Chip Caldwell served as super superintendent for 39 years

    As the son of a golf professional, Chip Caldwell grew up on golf courses all over the state. His father, Wimpy Caldwell, was an accomplished player and builder of courses. “I can’t tell you all the golf courses where he was a pro,” Chip said, mentioning Wildwood Green in Raleigh, Ocean Isle Beach Club, Gaffney Country Club in South Carolina, Star Hill in Cape Carteret and River Bend in New Bern.

    Early on, Wimpy was at Meadow Greens Country Club in Eden.

    “He grew up at Meadow Greens Country Club and he caddied for (former governor) Luther Hodges,” Chip said. “He turned pro in his young 20s and played on the tour a little bit. I grew up there playing Meadow Greens and Lynrock.”

    So what was the connection to Pennrose Park Country Club? As youngsters, Wimpy Cardwell and N.C. Riddle were close friends.

    “He and N.C. were best buddies. N.C. being from Martinsville and my father being from Draper, they became friends at a very young age and competed against each other.”

    Riddle eventually settled at Pennrose Park in 1961 and stayed though 1979.

    Late in Riddle’s stay at PPCC, Chip landed a job as Riddle’s assistant pro and course superintendent.

    “Back in those days, the golf professional was also the superintendent and club manager. He did it all,” Chip said.

    Chip didn’t leave the superintendent post until May of 2015, some 39 years after he arrived. Health issues played a part in his retirement at age 62.

    “I never did plan on staying,” Chip said. “But I got married and had kids. My wife had such a good job at the police department, I just stayed there and stayed there. I liked the people and I felt really secure there. I loved it there. I was there so much that I thought I owned the place.”

    All the years of working alongside his father had him ready for almost everything.

“I’ve been on golf courses every day of my life and I learned from all of the great superintendents at one time or another,” Chip said.

    When he was a teen-ager, his father sent him to Harley Davidson golf cart school in Raleigh – thus the roots of his knowledge in golf cart repair.

    Pennrose Park’s 1929 Donald Ross-designed course has much of the same look as it did the day it opened. The routing hasn’t changed and the pars and yardages on most of the holes are pretty much the same. The exception came in the early 1970s when the par was changed from 37-37--74 with three par-5s on each side. Now the par-5 first hole plays as a par-4 on the back nine and the par-5 eighth hole plays as a par-4 on the front nine.


 

Chip was interviewed by Steve Williams

in late October of 2015

      Chip noted the other big changes involved the reduction of the number of sand traps and trees.

    “We had nearly 50 sand traps on that little nine-hole course and a lot of fairway bunkers,” Chip said. “We covered up 25 of them ... just didn’t have the money to maintain them so they decided to cover them up.”

    The loss of trees over the years has also been noticeable.

    “When I first got three, the trees were so thick, you couldn’t see from one fairway to the other fairway.”

    Greens, tees and bunkers have been rebuilt over the years.

    Maintaining the course on a limited budget was a huge challenge. Chip said he made it work by begging and borrowing and with a lot of help from the members.

    “If I ever needed a part or a tool, all I had to go was go down to American Tobacco and they gave it to me. No questions asked. They had a lot of the same equipment we had but it was newer.

    “Pat Griffin probably inspired me more than anybody,” Chip said. “He taught me a lot. If there was ever something I couldn’t fix or something I couldn’t do, I’d go to Pat and he would help me. If there was something I couldn’t build, I go to Herbert Ware. Everybody pitched in and helped to keep that golf course up but Pat Griffin and Herbert Ware did more for me than anybody out there.”

    Chip was a good golfer a few years ago and remembers posting some low numbers at Pennrose, shooting in the low 60s a few times.

    He’s been at the club quite a bit since his summer retirement, but not to play golf.

    “I go over there when they have a problem,” he said. “I don’t mind helping them when they have a problem.”

    He’s currently on the recovery road from back and hand surgeries and hopes to return to the course sooner than later although Dupuytren's contracture, a.k.a. Vikings Disease, prevents him from gripping a club.

    “I can’t get my fingers around my grip. My doctor told me to get bigger grips and I’ll probably do that in the future.

    “I’m just trying to get healthy,” he said. “I do a little walking and I’m doing my hand and back therapy. I’m getting better every day. But I haven’t even tried to pick up a golf club.”