Saturday, May 2, 2009

Thanks to golf, former resident has gone places

Talk to golfers who have lived around Franklin for years, and there is one image that many recall.
In the late 1960s and early '70s, no matter the time of year or the weather, many saw the silhouette of a boy hitting balls at the top of the hill at Hillview Country Club with an attentive father looking on.
That would be the Rev. Walter Marchand lending a watchful eye to his son, Paul.
The elder Marchand was the minister of the First Baptist Church in Franklin. He was an accomplished musician by trade who brought music to his ministry.
"My dad was a sports nut," Paul Marchand recalled. "He loved all sports.
"Every August, we would take a family vacation to Canada. That was the only time that he played golf all year, but he played almost every day at the Ridgetown Golf Course in Ontario.
"He had taught me to play the cello, which I had done for about seven years. One day I made a little deal with my dad. I was ready to go after golf, and I needed a break from the cello. He said, 'OK, if you are going to be good, you have to put in the time.'
"We had some outstanding athletes at Franklin high school in those days. There was a lot of ambition and drive in my class," said Marchand, a 1974 Franklin grad. "But my dad was emphatic about doing something every day with golf. He had great discipline and taught me golf the same way that he taught music. I really learned how to teach golf by remembering his approach to teaching music."
Marchand left Franklin to pursue a collegiate golf career at the University of Houston. It was there that he became teammates with Fred Couples, PGA Tour star, and Jim Nantz, CBS broadcaster. Marchand was a couple of years older than Couples and Nantz, but the three formed a relationship that thrives today.
After he graduated from Houston in 1980, Marchand took a job as assistant golf pro at the Connecticut Golf Club. Through-out the 1980s, he bounced back and forth between assistant pro positions and trying to play at the professional level.
After his stint in Connecticut, he returned to Houston, where he spent time working at the Houston and River Oaks country clubs.
"I was real fortunate to work for three great pros in Jackson Bradley, Charlie Epps and Dick Harmon. They taught me a lot about golf and even more about teaching," Marchand said. "I learned something different from all three, and when I was at River Oaks, I had the opportunity to be around Claude Harmon, Dick's dad, in the last couple of years of his life.
"Charlie contacted me in 1988 and told me that he was going to retire at the Houston Country Club, and he thought I had a shot to be the head pro if I came back."
In 1989, Marchand took over for Epps, who last month helped one of own his students, Angel Cabrera, capture the green jacket at this year's Masters.
In 1993, the Houston Country Club re-welcomed George Herbert Walker Bush. The former president had been a member for many years before embarking on his political career in Washington.
"The president would come in and sit in my office. It was a bit uncomfortable at first," Marchand said with a laugh. "He was just trying to figure out what was going on at the club.
"We have spent many summer days together. He lives a simple set of values. President Bush is one of my most important friends, and it is all because of golf; it levels the field."
Marchand and his wife, Judi, are frequent guests at the Bush's summer home in Kennebunkport, Maine, and have accompanied the Bushes on five family vacations to Greece.
Marchand spent 10 years at the Houston Country Club before he departed for Shadow Hawk Golf Club, where he currently serves as head golf professional/general manager. Some of his current members at Shadow Hawk include former Secretary of State James Baker and baseball stars Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Bigio. Clemens' wife, Debbie, was crowned ladies club champion at Shadow Hawk last weekend.
From 1987 until 2002, Marchand was the Tour coach for Fred Couples, who in 1992 achieved the status as the top player in the world.
"Fred is a genius. He is a natural talent, and I think I gave him some structure and a more organized approach. My job was to get him to play his best. There is a certain chemistry that exists between player and coach. You pick and choose your spots."
After a seven-year stint with Butch Harmon, Couples now is back with Marchand as his Tour coach. The two worked together at the Houston Open in March, where Couples nearly pulled off a great victory. They spent the week together at Augusta.
This week I spoke to Nantz, an Emmy Award winner, about his relationship with Marchand.
"Paul has always been like a big brother to me," Nantz said. "We have traveled to many places around the world. He is the closest thing I have found to 'the perfect human being.' He always puts others first.
"He is a man of faith and family. There is no one more trustworthy. I am truly blessed to have his friendship and guidance on things in my life."
Nantz has risen to the top of the broadcasting profession. In his book "Always By My Side," Nantz writes that Marchand "is still a major influence in my life." It was through Marchand that Nantz met Jim McKay, ABC sports legend, and President Bush.
"Jim is one of my best friends. We talk often," Marchand said. "What he has accomplished is amazing.
"One of his real talents is the way that he weaves the human side into the story. He flew across the country when I was at the Connecticut Golf Club just to play golf with Jim McKay. We slept in the locker room the night before.
"Jim was so excited to meet this legend in broadcasting. He just kept asking McKay question after question about all of his colleagues. And now, McKay's son, Sean McManus, is the executive producer for CBS News and Sports, and he is Jim's boss.
"How do you describe the impact of all of this?" Marchand added. "It's all because of golf"
Favor returned, it was through Nantz that Marchand met Ken Venturi, who asked him to be his captain's assistant during the 2000 Presidents Cup matches at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club outside Washington.
"That was one of the highlights of my life," Marchand said.
In typical Marchand fashion, he took that experience and shared it with others. The players and captains were given the opportunity to present an unrestricted gift as a donation to a charity of their choice. Marchand donated $40,000 to the Indiana Golf Foundation in the name of his father, Walter.
"Even though he is no longer in the area, Paul keeps strong ties to where he is from. He has always been a great supporter of the foundation," said Mike David, executive director of the Indiana Golf Foundation.
It's pretty obvious that on one of those cold, cloudy winter days just north of State Road 44 in Franklin, Walter was teaching Paul more than just the golf swing.
Ted Bishop is director of golf for The Legends of Indiana Golf Course in Franklin and is secretary of PGA of America.

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