Bonita Bay Club pros gather more awards

Randy Kambic
Special to Coastal Life

E.J. McDonnell, Bonita Bay Club director of golf, has known head golf pro Richie Packish a long time.

Richie Packish hopes to play Bonita Bay Club's three courses more with members as the new head golf pro.

“We go back a long way,” says McDonnell of his association with Packish.

The end of busy season at the club’s west facility has been like a bunch of birdies for both, as Packish was promoted to the new position in mid-March and McDonnell was named Golf Professional of the Year by members of the Southwest Florida Chapter PGA on May 16.

“We were in the same assistants group in 1999 and 2000,” when Packish ran a junior medalists program and remained involved with it through 2010, said McDonnell. “We worked together a lot in junior clinics and have played golf together many times. His outgoing personality and his team management skills are sure to enhance the member experience here for years to come.”

Packish joined the club in the fall 2013 as an assistant pro, and became first assistant the following spring.

Richie Packish hopes to play Bonita Bay Club's three courses more with members as the new head golf pro.

In August, he also became coach of the Barron Collier High School girls’ golf team — which includes his daughter, Alysha, now a sophomore — and was named Collier County High School Girls’ Coach of the Year after it went undefeated in 13 matches (with home contests at Quail Creek Country Club), finishing fourth in the state.

He has previously won both the PGA chapter’s Horton Smith Award and Assistant of the Year honors, along with being named the South Florida Section PGA Assistant of the Year.


Packish’s new post is a testament to how the club promotes a lot from within, which he also practices. He brought in David White, who he first met when White was an assistant coach at Barron Collier, as an assistant pro.

“I’ve enjoyed mentoring and coaching him,” he said, adding that White was recently named the school’s boys’ coach starting this fall.

Packish said he’s now “doing more administrative things ... desk time, attending more men’s and women’s member committee meetings, more delegating, maybe a little less teaching. I hope to play a little more with members.”

The end of busy season didn’t slow down as much as previous years.

“We have more and more year-round residents,” he said. “We expect to keep all three courses open through late May, a little longer than usual.”

He expects to “add more firepower” to the club’s summer golf school sessions for adults and youngsters starting in late June. He cited Creekside as his favorite course from among the three Arthur Hills-designed courses that also include Marsh and Bay Island.

“The landings are a little more generous as the fairwarys are a little wider. The other courses demand more precision driving,” he said.

“I like to keep it simple and fun,” he said of his teaching philosophy. “Work with what the student has to offer. Everything is personalized.”

Martha’s Vineyard

Packish’s golf career journey began in 1991, when he decided he “didn’t want to sell insurance anymore and I got into my car in Martha’s Vineyard and drove down here.”

He did “a little of everything” in assisting in maintenance, “from mowing greens to recessing sprinklers,” at Stonebridge Country Club in Naples. He earned assistant player’s apprenticeship in 1994 and became PGA Class A Pro six years later.

Packish’s extensive experiences teaching youngsters that have also included being boys’ team coach at St. John Newman High School from 2005-2010, have “increased my patience. I think it has helped me to be even more genuine, trustworthy and successful.”

Of his award that recognized overall performance, service, leadership skills, ability to inspire young professionals and promoting the game, McDonnell, who started at Bonita Bay Club in 1999 as a member of the outside operations team, said, “It’s a great honor to be recognized by peers. It’s really shared by family, members and the staff, including guys like Richie who make me better.”

Beyond the gates

Other Southwest Florida Chapter PGA award winners includ Christopher Sheehan, Pelican’s Nest Golf Club, Bill Strausbaugh Award; Jordan Burke, Cypress Woods Golf & Country Club, Jeremy New Assistant of the Year; and Andy Scott, Andy Scott School of Golf, including at Stoneybrook Golf Club, Teacher of the Year ... Miromar Lakes Beach & Golf Club will host a Southwest Florida PGA Chapter Global Golf No. 1 tournament May 31.