting his golfing
 domain. 

 If it is 10 a.m., Flynn is pulling into the parking lot of cozy Lakeview CC in
 Wenham. This is the first course he purchased more than 25 years ago. It is
 a wonderful beginner's layout. The holes are short and the fairways are wide.
 His son Michael heads this division of the Bill Flynn Golf Course Management
 and Development Company, which owns three courses and manages two.
 Many golfers started here and have gone on to some of the best private
 courses on the North Shore. 

 Before noon, Flynn and Christopher are in West Boxford where he meets
 another son, Bob, the director of golf at Far Corner CC. This is one of the
 better public courses in Massachusetts. Recently it expanded from 18 to 27
 holes and is the home of the North Shore Amateur. 

 In the early afternoon, the white Cadillac crosses the New Hampshire border,
 where Flynn drops in on his daughter, Joanne, the head pro at Windham CC,
 the company's most recent acquisition. Like Far Corner, Windham is a top
 public course. Golf Digest ranks it as one of the top 10 courses in the Granite
 State. 

 Later in the afternoon, Flynn heads to Boston. He surveys the William Devine
 Course at Franklin Park with head pro George Lyons. From there, Flynn goes
 to Hyde Park and inspects George Wright GC and meets with Don Lyons. 

 ''I usually talk with the superintendents,'' said Flynn. ''If there are problems
 with the turf, any diseases or so forth, I see how it's coming along. If there is
 any vandalism, I usually check it out. Then I meet with our professionals and
 discuss how the operation is going along.''

 Besides these regular stops, there are occasional detours on his appointed
 rounds. He has been hired to design and assist the development of a
 nine-hole course, Tewksbury CC, which should be opening any day. He will
 also make stops at the Massachusetts Golf Association offices in Needham
 or the NEPGA headquarters in Boylston at Cyprian Keyes GC, if it is
 warranted. 

 By the time Flynn returns to the office in North Reading, it is early evening. It
 is a long day for Flynn, who follows this routine seven days a week without
 vacation. And he loves it. 

 ''When I was a young girl, my father was hardly ever at home,'' said Joanne.
 ''He was always working.'' So what did the Flynn children do? They followed
 him into the business. 

 ''I began picking up balls at the Thomson Club when my father was the pro
 there,'' remembered Bob. 

 ''I would pretend to be his caddie and ride in the golf cart with him when he
 played in tournaments,'' said Joanne. 

 They literally are following in their father's footsteps. Bill Flynn began as a
 caddie at the old United Shoe Golf Course in Beverly, working under Tom
 Mahan, who will be posthumously inducted into the NEPGA Hall of Fame in
 October along with Flynn and Les Kennedy of Pawtucket (R.I.) CC. 

 Flynn became a caddie to earn a few extra dollars, but he fell in love with the
 game and never left it. He has done it all at the golf course, working his way
 up to shop assistant, to caddiemaster, and assistant professional. 

 He eventually became a head professional, and then, in 1974, began buying
 his own golf courses. All of his success can be attributed to hard work. 

 Ask Bill Barclay, the retired head professional at Salem CC about Flynn. 

 ''He was working over at George Page's public course in Lynnfield as an
 assistant professional when I first met him,'' said Barclay. ''He impressed me
 with his dedication and professional manner. I wanted him on my staff. So I
 called George and told him I wanted to hire Billy, and George said he would
 hate to lose him, so he tried to match the offer.'' But Barclay offered him a
 position he couldn't refuse. 

 Flynn replaced former Boston Celtic Bob Brannum, and his responsibilities
 were to run the first tee at one of Massachusetts's most prestigious clubs.
 ''That's a sensitive position,'' said Barclay. ''Emotions can run rampant with
 golfers as they head to the first tee, but Billy was always a diplomat and did
 very well keeping everybody happy. Folks still remember him and like him.
 That's why he was offered the position of head pro at the Thomson Club. He
 was one of the hardest-working staff members I ever had. He was a real
 go-getter and worked many jobs at Salem.''

 During the winter, Flynn would work in the kitchen to help support his family
 during those early years. It is a wonder he had time to practice his golf game.
 Despite a partially paralyzed left arm, Flynn was one of the best left-handed
 golfers ever to come out of New England. He won the Massachusetts Open in
 1964 and the New England PGA in 1968, as well as the Vermont Open in
 1959. He has qualified and played in several major championships, including
 the US Open and the PGA Championship. 

 ''I think it actually helped my swing,'' said Flynn. It certainly didn't hold him
 back. And neither did a stroke he suffered last winter. He was slowed down,
 but he continues to make his appointed rounds. 

 Flynn was never one to sit back, and he was a leader within the New England
 PGA for many years. He served as president of the New England section and
 held several national offices. He hasn't forgotten his roots, either. He
 continues to give back to the community, bringing more and more youngsters
 into the game every summer - hoping some of them find golf the springboard
 it was for him. 

 At George Wright GC, for example, Flynn and his head pro, Don Lyons,
 without fanfare, have been giving free instruction and tee times to Boston
 youngsters every Monday during the summer for many years. He and the
 MGA operate summer camps at Franklin Park for inner-city youths. At
 Windham CC, youngsters from Lowell are bused to the course during the
 summer for exposure to the game. And there is the huge summer program at
 Lakeview as well. 

 If Flynn is known for anything, it is George Wright GC. While Donald Ross
 gets credit for building the wonderful municipal course, Flynn must get credit
 for saving it. 

 It was in terrible condition in the late 1970s. The city of Boston, gripped in
 financial problems, had given up on the course. Conditions were deplorable,
 so embarrassing that Boston leased the course to the MGA for a nominal fee.
 The MGA went to Flynn, who turned the course around. When Flynn entered
 the picture, George Wright GC was a drain on city coffers. Today, it is a
 source of revenue as well as a recreation facility. The same can be said about
 the Devine course at Franklin Park. 

 ''Bill Flynn knows golf,'' said Don Lyons, who has worked for Flynn since
 1980, first as an assistant at Thomson and later at George Wright. ''He has
 worked every job that there is in the business and he knows how to run a
 facility. He is not some management company that comes in with a ledger
 and tries to make things work. He knows what makes golf courses
 successful and that's what he did here.''

 For his devotion to junior golf, and his work in bringing back the two Boston
 courses, the Massachusetts Golf Association presented him with its highest
 honor, the Frank H. Sellman Award for Distinguished Service. 

 Making his daily rounds is only one of Flynn's habits. Another involves the
 entire family. Every Sunday night there is a family dinner at his home. ''Of
 course, the conversation is golf,'' said Bob. ''We go over what we have
 accomplished and what we want to get done. It's more like a business
 meeting than a family function. But we wouldn't want it any other way.''

 Said Joanne, ''We always knew our father worked hard. But I really didn't
 understand the scope of his work and I never had an appreciation for what he
 did until I got into the business.''

 ''Everybody outside the business thinks being a golf professional is a glory
 position,'' said Bob. ''They think it's playing golf and having a wonderful time.
 But it is a lot more than that. It is a lot of hard work and long hours.''

 Hard work and long hours? Flynn wouldn't want it any other way. 

 This story ran on page D10 of the Boston Globe on 06/11/98. 
                   Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company. 


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