After a golf career that has spanned a half-century, Jack Bloomfield is stepping down as Director of Operations for First Tee – Broward.
Bloomfield, who has been with the First Tee since 2014, has had an interesting career in the game spanning 50 years, starting as a caddie at 15.
“I was retired for the second time,” Bloomfield said. “I got a call from a friend that was working at the First Tee of the Palm Beaches and asked if I would be interested in being interviewed for this chapter because they were opening it as a new chapter.
“I thought it was something I wanted to do and it fit me for that time of my career,” he added.
Bloomfield said he was doing several freelance jobs in the golf industry from 2003-12, which included working at Palm-Aire Country Club putting on golf tournaments for non-profit and charity organizations.
“I was teaching them how to put together tournaments to raise money and Rick Weber gave me a desk over there and said it would be great if I could do this,” Bloomfield said. “I created about 25 brand new tournaments that they never had before for non-profits. I was also coaching the Pine Crest High School girls’ varsity golf team, which was a lot of fun.”
Before that, Bloomfield had retired from Callaway Golf.
At age 15, Bloomfield had his first job scooping ice cream at Baskin-Robbins and his best friend approached him and said, “You need to caddy because I made $90 cash on Saturday.
“I told him it takes me three weeks to make $90 and they take taxes out,” Bloomfield said with a laugh. “I started caddying and I fell in love with the game. I was at a very prestigious private county club named Sleepy Hollow Country Club in Westchester, N.Y.”
Bloomfield said he had a successful run as a caddy, which introduced him to playing. By the time he reached 20, he was working in the bag room at the club and was offered a job in the pro shop.
“I decided to join the PGA apprentice program and thought about playing golf professionally as a career,” he said. “I was pretty good, but my good rounds were what really good golfers would call a bad round.
“At age 25, my wife and I had our first child and she suggested I go out and get a job because I said I might want to play golf for a living,” Bloomfield chuckled. “I went to Tour School in 1978 and it showed me what level I was at, and I wasn’t at Tour level. It was an eye-opening experience.”
He said working in golf shops and having sales reps walk in made him reconsider working in the golf industry. He would ask sales reps how to put a letter together to inquire about job openings in the golf industry. Fate struck in 1982 when he went to the PGA Merchandise Show in Miami as an independent rep and met Ely Callaway Jr. while he was working in a 10-by-10 booth. It led Bloomfield to land a job with Callaway, which at the time was known as Callaway Hickory Stick USA.
“My wife called and said there were six large boxes at the house and there were two staff bags and about 50 wedges and putters and I started repping on the road,” Bloomfield said. “I was the first outside sales rep that Mr. Callaway ever hired in the history of the company. My golf playing career was over and I was now in golf sales for the next 22 years.
“I left Callaway after three years before they started to go crazy with their growth and they called me and said they would love to have me back,” he added. “In ’94 they rehired me, and they told me I had to move to Florida. I had a son in the ninth grade and a daughter in the sixth grade and we made the move.
“I spent another eight years with Callaway when the company was just off the charts. It was hotter than anything. I wound up retiring in 2002.”
Bloomfield said among the highlights through his career was playing some of the greatest courses in the world (his favorite being Shinnecock Hills). He also played golf with Fred, Couples, Johnny Miller and Alice Cooper, and Céline Dion gave him front-row tickets to one of her concerts.
“She was doing commercials for Callaway at the time,” Bloomfield noted. “Of course, meeting Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, being around Ben Hogan at a tournament. Going to Tour School was fun, and I played in the Jamaica Open. I was always a guy that could shoot 3-under on the front and 6-over on the back – and I could do the opposite.”
Bloomfield said working for the First Tee tied into his sales experience. He said that when meeting with a CEO –Spirit Airlines, Fed Ex or others – it is important for them to buy into what the First Tee’s mission is all about.
“I love that part,” he said. “I like trying to secure them as a corporate sponsor and getting financial backing, but it is really about liking people and I am a people guy.”
Working with the veterans, special needs golfers and the young children with the First Tee is one of the more rewarding parts of the First Tee. He said getting corporate partners and board members to attend their programs helps.
“If it is a kids’ program, at the end of the day the participants will come over to the donors or sponsors, take their hats off and shake their hands,” Bloomfield said. “They will make eye contact and that is what we teach. Usually, the people who join with us love golf, and they love kids. That’s a big part of it. Also, seeing our junior golfers who volunteer and give back just warms my heart. They are hooked on the kids.”
In 2014 there were zero participants. There are now 450 life-skills participants, 75 special-needs participants and 205 veteran participants. We also have 16 elementary schools that provide our program in their gym classes. That is close to 5,000 students that are being introduced to the game.
And with that growth and success, Bloomfield said the time is right for him to step aside.
“I thought 50 years was a good number,” Bloomfield said. “What a magical number. I will be 66 (this month).
I am stepping down on Nov. 1 and my wife also recently retired after a 20-year career as a fifth-grade teacher. We have four grandkids and I have a 97-year-old dad that I want to see a little more than once every two years.
“I plan on staying connected with the First Tee as an ambassador and continuing to work with the Veterans program.
The job description is ‘You have to have a love and passion for what you do, a love and passion for people and you have to have a love and passion for the game of golf.’”