By Sue Moore
Derek Shelburne grew up on Indian Run Golf course where he lived from age five to when he graduated from Vicksburg High School (VHS). He was a championship golfer on a team that won three Wolverine Conference titles, proving that there is a future in golf if one is good enough. Now he has made a name for himself as a golf pro while working at a big-time club in Arizona.
It started when he picked up his dad’s clubs one day and began swinging them. He found he was pretty good at the game. He hung out at the Indian Run club house, spending his days there with enough money for lunch and the range until he was 16, and was then offered a job. In 2003 and 2004, he led the VHS golf team under the coaching of Rob Johnson and Jim Douglas. Johnson said Derek was “the very best of a lot of great players!” Upon graduation he went to Ferris State University to play golf and enroll in a program to get into the golf business as a professional.
Today at age 31, he just competed in an exclusive tournament in Seaside, Calif. for Professional Golf Association (PGA) golfers only. There were over 4,000 golf professionals that tried to qualify. He was one of 312 who qualified from all over the country to play in the championship. At the tournament, Shelburne made it through the first cut after two days of play. It was down to 90 players but Shelburne unfortunately missed the second cut to 70 players after three rounds by 1 stroke. His score was par plus 8 for three rounds but he needed a par plus 7 to get past the second cut. He tied for 75th in the event out of the 312 golfers who qualified.
Angels Crossing called Shelburne to work there when the course was first opened in 2004, the year he graduated from high school. The course was based in the paper mill. Staff members would drive people over to the course to show them the first hole until the offices were built.
Shelburne’s first job out of college was at the Toledo Country Club, a top teaching club as recognized by Golf Digest. But it was only good for six months of the year, so he would drive the 2,000 miles to Arizona to work in the winter until the year-round job opened up at Highlands.
Now he is the assistant pro at Desert Highlands in Scottsdale, Arizona, hoping someday to become a head pro where he can run his own operation and still play in PGA sanctioned events.
His time at Highlands is devoted to customer service, planning golfing events and overseeing operations. Desert Highlands is a Jack Nicklaus-designed venue with highly manicured fairways and greens. The rough is transitional area with desert on all sides. Then the course reaches out to true desert with critters and cactus, he said. It looks tight but it is very playable, Shelburne said. It’s a challenging course and plays differently every day. It’s a members’ only course for those with a house or piece of land adjoining it. The one-time fee is $75,000 tacked on to the home sale, with an annual charge of $26,000 and monthly dues assessed for fees and security.
Shelburne and his wife Juanita live in north Phoenix with their two children, Devereaux, 3, and Deklan, 3 months. His grandfather lives there in the winter and his parents Rusty and Laurie Shelburne may be looking to settle nearby once they retire, he said.