The life of a golf pro

Mel Fish, a certified golf professional, has worked at the Lake Padden Golf Course since 1990 and rarely gets upset...

Mel Fish rarely, if ever, gets upset about having to go to work. Granted, work isn’t such a bad thing when you’re the director of golf at Lake Padden Golf Course.

“I’m at the golf course almost every day that I’m in town,” Fish said. “I’m one of the few people in the world who enjoys going to work. I get to golf and I can wear shorts — there’s nothing not to like.”

And the view’s not bad either, Fish added. Nestled inside one of Bellingham’s largest parks, the 18-hole golf course is a picturesque example of Pacific Northwest golfing. Each hole feels like its own little meadow surrounded by verdant forest.

Fish, 59, hadn’t planned to make a career out of golfing, but he’s glad it happened. After graduating from Western Washington University in 1975, he went into home construction. But after going through a divorce in 1989, Fish wanted to start over, so he turned to golf. He had played sports all throughout his school years and decided to make a go of it in the world of golf.

“If it wasn’t for athletics, I’d be living under a bridge somewhere,” he said.

Fish started working at Lake Padden Golf Course in 1990 and eventually earned his certification as a golf professional with the Professional Golf Association of America (PGA). The certification process is no walk in the park and can take anywhere from three to six years, depending on the applicant’s initiative, Fish said.

Besides learning how to teach golf, applicants also have to prove they can play the game. And being a good player can pay off — competing in tournaments is a common way to supplement the income earned from teaching.

“If you play the tournaments and do your shop time, you can make a decent living,” Fish said.

But Fish’s job isn’t all fun and games. After all, the golf course is a business and there are 50 employees to manage and hundreds of customers to work with every day. And then there’s the stress of the recession.

As one of the more affordable courses in the county, Lake Padden Golf Course fared well during the recession. To some degree, the golf industry is kind of insulated from the economy — people need to recreate and golf is a way to forget about the stress of work, Fish said. Pretty much the only thing that keeps people from playing golf is bad weather.

Surely, after 22 years of working on a golf course, the game must get a little dull and repetitive — but not for Mel Fish.

“This is the hardest game of all of them and the most rewarding game,” he said. “When you play well, there’s nothing like it — and when you play bad, there’s nothing like it.”

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