Photo by Adam Finkle
Ron Branca has been head golf professional at the Salt Lake Country Club for 20 years and a member of the PGA for 40. Despite his lengthy tenure, he considers himself a “Ronnie-come-lately.” That’s in comparison to his father Tee, who held the same job for more than half a century.
Tee Branca became the club’s pro in 1944, and kept the job until 1995, when Ron was offered the position.
“Never mind the 51 years,” Ron Branca says, “he also opened and closed the shop seven days a week. My brother and I would joke that we would feel sorry for whoever followed him in this position. We had no idea it would eventually be me.”
Ron had a two-decade golf resume even before Salt Lake Country Club—it included golf coaching at his alma mater, the University of Utah, and as a pro at both Rose Park and Wingpointe. But his rise to the top job at the city’s oldest and most-prestigious country club was far from assured.
More than 300 pros from around the country applied when Tee retired. “I thought of it as a ‘mercy hire,’ particularly when they only offered me a one-year contract at the beginning,” Ron says. “There was amazing interest in the job from some extremely qualified professionals. Even though I was very familiar with the operation, had a solid resume and decades of experience, some applicants had even more experience. Honestly, if it wasn’t for my father I doubt I would have been given the chance, but he cast a massive shadow over this club, and I guess they decided to give me a shot.”
That shot apparently paid off. Two decades later, he remains pro. But Ron, tall, broad and with a shock of thick, dark hair, figures he’d be stooped and silver-haired long before he could hope to replicate his father’s remarkable half-century legacy.
“Though the business has changed greatly in the 30 years I’ve been here, I first think of the similarities between them,” says Amedee Moran, the club’s longtime general manager. “Tee was a Utah golf treasure, one of a kind. In his era the pro was basically an independent contractor, who owned the shop and the range. Ron has done a wonderful job of bridging the gap between eras, where now the head pro is part of the management team. In my opinion, the country club has been extremely fortunate to have these two men as head professionals over the last 70-plus years.”
Ron, the 2011 Utah Section PGA Professional of the Year (Tee, who died in 1999, won that award four times), says he could never hope to duplicate what his father accomplished.
“He was a legend not just in Utah, but nationwide. I imagine there are members who think I’m not the man my father was,” Ron says. “But at least they don’t say it to my face.”
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