TICONDEROGA - George Mackey didn't plan on staying.
"I needed a job and there was one in Ti," Mackey recalled. "I planned on staying a couple of years to get some experience and moving on."
Mackey started his 30th season as pro at the Ticonderoga Country Club April 3.
"I got to know people and really enjoyed working here," Mackey said. "My kids were born here; I've become part of the community. Ticonderoga has been good to me."
Mackey smiled as looked across the course, located in the Lord Howe Valley two miles south on the hamlet on Route 9N, noting the April 3 opening is the earliest the links have ever been completely open.
Mackey started playing golf - and working at a local course - in Schenectady at age 15. He enjoyed the game and, maybe just as important, his employers liked him.
"They really encouraged me to pursue golf as a career," he said. "They steered me in the right direction."
So, Mackey decided to be a club pro. Unlike today, when prospective pros go directly to PGA school, Mackey entered the Professional Golfers of America apprentice program. From there he went to PGA school, learning the business side of the sport as well as golf skills. After passing tests in both areas and making it through a final interview, Mackey was a PGA pro.
During that process Mackey learned of a job opening at Ticonderoga Country Club in 1981.
"I needed a job, so I applied," Mackey said. "It's turned out great. I couldn't ask for anything better."
Mackey is the longest-serving pro in the 85-year history of TCC, but he quickly deflects talk of himself to his love - the 18-hole, 6,194-yard Ticonderoga course.
"The course is open and fairly forgiving to an average player, but it still presents a challenge because of the hilly terrain," he said. "And the Trout Brook comes into play on seven holes, so there are a lot of water hazards."
Ticonderoga Country Club - which includes Emerald's Restaurant - is an important part of the community, Mackey noted.
"We raise thousands of dollars for local charities every year and we serve as a meeting place for local residents as well as visitors," Mackey said. "The club has always been good about remembering its role in the community."
This summer TCC will host charity tournaments for the Ti Kiwanis, Ronald McDonald House, the Dan Padula Memorial Fund, the Ticonderoga High School Alumni Association, the Silver Bay Association, the Ti Knights of Columbus, the Ti Elks, the Mike Vigliotti Scholarship, the John Kazlo Memorial Scholarship and the Ticonderoga High School boys basketball program.
TCC is also home to the Ticonderoga, St. Mary's School and Crown Point school golf teams - at no charge.
The club, with Mackey as the lead instructor, also offers free golf clinics each season open to the public.
Mackey also pointed out the TCC board of directors has reduced membership fees in 2010 to 2007 levels. There are nine memberships available ranging in price from $150 to $1,820.
"We want to keep it (membership) affordable for everyone," Mackey said. "It's hard to hold the line on costs; everything is more expensive. It's important, though, to give access to as many people as possible."
Daily greens fees, ranging from $16.50 to $37, are same the same as a year ago.
Ticonderoga Country Club has about 250 members.