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John Carmichael remembers when Tony Clecak first took the golf professional job at Harrison Lake Country Club in 1974.
As he had become accustomed to doing the seven previous years as pro at Long Meadow (Mass.) Country Club, Clecak wore long-sleeved shirts and ties. The members at Harrison Lake encouraged him to loosen up a little.
Clecak stayed at Harrison Lake for 25 years before initially retiring in 1998. Last week, the 82-year-old Columbus resident learned that he will be inducted into the Indiana Golf Hall of Fame.
“He was the consummate golf professional,” Carmichael said. “He was a great teacher. He was a great organizer of tournaments. He was a true ambassador of golf, and Columbus was the beneficiary for many years. He always wanted to do things the right way, and the right way was first class.”
Clecak, who will be inducted next November, was surprised by the honor.
“I didn’t anticipate it,” Clecak said. “As you get a little older, you feel your time is going to be limited. I had been nominated once before. When (current Harrison Lake pro) Keith Clark called me, I was shocked. I’m very grateful and very humbled. It’s a great honor for me.”
During his time at Harrison Lake, Clecak saw the club grow to 400 golfing members and 325 social members. He instructed 28 Columbus North golfers who went on to play college golf.
“The golf course became better and better,” Clecak said. “I saw the golf course evolve from a smaller club to one that was just outstanding when I retired.”
Carmichael, who is retiring from Delta Faucet at the end of this week and will be assistant coach for the North boys in the spring, worked for Wilson Sporting Goods, selling equipment to pro shops, when Clecak first came to Columbus.
“I called on Tony,” Carmichael said. “He was a real taskmaster, very specific about what he was willing to buy. He was ahead of the game in club-fitting. He believed players needed longer irons than people were making.”
Clecak was a member of the PGA Tour in 1972-73, played on the PGA Challenge Cup and PGA Senior Challenge Cup teams and won the 1990 Indiana Senior PGA Championship. He is a Master Professional and has won several Indiana PGA awards and was named one of Golf Digest’s Top 100 Teachers in America in 2000.
“He’s held in such high regard not only at Harrison Lake and the city of Columbus, but around the state and outside Indiana,” Carmichael said. “He’s been an excellent teacher, and he loves the game. He just wants to stay connected with golf.”
Clecak held the course record of 64 at Harrison Lake for more than 20 years until former Indiana University and current PGA Tour pro Jeff Overton broke it this fall with a 61.
“(Clecak) still comes out and plays with us on Friday afternoons and Saturdays,” Carmichael said. “I can’t imagine how many times he’s shot his age. He probably does it every time he tees it up nowadays.”
Although he retired from Harrison Lake 15 years ago, Clecak hasn’t been able to stay retired. He took on two-year pro stints at St. Anne’s in North Vernon and at Blue River Elks (now Bear Chase) in Shelbyville. For the past six years, he has been senior director of golf instruction at Legends Golf Club in Franklin.
“I agreed to go down to North Vernon to help them out because they needed someone there,” Clecak said. “Then I went to Shelbyville, which was kind of a weird thing because I had packed it up and retired and one of my former assistants called me up and wanted me to help them out. They closed, and I thought that was perfect. No sooner than I had retired that I got a call from Ted Bishop from the Legends wanting me to teach.”
This year, Bishop and Clark started the Clecak Cup, an interclub match between Legends and Harrison Lake on back-
to-back Saturdays in October.
So how long will Clecak continue working with golfers?
“As long as my health is as good as it is, and I enjoy it and I have a good rapport with the kids, I’ll stay with it until Ted doesn’t need me anymore,” Clecak said. “Teaching golf is something you get in your blood, and it’s hard to let it go.”
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