Two years ago, Jon Hoover got into the roofing business after 27 years as a golf professional.
Since then, Hoover has said the only way he would return to the golf business was as a teaching pro or at Otter Creek Golf Course.
Last week, the 1985 Hauser graduate returned to doing both of those things. He became general manager and head pro at Otter Creek.
“Otter Creek brings a passion that no other place brings,” Hoover said. “I grew up here. My father was a founding member. My mom would drop me off in the mornings, and my dad would pick me up in the evenings.”
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Hoover began his career in the golf business at Otter Creek after graduating from Ball State in 1989. After a year-and-a-half, one of the members who lived in Long Beach, California, talked him into taking a job at Virginia Country Club in Long Beach, where he spent three years.
Hoover then spent about a year-and-a-half at Marsh Landing Country Club in Ponte Vedra, Florida, before returning to Indiana and spending the next 15 years at Orchard Ridge Country Club in Fort Wayne, where he twice won Indiana PGA Merchandiser of the Year. He got into sales for Mizuno for a year-and-a-half, and while on the road, came up with the concept of creating own golf academy.
In 2009, Hoover started Wood Wind Golf Academy in Westfield. A few years later, he moved to Prairie View Golf Academy in Carmel. He won Indiana PGA Instructor of the Year once at each of those stops.
During the time he was at those two academies, Hoover spent six years as the boys golf coach at Westfield High School. He led the Shamrocks to state titles in 2013, 2015 and 2016 and finished second behind Columbus North in 2014.
“I grew up playing sports in Hauser always playing against Columbus North,” Hoover said. “Sure enough, (in 2013), we beat them, and we flip-flopped the next year. It was a lot of fun going back and seeing a lot of old friends and still going against Columbus North.”
But after the 2016 season, Hoover gave up his golf teaching and coaching jobs. He had a good friend who was a member at Orchard Ridge who had a window and roofing business, and they opened an Indianapolis division. In April 2017, Hoover went and managed the corporate office in Fort Wayne, while still managing the Indianapolis office.
Since then, Hoover has started his own roofing company but has a partner that is running it.
Last month, former Otter Creek and Harrison Lake Country Club pro Keith Clark, who is now the pro at Hillcrest Country Club in Indianapolis, contacted Hoover the gauge his interest about Otter Creek.
“I said I would always listen because my heart is here,” Hoover said. “I said if it makes Otter Creek better, I’d be more than happy to listen.”
So Hoover met with Otter Creek’s board of directors two weeks ago. He accepted the positions on March 3 and started working there March 5.
Hoover replaces Chad Cockerham, who had been Otter Creek’s pro for the past 22 years and GM for 14 years. Cockerham, who resigned at the end of 2017, stayed around to ease Hoover through the transition.
Golf course superintendent Cory Thayer and Daniel Fink, who works in the pro shop, also helped Hoover become reacquainted with Otter Creek last week.
“I think Chad did a fantastic job with Otter Creek,” Hoover said. “I’ve spent a lot of time talking with them and just listening and understanding some of the challenges.”
Thayer dealt with tough conditions at the course in 2016. Like a lot of area courses, Otter Creek was deluged with an excessive amount of rain in a short period of time that year.
Jeff Caldwell, president of the Otter Creek Golf Course Board of Directors, said 2017 was kind of a recovery year.
“The course healed a lot last year,” Caldwell said. “We’re looking to have a much better year from the get-go this year. We’ve made some small improvements over the winter.”
Hoover said Otter Creek has about 75 members with a season pass, which allows unlimited golf and use of carts and the practice areas. Another 175 have a players card, which is through a one-time purchase that allows reduced rates depending on when they play.
The players card numbers represent a slight decline over the past five years. Hoover hopes to reconnect a little bit with Columbus-area golfers and attract other golfers within a 90-mile radius.
“When I left here, Otter Creek was looked at as one of the premier facilities in the state,” Hoover said. “I’m trying to rekindle the fire. It’s such a fantastic golf course. I enjoy playing every day. Everybody can play it. It’s challenging, but it doesn’t beat you up. There’s so many neat characteristics.”
That includes the practice facility, which Hoover said is the best in the area. He hopes to bring more of an instruction atmosphere to Otter Creek.
Hoover said the club will look at providing quality service, as well as the golf shop, food and beverage and banquet facility. But the golf course remains the No. 1 priority.
“There’s a puzzle here that has answers,” Hoover said. “We just have to figure out what the plan is going to be, what the vision is for Otter Creek and how we’re going to execute it.”
Hoover said the board has been overwhelmingly supportive, and its interest in the community and Otter Creek is just as strong as his. Caldwell new leadership is always exciting, at least to get some new eyes involved.
Sitting in his new office at Otter Creek, Hoover recalled growing up playing there every day with friends like Matt Reams, Shawn Arterburn and the late Andy Critzer.
“You never get tired of this golf course,” Hoover said. “Even when I lived in California, I’d come home two or three times a year, and I couldn’t wait to get home and tee it up with the guys at Otter Creek. That’s how much I enjoyed it here.”
Name: Jon Hoover
High school: Hauser
College: Ball State
Occupation: General manager and head pro at Otter Creek Golf Course
Organizations: Lifetime member of PGA
Awards: Indiana PGA Instructor of the Year (2011, 2015); Indiana PGA Merchandiser of the Year (2000, 2005)
Family: Wife Michelle; adult children Noah and Trey