The only chief golf pro at this Illinois course is about to retire

ROCKFORD, Ill. – Duncan Geddes was younger than his golf course is now when he was hired as Aldeen’s chief golf pro at the age of 25.

“Oh, my God, I’m not going to lie. I was more than thrilled, ”said Geddes, who retires 30 years later as the only chief golf professional and club manager in the history of Rockford’s first public course.

“It was very exciting. I grew up in Rockford, played in East, and went to Rock Valley for a year before going to Ferris State. Growing up playing Rockford’s public courses as a junior golfer, it was amazing to lead a new public course.

Geddes has seen Aldeen once host the Rockford Pro-Am and seven State Championships: two State Amateurs for men, two for women, a senior State Am and two girls State Ams, with three other women State Championships in the program.

“I love these events. These have been the most exciting days for me, ”said Geddes.

But not the most significant.

“I met my wife in Aldeen,” said Geddes, who married Kris Lantz in 1993. “It’s the greatest personal moment. Aldeen has been good to me both personally and professionally.

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Many of the best golf teachers in town have been professional assistants under Geddes, who in turn learned for three years under Butch Pegoraro as an assistant at Forest Hills Country Club before taking over Aldeen. Don Blecker, sales manager and golf professional at Golf Shack, Rockford’s long-time best golf store, was one of the first.

“Working for Duncan was wonderful,” said Blecker. “I learned so much from him on the teaching side. I have always been interested in golf and he was my mentor, which allowed me to get involved in the golf industry again after graduating from college.

“I can’t believe he’s been there for 30 years. It’s incredible.”

Forest Hills chief pro Steve Murray was an assistant at Aldeen for his first 10 years out of college.

“I was brand new to the business and spent 10 years with him,” Murray said. “A lot of my work philosophies and theories stem from what we did together at Aldeen. He’s a very good friend of mine. We still talk regularly.

In the late 1990s, Aldeen was named one of the top 50 golf courses under $ 50 in the country.

“It was a huge honor,” said Geddes.

Over 20 years later, Aldeen still charges less than $ 50 for green fees at its 4 1/2 star layout. Yet the price has long been one of Aldeen’s challenges. It is the only course in town that most season pass holders have to pay extra to play.

“The biggest challenge was getting the community used to a new course,” said Geddes. “It was supposed to be the flagship course, so we had a higher fee than the other courses. It took people getting used to it.

But whether golfers have an all-inclusive pass and can play Aldeen for free, pay $ 14 with a regular pass, or pay the full weekend rate of $ 31 for 18 holes, Aldeen, started in part thanks to a $ 2 million donation from Norris and Margaret Aldeen, has always been a championship-level course at a reasonable price.

“Rockford has always been a very economical town for golfing,” said Geddes. “Having a course of this caliber to play at these fees is a good thing. If I was a kid, I would have loved it. It has been a great thing for the community. Mr. Aldeen always said that Rockford needed things he could be proud of. I think it still is. And I think that’s one of the best things Rockford can be proud of.

Shortly after Aldeen was built, PrairieView in Byron and Timber Pointe in Poplar Grove opened, offering two more affordable championship-level courses. Several other popular courses have also opened in the region. This has made things bigger than ever for local golfers, but tough on many golf courses. The Rockford Park District even closed one of its five courses last year, shutting down Elliot.

“Golf was so popular in the late 80s and 90s. It was just rock,” Geddes said. “And high-end courses like Aldeen weren’t even a buzzword in the industry. Having Aldeen build early in this trend was fun.

“The game changed in 2007 and 2008 when we entered a recession. Too many courses had been built and there weren’t enough players to support them. There was a large peak and then a valley. Then COVID arrives and golf becomes popular again. No one could have seen that.

“It’s been a roller coaster on the business side of golf,” Geddes added. “Being positive again makes me feel like he’s in good hands. I’m not going away completely. I will be staying in the area and love being able to teach, organize tournaments, or do whatever is needed. But it’s time to pass the torch to someone else.

“There is a lot to do there. Glad to see it happen. I am also delighted not to be present at the meetings to help make this happen. “

Matt Trowbridge: [email protected]; @matttrowbridge

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