Steve Carney has been at the Holiday Valley Resort in Ellicottville for close to 15 years. He greets everyone he meets with an enormous smile and a thick handshake. Carney is one of the most matter-of-fact folks you’ll ever run into in golf. Don’t believe us? Read his interview below. No frosting, no bling, just straight answers from a likable, direct guy.
1. Tell us your name and how you got interested/involved in golf as a youth.
Steve Carney, In 1969 Crag Burn was being built behind my house and many kids went to earn good money as a caddie. So I joined them.
2. Tell us a bit about your competitive golf experience in your younger days.
I started playing at age 14 and within 1 year I was shooting in the 70’S. So I went out for the Iroquois Central Golf team and was 1st man for 2 years. I grew up playing Elma Meadows, Byrncliff, and Crag Burn.
3. What epiphany did you have that led you to the PGA of America and a club professional position?
No epiphany. I also worked at Springbrook Driving Range, and Cragburn on the course maintenance crew and in the Golf Shop on Mondays. I loved golf and new at 17 that it would be my career. This was an easy decision. So I became a PGA Apprentice when I was 18. Got my Class A card at 23, and eventually got my Master Professional card in 1995. I was the 144th in the world to achieve that level. I had to attend dozens of seminars and clinics over 6 years along with other educational things. It was a huge accomplishment for me.
4. Give us bit of history on the clubs you have represented as an assistant or head professional.
The summer after High School I started as an Assistant at Westwood 2 yrs, East Aurora CC 4 yrs, Orchard Park 2 yrs, and Crag Burn 4 yrs. Winter at Seven Springs CC and Timber Pines on the west coast of Florida just above Tampa 12 yrs. . Head Professional at Riverside Golf Course in Cambridge Springs Pa 1987 thru 1994, Elma Meadows Golf Course 1995 thru 2003, and Holiday Valley Resort 2004 to present. Winters Teaching and running golf events for in Ft Myers at The Landings Yacht, Golf, and Tennis Club the past 10 years.
5. Run down the responsibilities of a club professional, including the tasks that might not be apparent to members and guests.
My present title at Holiday Valley is “Director of Golf and Summer Operations. I oversee every facet of our golf, Merchandising, Teaching, events, marketing, golf shows, golf packages, course maintenance. All golf. The surprise would be that I oversee out 4 public pools. In total approx. 35 employees are under my watch. Another thing most don’t know about me is that in my career I estimate that I have built 12,000 sets of clubs. I can take any wooden or metal headed club apart and put it back together. And I am a member of the Golf Collectors Society of America and collect MacGregor Drivers (600) and odd clubs (500)
6. As a teaching professional, what are the most important tenets of your teaching philosophy?
My total philosophy is to play good solid golf you need a good foundation of fundamentals. Without solid basics getting better is almost impossible. Sure a great athlete might get better but he would be leaps and bounds better with solid fundamentals. Learn & practice, learn & practice, and on and on
7. Give us an idea of your recent competitive history. Also, what do you work on to stay sharp?
I was never a great player but for several years was in the top 10 in our section. I never played as much as most but over time have still won dozens of WNY PGA section events. Presently my golfers back limits me a bit but I still enjoy a dozen or so events yearly and am presently working on playing every course in WNY that I have never played. I have under 10 to go. And there are plenty that you don’t even know exist. Lots of smaller 9 holer courses.
8. In competition, on what do you focus to achieve your greatest success?
We know that golf and competitive golf are dissimilar, so what does a professional rely on (mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically) to compete his best? I believe many things must happen to be successful. Learn, practice, learn practice and on and on. Play 1 shot at a time and add them up when you’re done, Never worry if you play well or not, just keep playing, try harder, not faster, patience. And in order to play good you need to play enough golf until you start “scoring”.
9. What question haven’t we asked, that you wish we would? Ask it and answer it, please.
Did you ever want to play the tour?
I never really wanted to be a Tour player because I was very honest with myself about my chances. I always wanted to be a Club Professional in WNY. I have worked my way up from caddie to Director of Golf over 45 years, both summer and winter. And I’ve met 1000’s of golfers, went to 100’s of citys in the US, several dozen other countries, and I’ll keep doing the same every year. I’ve had a long and great career as a PGA Professional. And I’d have absolutely no idea of any other job that I’d ever want to do. So I’ll just keep doing what I love every day!