Roger Van Dyke has spent the last 60 years helping golfers, notably the young kids who are just being introduced to the game.
For his efforts, last month Van Dyke had a different introduction – as a Hall of Famer.
The 83-year-old Vero Beach resident was inducted into the Michigan PGA’s Hall of Fame. He was accompanied by his family for the big night.
“It cements the legacy we know our dad has,” said son Aaron, who introduced his father at the ceremony.
It was a fitting honor because Van Dyke started his career by spending 21 years in the Wolverine State building a junior program at Flint Golf Club that remains the largest (1,300) in the U.S.
“Those were the fillers, the foundation, for which I was to launch my career,” Van Dyke said. “I knew early on the golf business was where I wanted to be.”
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The sport is fortunate to have Van Dyke. He became the first golfer to earn a scholarship at Eastern Illinois, though it technically was a basketball scholarship because the golf coach also led the basketball team and that scholarship was worth more.
Then came the opportunity to build a junior program at Flint from 1967-88. From there, Van Dyke moved on to the Landings in Savannah for five years before he arrived on the Treasure Coast in 1993 as head professional/general manager of Hawk’s Nest.
Van Dyke spent 14 years at Hawk’s Nest before deciding to retire in 2007. Funny thing: Golfers saying they’re going to retire in a sport where there is no age limit.
“I failed at my first attempt at retirement,” Van Dyke said.
It was only a matter of time before Van Dyke got back to his roots – the future of the game. During the next two years, he kept noticing how high school kids in Vero Beach were having a difficult time beating their rival schools on the Treasure Coast. He knew that needed to change.
“I could see what was happening – or not happening – with junior golf in Indian River County,” he said. “I saw how Martin County was successful with their junior program and it got under my skin why the kids in our area couldn’t be as successful.”
In 2009, he founded the Indian River Golf Foundation to introduce the game to the kids and take the sport to the next level.
Among the golfers he helped the most was Vero Beach resident Jackie Stoelting. Armed with a year-round junior program, Stoelting became the first Vero Beach product to earn a spot on the LPGA Tour.
“Roger has a great passion to build junior golf in this area,” said Stoelting, who is taking a break from her competitive career after the recent birth of her second child. “He’s a man that will never say no.”
Van Dyke didn’t dedicate his life to golf to win awards, of course. But he admits they are nice to win.
“These awards are very meaningful,” he said. “Yet sometimes the general public does not know about the awards. Internally, we know about them.”
He finds his joy in looking into a young person’s face and realizing that moment when life’s lessons are understood.
“To see that lost look that has been converted to ‘See what I can do. Come watch me,’” Van Dyke said. “If you can find a way to be a youth coach, there’s no better influence you can have.”
Van Dyke may have “failed” at his first retirement, but we’re all better off because of it.
Congrats, Hall of Famer.
Chip shots: The 36th annual Treasure Coast Amateur Championship held on Dec. 3-4 at Sandridge Golf Club in Vero Beach has limited spots available. The 36-hole individual stroke play event will be held on the Dunes Course. The $140 entry fee covers golf for both days, range balls, tee gift, prizes and lunch on Sunday. For more information, go to www.sandrdgegc.com.