Cape Region Pro-Files: Chris Gray
It took a while for Chris Gray to figure out what he loves about golf – and now he is living his best golf life.
The lead instructor for Rehoboth Beach Country Club said recently, “I have never been happier. I can’t wait to get here every day.”
Gray grew up in central Delaware, where his dad worked for Playtex. He took his first golf lesson from Rick McCall Jr., the current head coach of the women’s golf team at Delaware State University, back when McCall was a college student helping his father, the legendary head pro at Maple Dale Country Club.
The Dover High School golf team had a winning reputation in the 1990s, thanks to the McCall connections and a deep squad of talented young golfers. During Gray’s four years, the Senators won every state and conference championship. Gray won his individual state title as a sophomore in 1994 and graduated in 1996.
Gray went to Wesley College but left after a single year. “It wasn’t for me,” he said, opting instead to try making a living playing his favorite sport.
“I played a bunch of the tours, beginning in Florida,” he said. “There was the Winter Tour, then the North Florida Tour, then the Moonlight Tour. Then I stepped up to the Hooters Tour, and the Tarheel Tour, which was in North Carolina and Georgia. I also played the New England Tour.”
Golf’s mini tours are a challenge. Expenses are high and the pay is usually modest. Monday qualifying for the larger tours is another option. Gray succeeded in those one-day contests on several occasions on the Web.com Tour [now called Korn Ferry Tour], as well as the PGA TOUR. McCall caddied for Gray at the Bell South Classic at TPC Sugarloaf near Atlanta.
The Q-School tournament, the former direct path to the TOUR, created significant hurdles for Gray and his wife Cheryl.
“My coach and I worked out that I needed $20,000 just for Q-School, with the $8,000 entry fee and all the travel and other expenses. He suggested I should take my money and do the Mondays instead.”
“I was playing well, but at one point I called Cheryl to see if a check [from an event] had been deposited, and she said it wasn’t. She suggested I try again to find sponsors, and I did, but that didn’t work out,” he said.
“Tired of chasing money,” Gray reached out to McCall, then the head golf pro at Wild Quail Golf & Country Club near Camden. McCall brought him on as an assistant.
After a year at Wild Quail, Gray applied for an open assistant pro position at Rehoboth Beach CC. Because he had not taken the traditional route to club pro work, Gray was nervous about his prospects.
He needn’t have worried. Rehoboth’s head pro Pat Mastrian quickly hired him for the spot.
“I wanted to be at a club like this,” Gray said. “The stars aligned, and I got it.”
His first few years included all the usual assistant pro responsibilities, including shop time and managing tournaments.
Gray discovered he really liked teaching. With the current boom in membership rolls and rounds played, Mastrian recently gave Gray the opportunity to focus on instruction, and he’s running with it.
I took lessons with Gray recently as part of a fall project I am developing. He is enthusiastic, a good listener, and an even better communicator.
Thankfully, he also knows several different techniques to help his students. Gray needed to use at least four of them while trying to improve my turn and downswing path.
“Chris really learned and soaked in all the knowledge that he can about the swing and has become a great instructor,” McCall said. “He cares about improvement and results on the golf course, and not just a pretty swing.”
Mastrian said, “Chris has the most energy I have ever seen on the teaching tee. His enjoyment of the game and watching others succeed drives him each day. With Chris's playing ability and history, he provides a unique experience for our members to help them with their own game improvement."
I also learned Gray’s favorite phrase to encourage his students. After a successful 6-iron shot I said, “That was ridiculously easy.” He replied, “Right? More better!”
During the second lesson, I made some nice drives, turned to face him, and grinned. Gray beamed right back. “I want that reaction. It makes me so happy,” he said. “If I can get my students to make the right moves, I know they will love the game more and more. I want to get people playing the best golf of their life.”
Local club competition results
The Mulligan’s Pointe Ladies played a 6/6/6 game Aug. 10, with six holes in alternate shot, six in scramble, and six in best ball.
Karen Feuchtenberger and Brenda Lewis won first place, with Diane Braver and Nancy Mahwinney in second. Cathy Cosgrove and Linda Snader finished third.
The Kings Creek Ladies nine-hole group played a Three Blind Mice game Aug. 11.
In the first flights, Carolyn Horn won first-place gross and net. Judy Rayner won second gross and net. Sandy Neverett and Tina Brown tied for third gross, with Brown also tied for third net with Kara Bourdreau.
In the second flights, Bernice Bell won first-place gross, with Terry Barrera, Beth Cohen and Brenda Shilli tied for second gross. Barerra won first-place net, with Schilli tied with Pam Cranston for second net.
The Kings Creek Ladies 18-hole group played a team game Aug. 5. Katie Heintz, Tricia Ritthaler, Anne Farley and Marsha McLaurin won by a match of cards against Mary Ann Veitch, Linda Kelleher, Jean Chlastawa and Debbie Grant. Sharon Denny, Barbara Hines, Carol Simon and Gail Letts finished third.