Covering the Land of Lincoln

After 30 years, the only Head Pro and Club Manager of this Illinois municipal golf course is retiring

ROCKFORD, Ill. – Duncan Geddes was younger than his golf course is now when he was hired as Aldeens Head Golf Pro at the age of 25.

“Oh my god, I’m not going to lie. I was more than thrilled, ”said Geddes, who 30 years later retires as the only senior professional golfer and club manager in the history of Rockford’s premier public golf course.

“It was very exciting. I grew up in Rockford, played in the East, and went to Rock Valley for a year before going to Ferris State. Growing up in the public courses in Rockford as a junior golfer, it was amazing to find a new public course to manage. “

Geddes saw Aldeen once host the Rockford Pro-Am and seven state championships: two state amateurs for the men, two for the women, a senior state championship and two girls state championships, with three other girls state championships on the schedule.

“I love these events. Those days were the most exciting for me, ”said Geddes.

But not the most telling.

“I met my wife at Aldeen,” said Geddes, who married Kris Lantz in 1993. “That is the greatest personal highlight. Aldeen has done me personally and professionally good. “

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Many of the city’s top golf instructors were assistant professionals under Geddes, who in turn studied with Butch Pegoraro as an assistant at Forest Hills Country Club for three years before taking over Aldeen. Don Blecker, sales manager and pro at Golf Shack, Rockford’s long-time top golf business, was one of the first.

“Working for Duncan was wonderful,” said Blecker. “I learned so much from him by the end of class. I’d always been interested in golf and he was my mentor who brought me back into the golf business after college.

“I can’t believe he’s been there for 30 years. That’s incredible.”

Forest Hills head pro Steve Murray was an assistant at Aldeen for his first 10 years after college.

The story goes on

“I was brand new to the business and spent 10 years with him,” said Murray. “A lot of my philosophies and work theories come from things we did together at Aldeen. He is a very good friend of mine. We still talk to each other regularly. “

In the late 1990s, Aldeen was named one of the 50 best golf courses in the country for under $ 50.

“That was a great honor,” said Geddes.

More than 20 years later, Aldeen is still charging less than $ 50 for green fees on its 4 1/2 star layout. But price has long been one of Aldeen’s challenges. It was the only square in town where most season ticket holders have to pay a surcharge to play.

“The biggest challenge was getting the community used to a new course,” said Geddes. “It was supposed to be the flagship course, so we had higher fees than the other courses. It took people getting used to. “

But whether golfers have an all-inclusive pass and can play Aldeen for free, pay $ 14 with a regular pass, or pay the full weekend rate of $ 31 for 18 holes, Aldeen was created in part due to a donation of $ 2 Founded millions of dollars by Norris and Margaret Aldeen, it has always been an affordable, championship-level golf course.

“Rockford has always been a very economical city to play golf,” said Geddes. “Having a course of this caliber to play at these fees is a great thing. If I were a kid I would have loved it. It was a great thing for the community. Mr. Aldeen always said that Rockford needs things to be proud of. I think it still works. And I think that’s one of the best things Rockford can be proud of. “

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Shortly after Aldeen was built, PrairieView in Byron and Timber Pointe in Poplar Grove opened, offering two more affordable championship-level courses. Several other popular courses have also opened in the area. That made things bigger than ever for local golfers, but tough on many golf courses. The Rockford Park District even closed one of its five courses last year, closing Elliot.

“Golf was so popular in the late 80s and 90s. It just rocked, ”said Geddes. “And upscale courses like Aldeen weren’t even a buzzword in the industry. It was fun having Aldeen build it early on in this trend.

“The game changed in 2007 and 2008 when we got into a recession. Too many courts had been built and there weren’t enough players to support them. There was a great peak and then a valley. Then COVID comes along and golf becomes popular again. Nobody could have seen that.

“It was a roller coaster ride on the business side of golf,” added Geddes. “When I’m positive again, I feel in good hands. I am not going away entirely. I will stay in the area and love teaching, doing tournaments, or doing whatever it takes. But it’s time to pass the torch on to someone else.

“There’s a lot to do there. I am happy that it is happening. I’m also happy not to attend the meetings to make this possible. “

Matt Trowbridge: [email protected]; @matttrowbridge

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