LOCKPORT — Even as an avid young golfer growing up in Daytona Beach, Fla., Terry Stiltner had visions of someday visiting and maybe playing golf in Niagara Falls, with its rolling, scenic hills.
Then he visited this area for the first time and quickly realized that a majority of the terrain is relatively flat. But the experience and people here left such a positive, permanent impression on him, Stiltner's golf career continued to flourish and though he moved on periodically to bigger and better opportunities over the years, eventually, about 20 years ago, he bought a home here and he's never left since.
“I didn't realize it was so flat here, coming from Florida, but I loved it right away,” said Stiltner, who brings buckets of experience — and fun — to his diverse role as the new golf professional at the historic Lockport Town & Country Club.
A former assistant golf pro at the Niagara Falls Country Club, Stiltner proudly makes Niagara Falls his home today, along with his wife, Wendy, and daughter, Teaa.
His tenure at the NFCC (1990-94) in Lewiston included hands-on experience working at the annual Porter Cup amateur golf tournament, witnessing a young Tiger Woods compete and PC championships earned by the likes of Phil Mickelson and David Duval.
“A lot of great names have gone through the Porter Cup,” Stiltner said. “You kind of know which ones are going to be real good, but you've got the best players in the country — the best collegiate players, best amateurs, the U.S. amateur champion and past champions coming back — so just to watch them on a day-to-day basis was a great experience for me.”
Stiltner moved back to Florida briefly, taking up a job as the golf pro at the the LPGA International Golf Club during a time when the LPGA Tour passed through with the Sprint Titleholder Championships. It was there that he witnessed some of the best female golfers in the sport's history, including Nancy Lopez, Patty Sheehan and Annika Sorenstam.
“You were there for long hours, but that was a great experience for me working with the Titleholder staff and the 400 to 500 volunteers,” he said.
Stiltner finally found those rolling WNY hills he was dreaming about when he took up a job as the golf pro at the Bartlett Country Club in Olean in the Southern Tier, where he remained for nine years.
He started his new job at the LT&CC on April 1 and the response from members and employees alike has been positive.
“He really knows what he's doing,” said LT&CC assistant pro J.J. Napoli. “He's very smart and knowledgable about what's going on in golf. He's mellow and a great leader. He said on my first day, ‘We're going to have fun around here, but when it comes to the job, I need you to do your job first.’ It's a pleasure working under him.”
“I love Lockport. It's a neat area,” Stiltner said. “The state of the Lockport Country Club and the golf course is excellent. Every club could use more members, but we here in Lockport are very healthy. The golf course is in fabulous shape, the greens are absolutely perfect, the fairways are perfect and the clubhouse and patio are beautiful, but it's the people, the members, who make the job most enjoyable for me.
“I was lucky enough to meet a few Lockport Town & Country Club members about 15 years ago through Eddie, playing in a pro am in Las Vegas. I actually went with the team from Lockport,” Stiltner said.
“So when I met a number of members here, like Tim Smith, John Angelo, Tom Weeks, Tom Carlin and few more once I arrived here full time, as soon as they opened the door and walked in they said, ‘I remember you’ and we carried on conversations we had 15 years ago, so it was good.
“Ever since I stepped on this property, I've felt welcomed here. The people seem very genuine and that is Lockport. That's the people of Lockport.”
As a Class A PGA professional at the LT&CC, Stiltner's duties include running the day-to-day operations of the golf course and pro shop, tee times, tournaments and other outside events.
“That's what makes it. You're always trying to give back to the community. The country club is important to this city,” said Stiltner, the winner of a prestigious Western New York PGA award as merchandiser of the year in 2015.
“I take a lot of pride in the golf shop and I want to make sure members have a positive experience on the golf course,” he said. “One of my goals is to continue helping with junior golf outside of the Lockport country club, through the middle schools and through the Western New York First Tee Program.”
The 18-hole LT&CC was established in 1902. For more information, call 433-5969.
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