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The prospect of ending his professional golf career in Wilson at Happy Valley Country Club was not a source of discomfort for Gary Hobgood.
But because of the economy and other factors, circumstances steadily deteriorated at Happy Valley to the extent the golf course and facility are expected to close in approximately a month — unless operated by new ownership.
Thus, a career move for the f irst time in 29 years awaits Hobgood, a 52-year-old native of Farmville.
Hobgood, currently Happy Valley’s head golf professional and part owner with majority owner Bill Powell, has accepted the position of general manager at the Links at Mulberry Hill, formerly Chowan Golf and Country Club, in Edenton.
His duties will include direction of the golf operation and supervising the maintenance of the par 36-36—72, 6,400-yard course and existing facilities.
“There’s a lot of mixed emotions when you put 29 years of blood, sweat and tears into something and, all of a sudden, it changes,” Hobgood reasoned.
“Like anywhere, there have been great times and rough times. But when you look at all the positives, they definitely outweigh the negatives.”
Hobgood completes his tasks at Happy Valley next Wednesday and he and his family will move to Edenton the following Friday. His family consists of his wife, the former Cynthia Capps; a dog, Callie; and two cats, Smokes and Blackie.
He assumes his new duties on Monday, July 30. His financial arrangement includes a home that is located across the street from the golf course.
Hobgood is a 1983 graduate of Farmville Central High School, where he excelled in golf and basketball. He continued his golf career at Campbell University, from where he graduated in 1987.
At Campbell, Hobgood was twice proclaimed All Big-South Conference and earned All-Academic acclaim in golf. He was inducted into the Campbell University Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.
Happy Valley’s departing head pro began his pro career as an assistant at Farmville Country Club for two years. Hobgood was named Happy Valley’s head professional in 1989 and is the longest-tenured at his position in the club’s 56-year history. He became a part owner in 2000.
As a player, his career-low round is a 11-under-par 61 at Happy Valley that is tied for the course record.
The Carolinas PGA Section honored Hobgood as Merchandiser of the Year in 2001 and 2011, and as its Professional of the Year in 2012.
“I want to thank all of those who have been loyal to me for 30 years,” Hobgood declared.
His new workplace is owned by Susan Beckwith, also the owner of Inner Banks Inn. Hobgood has been encouraged by his communication with Beckwith and the reception he has received from the board of directors and members.
Hobgood describes the course as approximately the same length at Happy Valley.
“It’s not tight,” he said, “but it has a lot of natural areas and water hazards. It’s a neat little place.”
He finds the equipment in good condition, the number of golf carts ample and the facilities appealing. He will supervise five facility and three course employees. Hobgood will be expected to grow the membership, which currently numbers some 150.
“As is the case at every other club that struggling, you need more (members),” Hobgood said.
“The main priority, initially,” he continued, “is to get the course back to where it needs to be, and work with the staff on improving public relations. I intend to work hard to try to get done what they want done the right way. I want to have people working for me who are generous, considerate and treat people the way they are supposed to be treated.”
Hobgood indicated his wife may assist in some capacity.
“I have a lot of learning to do a short period of time,” he declared.
“It’s a little scary but also exciting. When you have done the same thing so long at the same place and go somewhere totally different, it’s going to be a challenge.”