Last year, Frank Guastella won the “Lyle Leeke Distinguished Service Award,” which is handed out annually to an individual who has “displayed distinguished service to both the Michigan Golf Course Owners Association and the golf industry” in general. Guastella, a 1970 alum of Notre Dame, also is a member of the Michigan section of the PGA of America as a longtime golf pro.
How he got to be such a multi-hyphenated and esteemed member of the state’s golf community, while full of twists and turns, really is no surprise after examining his past. You see, Guastella was a golf “junkie” even before he started high school when he began to caddy at the storied Lochmoor Club in Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.
“I was attracted to the beauty of a golf course even back then and was fascinated by the skill and technique that it took just to hit a golf ball,” said Guastella, who later graduated from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., with a degree in marketing. “I thought to myself then that a golf course was a cool place to work because of the opportunity to be outdoors and the fact that you met interesting and influential people all the time.”
Learning much more
The more time Guastella spent at the golf course, the more he became intrigued by the dynamics of the business itself — things like keeping the golf course well-manicured, running the pro shop operation and the managing of the food and beverage in the clubhouse.
“I then started to become more interested in owning a golf course,” he said. “But I was well aware that I had to learn all the facets of the golf operation before I could ever have a chance of becoming a successful golf course operator.”
But he did learn more — much more.
In 1977 and a few years out of college, Guastella became the assistant professional at the Lochmoor Club and held that position for two years. After about two years at Lochmoor, he was appointed as the golf professional at the St. Clair River Country Club in St. Clair, Mich. Then, in 1985, he was promoted to the position of general manager at the St. Clair club. He held that position until 1990 when he became the general manager at the Paint Creek Golf Club in Lake Orion, Mich. He eventually returned to the Lochmoor Club as its general manager in 1991.
Meanwhile, Guastella earned master professional status in the PGA of America, making him one of only 390 members out of 23,000 who have achieved master pro designation.
In 1995, Guastella said, it was time to manage his own golf course.
Golfing in the U.P.
“I formed R&G Management with a partner, William Roberts,” Guastella said. “R&G was organized as a golf course management and consulting company. We promptly purchased the Red Fox Run Golf Course on the K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, which was located near Marquette in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and had just been closed by the Air Force.” Guastella said his company also implemented a highly ambitious conversion of the course from a military operation to public use. They eventually established the Red Fox Run Golf Academy on the base where Guastella taught all levels and ages of players.
“Bill and I also partnered with some other local Marquette businessmen to form Red Fox Properties, Inc.,” he recalled. “Red Fox Properties was a management and development company that purchased many of the buildings and houses on the closed air base that we converted to civilian use.”
Guastella served on the Board of Directors of the Michigan Golf Course Owners Association for 20 years and ultimately became president of the association in 2006 for a two-year term.
Discipline and Christian values
Today, Guastella is never more than a couple of miles from a golf course. And while he’s currently living substantially more than a couple miles from his old high school, he still recalls those four years as being some of the best for him.
“It was a great time in my life,” he said. “The discipline and Christian values we were taught at Notre Dame were an extension of what my parents had taught me at home. I am very thankful they were able to make the sacrifice to send me to Notre Dame as my college experience was most definitely enhanced by my high school experience. I felt completely comfortable academically and socially at Ferris.”
Guastella said the transition from high school to college was easy for him simply because of the foundation he received at Notre Dame.
“The college preparatory classes we had as part of our high school curriculum certainly set the tone for what I saw my first semester in college,” he said. “Most of the material covered that first semester I had already seen at Notre Dame, so I was not intimidated by it at all.
“Also, the competitiveness of the academic environment at ND and the accountability that required us to always do our homework helped to create good study habits, so the college workload was not something I struggled with. I can honestly say that Notre Dame definitely prepared me not only for success in college, but in life as well.”
Guastella and his partner eventually sold Red Fox Run Golf Course and he went to work for Franklin Golf in Clarkston, Mich., as director of operations and marketing. In 2009, he returned to his original passion of teaching golf and today he is the PGA teaching professional at the St. Clair Club back in St. Clair.
“I myself have a passion for learning new skills, even at age 65,” he said. “You can always get better and I want to be able to give my students the best knowledge and technology that there is in the field. I’m always networking with other golf professionals, attending seminars and classes on teaching golf, plus I stay abreast of all the latest technology. I love this game!”
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Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org.