By Greg Gulas
Hubbard native Brian Tolnar has made a number of stops during his golf career.
Since 1996, Tolnar has been assistant golf pro Alliance Country Club and Tippecanoe Country Club, either head professional or PGA Director of Golf at Steubenville Country Club, Avalon Lakes, Triple Creek Golf Club and the Golf Club at Blue Heron Hills in Macedon, N.Y.
But after spending a little more than 10 years as a golf professional in Rochester, N.Y., the opportunity to return home and become PGA Director of Golf at Mill Creek was just too good to pass up.
Tolnar told the Curbstone Coaches during Monday’s weekly meeting at Avion Banquet Center that after 22 years in the business, he’s having more fun now than he has ever had.
“I said it during the interview process over four years ago and I still believe it today, that there was only one job in the Mahoning Valley that I would come home for and that was Mill Creek,” he said. “The reason I said that then was because the sky is the limit here and it has a ton of upside and potential.
“I need to thank Aaron Young, MetroParks executive director for giving me the opportunity and the tools necessary to be successful. I couldn’t be happier to be here and be aligned with such a great core of people. It’s truly and honor and I’m excited to be a part of the team.”
Tolnar said there are two things, self-reliance and commitment, which stand out as to why he chose golf as a sport and career.
“With self-reliance, you can only depend on yourself and the time you put in if you expect to be successful. In other sports, your teammates can pick you up but it’s all on you in golf,” he said. “You need to have a strong will and the commitment to achieve success. On the golf course, it’s about practice, dedication and putting in the time and effort as a player.
“When running a million-dollar operation, it’s about the commitment of your management team and fellow co-workers, doing things that other facilities and staffs are unwilling to do like providing service, opportunities and hosting events.”
Tolnar came to Mill Creek with two goals in mind.
“First and foremost, I wanted to know how we could make a major impact in the local community,” he said. “Then, I wanted to know how best we could showcase the MetroParks through the game of golf. With those two objectives at the forefront of my list, I felt as though we could make the people of the Mahoning Valley proud of what they have, as well as the importance the MetroParks plays in their lives in providing recreational opportunities.”
He added that the upside to Mill Creek Golf Course was second to none.
“I felt that Mill Creek, with a Donald Ross design, was a sleeping giant with tremendous upside,” Tolnar said. “Player development needed a boost, but a solid marketing campaign and facility promotion to build presence has helped. We have such a great history and that just added to the potential for hosting future events.”
In addition to hosting The Vindicator’s Greatest Golfer of the Valley as well as its junior tournament, the course has also hosted the highly successful AJGA (American Junior Golf Association) tournament, among others.
“The AJGA has played host to the junior careers of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Paula Creamer, Natalie Gulbis and Stacie Lewis, to name a few,” Tolnar added. “We worked on gaining national exposure by hosting and AJGA junior tournament through connections in Rochester and last year’s event had a $414,000 impact locally. Since hosting the event in 2016, the area has realized a $1.218 million impact while raising an additional $32,000 for local charities, the AJGA Ace Grant & MCMP Foundation.”
Tolnar has helped launch a five-year capital improvement campaign to reinvest in their facility and credits local PGA professionals Dave Coller, Dave Boos and Michael Spiech for their help and support along the way.
He also called his team, which consists of head professionals Stacie Butler and Andy Santor, and course superintendent Lance Bailey the best professional golf team in the Mahoning Valley.
Tolnar is the 2018 PGA Certification for Player Development and Northern Ohio PGA Section Merchandiser of the Year honoree, adding his group will launch their Growth of the Game Initiative with its Let’s Play Golf Youngstown, a three-tier initiative to include instruction for beginners, intermediate and advanced players.
Next week, sports talk host Mark “Munch” Bishop of iHeart Media Sports will serve as guest speaker.