By Ryan Buck
Mike Shulas has taken an unusual path to his dream job as golf professional at Salem Golf Club. A football and baseball standout at Beaver Local and Waynesburg University, Shulas left his computer science degree and real estate appraisal career behind to pursue his love of golf.
“I’m 25, in Auburn, Ind., I didn’t know anybody and I’m like, ‘The heck with this!’ I started going to the golf course, practicing, and decided I wanted to do something with golf.”
Shulas worked his way from course labor and mini- tours in Florida back to his home, and the host course to Monday’s Vindicator Greatest Golfer of the Valley junior qualifier, presented by Farmers National Bank.
Built in 1921 behind a historical, bucolic clubhouse, the course’s features seem as unconventional as Shulas’ journey to becoming a golfprofessional.
“For being short, it’s very challenging,” Shulas said of the par-72 layout. “Not necessarily on a golfing level, but on a physical level because of the extreme elevation changes. When you walk this golf course, it tuckers you out.”
A creek cuts through the front nine to form a sunken green below the fairway on No. 4, leading to an elevated, disjointed par 3 at the fifth. Hole No. 6, a 312-yard par 4, presents a blind tee shot. Next to the tee box players may use the periscope, certainly a course oddity, to navigate the fairway on the other side of the hill.
Players see less undulation on the back nine, but the longer side of the course offers four dog-legged fairways and plenty of sand traps.
While his professional pursuits and his course’s features may seem uncommon, the dedication Shulas and the club have for youth golf is paramount.
“I have a lot of energy when it comes to teaching this game, anyway, and you can kind of have a little more fun with the kids than you can with the adults because you can laugh and carry on a little bit with them,” Shulas said.
Each spring, the facility holds a local high school showcase tournament and is the future home of the Salem High golf teams. Aside from organizing members’ events, their summers are busy with lessons.
Each Friday morning is a youth clinic, beginning at the driving range and finishing with on-course instruction.
As a first-time Greatest host, Salem GC sees a unique opportunity Monday.
“This gives us an opportunity to open up our doors to give kids a chance to play a quality golf course that they may never get a chance to see again other than this event, being that we’re fully private.”
Tee time is set for 10 a.m. and $25 registration will close at 5 p.m. today. As of press time, 22 boys and girls, in age groups of 12-14 and 15-17, will compete to earn two spots for each division in the Greatest Golfer Junior Final, held July 21 at Trumbull Country Club.
For more tournament coverage, go to vindy.com/golf and follow on twitter (@vindygreatest).