Growing up in the inner city of Cleveland, Ohio, Bailey Wherry did not know a golf ball from a kumquat. Today, he is the recently-named Director of Golf at the del Lago Golf Club in Vail. “As a kid,’’ he said, “I remember seeing a guy walking down the street with a bag over his shoulder. I had no idea there was a set of golf clubs in it.”
Wherry beat an unlikely path to the position he’s in today. He is one of 13 children. His father, Bernie Sr, was a Navy veteran who worked for the City of Cleveland; his mother, Lela, worked at a nursing home. Wherry recalls his childhood as being a series of challenges. At 13, he stopped attending classes. “My mother found out,’’ he said. “She and one of my sisters, Bernice, took me to the upper floor of our house. Both read me the riot act. “Bernice was so upset she slapped me.”
How tough was it growing up in the inner city of Cleveland? Wherry remembers one incident of playing pick-up basketball at a neighbor’s house. Before the games began, one of the players pulled out a revolver and placed it on a table near the court.
Wherry’s introduction to golf occurred after enlisting in the Army following graduation from high school in Cleveland. He was stationed in Hawaii. “A friend asked me if I wanted to play golf,’’ Wherry said. “I told him no one plays golf.” Wherry played his first-ever round of golf while stationed in Hawaii. “I shot 93,’’ he said. For nine holes.
The days of shooting 93 for nine holes are over. Wherry, 52, is an accomplished golfer – as well as a highly-regarded instructor – who someday would like to make it on the Champions PGA Tour. Meanwhile, he’s determined to make del Lago one of the top golf courses in the area. “Ownership has put a lot of money into del Lago in recent months,’’ said Wherry, who has lived in the Tucson area for more than a decade. “I am not the kind who micro-manages. I am letting people do their jobs here. Everyone has their strengths. My goal is to get memberships up, to get more tournaments here. This is an outstanding facility.”
Burt Graeff is a retired sportswriter from Cleveland who lives in Vail with his wife, June, and their Jack Russell terrier, Skip. He wrote for more than 45 years, primarily at the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Cleveland Press.