Dick Stewart grew up in Petoskey and started caddying at age 10 before he learned to play golf. Taking the lead from his two older brothers, he caddied at Petoskey Bay View, Walloon Lake and Wequetonsing.
“I used to hitchhike to those courses, seven to nine miles away, to caddy,” recalled Stewart. “I liked being out of doors and having my money in pocket to buy a Vernor’s float on the way home.
When his brother Tom became the head pro at Bay Valley Golf Club in Bay City, Dick worked there as an assistant pro and decided to make golf a career. His big break came in 1975 when he was offered the head pro job, at age 22, at the new and yet to be finished Birchwood Farms Golf & Country Club in Harbor Springs.
Working during the winter as an assistant pro at Jupiter Hills, Fla, Stewart was learning the trade and growing in his profession. In the fall of 1978, he was approached and offered the position of head golf professional at Kalamazoo Country Club. He accepted and remained there for over 40 years before retiring, one of the longest tenures of any pro in Michigan.
“Being visible and out front with the members,” Stewart said of the keys to his long tenure. “I always tried to be on the first tee when a member brought guests so I could introduce myself and welcome them.”
Stewart also hosted members in over 28 international golf tours and countless trips to clubs around the country.
“You spend a week with members on a golf trip and they become your buddies. I’m deeply thankful for my time at Kalamazoo Country Club.”
A Michigan PGA Section Hall of Fame inductee in 2018, Stewart gave back to his profession by his steadfast leadership with the Section, serving as an officer, a president and for his 18-year stint as a board member. Seven times he received the Section’s prestigious Bill Strausbaugh Award, recognizing his exceptional character, integrity and leadership by teaching and mentoring. To that end, he helped place 22 of his former assistants in head golf pro positions all across the country.
Along with national recognition for the quality of his pro shop and merchandizing, Stewart also is well-known for the excellent caddie program he nurtured at Kalamazoo CC where nearly 4,000 young people became involved with the game.