Pros in the Know: A 20 Year Annual Journey

The Carolina Club - North Carolina Outer Banks Golf

Shaking off winter, the members of the foursome admittedly haven’t ‘played a lot of golf’ by the time they reach the windswept fairways of North Carolina’s Outer Banks every fourth week in March. But it’s a routine from which they refuse to deviate … and a streak now approaching 20 consecutive years.

“So there are always a good few rounds when all of us hit some stupid shots,” says Bob Croll, the PGA head golf professional at the highly-acclaimed Eagle’s Landing Golf Course located near Ocean City, Maryland.

Yet after four days of exacting 36-holes-in-a day golf across the wide variety of golf courses OBX has to offer, “There are usually a few good rounds mixed in there somewhere.”

Ahh, Ain’t This the Life

Some folks believe that club professionals have the life. Well, maybe that’s true. But carding rounds on the grounds they oversee – contrary to popular belief – is not always the major perk one might think.

Just ask any one of these experts of their craft.

“Things get so busy [at their home courses], there’s rarely enough time in the day to get out and actually play golf even though we have that opportunity right outside our pro shop window,” many golf course pros have been known to echo. They insist there is a constant flow of members, guests and clients to attend to. There’s paperwork to be done. There are carts to stage and put away. There are pro shop items to stock and a grill to sustain. When they finally do get a break from the perpetual action, there’s always something to distract them from their games out on the tee boxes, fairways and greens. And that’s not ideal for skilled players trying to maintain their own games.

So what do many of them do? They take some well-deserved time off. They hit the road. Somewhere, anywhere they can relax and focus. Someplace where they are blissfully welcomed … only now as guests.

Croll and his PGA assistant Mike Tritapoe are two champions of the pro shop treadmill. Despite running the show at Eagle’s Landing, their preferred golf getaway is actually to a destination not that much dissimilar from where they hail from. They merely hop into a few pickups and head down the coast to the state of North Carolina’s Outer Banks situated less than four hours away.

When these two decide to leave behind their saltwater marshes, their smooth-rolling greens, their stunning views over the Sinepuxent Bay [toward famed Assateague Island] and their Dr. Michael Hurdzan designed masterpiece, it is to OBX where they religiously travel.

“We’ve been going there for so long, it has gotten into our blood,” says Croll, who is joined annually by Tritapoe, Baywood Greens [Long Neck, Delaware] PGA head pro Tony Hollerback and PGA Life Member Rob Bailey on each of these March migrations. “We find a different place to stay each year, play a lot of golf over four days, then head home before settling into our own season back north.”

Which begs the question: why not the Sandhills of Pinehurst, the mountains to the west, the swamps of Florida or possibly a trip out west for some desert golf … something, anything completely different?

“We just like going to the Outer Banks,” adds Tritapoe. “It’s close, it’s cool and we love coastal courses – that’s obvious since we live here [along Maryland’s Eastern Shore]. Plus the people down there are just extremely nice and we’ve become friends with them all [OBX’s PGA pros].”

As for Croll, “I love going south. And it’s especially nice to go there before the start of the busy season. Plus it gives us a chance to grind. I’ll tell you what, probably half of the golf I play each year is across those four days in the Outer Banks.”

The itinerary for each of their trips is kept pretty simple: 1. Breakfast at Henry’s Restaurant in Kill Devil Hills at least three of the four days; 2. 18 holes of golf at the course of choice in the morning; 3. A “Bud Light” lunch at the club; 4. 18 more holes in the afternoon; 5. Apres golf in the way of fine dining at one of OBX’s exclusive eating establishments; 6. Pass out; 7. Wake up with a 20-minute shower next morning; 8. Rinse and repeat.

“We go at a time when we don’t deal with a lot of traffic so we get to where we want to go with ease,” Croll adds. “Another part of what makes it fun is that it is just the four of us, we all get along so the chance for arguments is virtually zero. By the time we leave, it’s been pretty much all golf. We don’t ever see the ocean – that’s why we go back with family, to see the beach – except for when we catch a glimpse of it from a tee box on one of the barrier island’s courses [Currituck Club and Nags Head Golf Links].”

Tritapoe summarizes his experiences as being the ‘epitome’ of a group golf trip: “It’s fun. It’s a great time.”

Pros Preferences

From their winter quarters at Eagle’s Landing, the pros are asked about some of their favorite places to play and eat while on excursion to OBX each March.

Favorite Course: Although they truly “Like them all,” Tritapoe tends to rank Kilmarlic Golf Club atop his list, probably because it reminds him most closely of his home course at Eagle’s Landing. Croll, meanwhile, points towards a sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean ranking the Currituck Club No. 1 “because it’s so different” from what he has in his backyard. Hmm.

Tritapoe goes on to say, “In truth, each one has its own different characteristics.”

Croll adds: “They are all unique. I like everything about all of them. The Pointe’s and the Carolina Club’s greens are unreal. The courses on the island (the Currituck Club and Nags Head) are all so different than anything you’ll find anywhere because they are hidden among the dunes. Kilmarlic is similar to what you find around here.”

Favorite Food Stops: Breakfasts at Henry’s is a no brainer as are the grab-and-goes (otherwise known as ‘Bud Light lunches’) at the various clubhouses along the way. Dinners, however, can be a rock/paper/scissors contest among Tortuga’s Lie, Barefoot Bernie’s Tropical Grill & Bar, La Fogata Mexican Restaurant and Mama Kwan’s Tiki Bar & Grill.

Favorite Thing to Do if Not for the Great Golf: The fellas actually enjoy fishing, something they do regularly in the way of the surf variety on Assateague Island located just five miles from Eagle’s Landing and have been doing during a winter trip to nearby Ocracoke Island for longer (nearly 25 years) even than golfing along the Outer Banks.

Favorite Ice Cream Joint: “We went to one once years ago, can’t remember the name though,” concludes Croll.

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