Rob Sanders learned the game of golf at Portales Country Club. An Eastern New Mexico University graduate, Sanders, 49, has worked at several golf courses and golf schools over the years, including a school he started in Dallas in 1993. He returned to the Portales in 2010 and just recently was named the teaching professional at Colonial Golf Course.
Who got you started with the game of golf?
Jim, Phyllis and Mike Vardeman. We lived down the street from the Vardemans. Mike was one of my best friends. My parents didn’t play golf and weren’t members of the country club, and being a member at (Portales Country Club) was pretty much the only way you could play golf in Portales at the time.
When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in golf?
It wasn’t a terribly conscious decision really. After college I had a friend who was working at Las Colinas Sports Club and got the opportunity to get a job there. I got some good experience there and realized that I might be able to make a career in the golf business.
What was your first job in the golf business?
I guess my “first” job would technically be when I worked for Harold Smith who was the pro at PCC in 1977. I was 15.
Favorite hole at Portales Country Club?
What do you remember about your first hole in one?
I was a senior in high school. I was out playing with my buddies during golf practice on hole number 9, which is no longer there. I pured a five iron and it took one hop and disappeared.
How many of you had since then?
Just one other.
If you couldn’t work in the golf industry, what would be your next career choice?
I think I would have liked being a coach.
What are your three favorite golf courses in New Mexico?
Inn of the Mountain Gods, Paako Ridge and Twin Warriors
First set of clubs?
Lady Northwesterns with blue woods.
Favorite courses you have played?
Butler National in Chicago, Preston Trails in Dallas, and Medinah in Chicago.
Something your high school golf coach Bobby Crane taught you?
Not one thing, but a combination of a lot of things. He was a great player, he was well-versed in the rules and knew the golf swing well, and he was a great mentor because he is such a quality man.
What made you decide to come back to this area?
I was just tired of Dallas because it is such a rat race. I missed New Mexico. I was ready to slow down and be where I was closer to family and friends. Also, we have a family business in Portales and I felt like there were some additional opportunities for me here.
What are some of the things as a teaching pro you would like to accomplish at Colonial?
My main goal as a teaching professional has always been to introduce as many people to the game as possible, and help them get a little more enjoyment out of it. I have worked a lot with junior golfers and I want to do that here as well. I would like to assist in getting as many kids hooked on the game and hopefully a few will dream big.
Best local golfer you have played with/against?
I have played with several great golfers in the Clovis/Portales area. I am not sure I could pick one over another. Probably the best golfers I have played with in the area were Shawn Murphy and Ronnie Black, who grew up in Lovington and later played the PGA Tour.
What is the thing you love most about the game?
It is a game you can play for life; and it is about you and the game, not really you and anyone else.
People think golf pros get to play golf all day. How many holes do you get to play a week?
I play a couple of times a month. One of the nice things about being back in the area is that I do have a little more time to play when I want to.
Best lesson you received while learning to play golf?
If you are going to throw your clubs, throw them forward, so you won’t have to walk back and get them.
Best swing on the PGA Tour?
Rory McIlroy, and I would have said that even if he hadn’t just won the U.S. Open.
What is the one quick tip you could offer for any level golfer?
At least grip the club right!
— Compiled by Rick White