LINVILLE – How’s this for a resume?
-- At one time, Bob Kletcke was head golf professional at Augusta National Golf Club in the wintertime and held the same position at Grandfather Golf and Country Club in the summertime. That’s a hard tandem to top, two of the nation’s finest.
-- He taught President Eisenhower, Vice-Presidents Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew and Secretaries of State James Baker and George Schultz.
-- The legendary Clifford Roberts, who helped Bobby Jones get Augusta National built and ran it with an unfailing demand for perfection, had a reputation as an iron-willed dictator but Kletcke saw a much more human side of him, especially on the occasion when Roberts baby sat Kletcke’s daughters.
“I had a great relationship with him,” said Kletcke. “I brought him to Grandfather. He stayed in my house and joined the club. He was a perfectionist, a type A personality. He wanted Augusta National to be what it is today. Deep down, he was a wonderful man, very caring and a great visionary.”
-- His jobs brought Kletcke into contact with another president, Ronald Reagan, and with a long parade of other rich and famous people, with giants of business and industry and with entertainers like Bob Hope, Robert Wagner and Clint Eastwood.
-- And, of course, the pro was in contact with Bobby Jones from time to time when the great man felt well enough to visit the club. “A true Southern gentleman,” said Kletcke, “awe-inspiring.”
There’s more on that resume. Not only could Kletcke teach, he could play.
Twice he shot 63 from the member tees at Augusta National and once he shot 62 at Grandfather. He was good enough to try the PGA Tour for one summer with modest success. At age 73, he still plays in the 70s when a troublesome back permits it and he’s a familiar figure on the Grandfather practice range.
So what kind of golfer was Eisenhower?
“He was a bigtime slicer,” said Kletcke. “He could hit the ball fairly well but he had arthritis in his hands and had to use really tremendously large grips. When he came to Augusta, he would play golf every day.
“What kind of man was he? One day, he was getting ready to leave and he called and asked if I was going to be there for awhile. I said yes. A few minutes later, a limo pulled up outside the shop and he got out in the rain, came in and said, ‘Bob, we’ve had a great time. Thank you for helping me.’ He was on a tight schedule but he took time to do that.”
Kletcke said the only time he was ever intimidated in the presence of power and fame was the first time he played with Ike, but a good drive off the first tee calmed his nerves.
“It’s just a matter of being yourself and of being honest and being able to help people with their golf games,” he said. “With any of them, the talk was mostly about golf and I knew golf and could help them.”
Kletcke has a home on Grandfather Mountain where he spends his summers and another in Augusta for the winter. Just like the old days. He carries his golden memories back and forth.