Meet Dr. Gary Wiren! A man of numerous accomplishments, notable accolades and significant contributions to the game of golf. He’s a championship golfer, a member of 9 Golf Halls of Fame including the PGA Hall of Fame, the author of 14 books, one of which is the PGA Teaching Manual, founder of the PGA Junior Golf Academy which was a forerunner to The First Tee, and the owner and curator of the largest golf memorabilia collection in America – just to name a few. All of this from a genuinely humble and gracious man who believes in strong values and promoting kindness in our world.
He was born in Ft. Dodge, Iowa in 1935 but grew up in Omaha, Nebraska. He went to a Creighton Prep, a Jesuit high school then went on to Huron University in South Dakota. It was a Presbyterian college where he played football, was the student body president, the president of the traveling choir and a member of the debate team to which he credits his love of public speaking. He then went on to get his Master’s degree at the University of Michigan where he coached football and met his beautiful wife, Ione. At the age of 24, he returned to the University as A Department Head, an Athletic Director, and a football coach. He spent 4 years there before heading to the University of Oregon to complete his Ph.D. in Sport Science.
He is married and the father of four, a son and 3 daughters. He is the founder of Golf Around the World, an online emporium of golf training aids which his son now runs.
Thank you, Gary, for your dedication to your sport, your community and your love of The Palm Beaches.
Q: What inspired you or led you to your current career?
A: At 10 years old, I began caddying for my dad at Spring Lake Park in Omaha. The golf pro there noticed me and offered me a job. I was 10 or 12 years old then, making 50 cents an hour with access to all the free golf I wanted. My self proclaimed title was Irrigation Engineer, aka the night water boy. I set the sprinklers out and moved them around to water the greens, usually finishing up around 11 at night.
Q: What is your favorite restaurant in The Palm Beaches, and what do you love there?
A: Carrabba’s Italian Grill, the salad plates are ice cold, the soup has steam coming off of it and they have specials all the time. These are little things that other restaurants seem to overlook but are important to me. The food is geared towards the Italian side, the service is quick and the food is moderately priced.
Q: How long have you lived or worked in The Palm Beaches?
A: 47 years. We moved here in 1972 when Leo Fraser, then President of the PGA, asked me to move to Florida and become the Educational Director for the Association. It changed my life. I went from having a regional influence to having international influence as the PGA of America was followed by many countries around the world.
Q: Who is the most interesting person you’ve met here in The Palm Beaches?
A: Seth Waugh, he is the executive director of the PGA of America. He’s done all kinds of high-level things before coming here. Very interesting guy.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would it be? And why?
A: Norway and Tasmania are the two places that I have not been to and would like to go.
Q: What is your favorite movie OR what is the first movie you remember seeing in a theatre?
A: Driving Miss Daisy and The Sound of Music are my favorite movies.
Q: What advice would you give a crowd of people?
A: Read books about random acts of kindness. People who did those things became role models for me and that’s the way we would want people to be able to behave because it’s a way of showing you care enough about somebody else. The random part is important. Be kind without expecting anything in return.
Q: What is something on your bucket list?
A: I want to finish writing 1 of 3 books I’m working on. The book that I really need to get done is called The Key to Finding Joy in the Game of Golf. Something I tell all of the pros when I speak to them is when you shoot a lower score, you tend to have more fun. It’s true. The book is to help players find joy even when they are not playing well. Find something to enjoy in the game no matter how you played.
Q: What is your favorite music?
A: I like Classical, Country, and Older Pop music. I don’t care for jazz at all and songs that use bad language.
Q: What current/former local business makes you the most nostalgic about The Palm Beaches?
A: Winships Pharmacy, been there since we arrived 47 years ago.
Q: Choosing anyone alive and a non-relative: with whom would you love to have lunch?
A: Clint Eastwood and Harvey Penick, although he’s no longer with us. He was a golf professional who wrote the largest selling sports book in history. He was a very humble man.
Q: What is your favorite thing or something unique about The Palm Beaches?
A: I like the fact that John D. MacArthur was able to save land and set it aside for the John D. Mac Arthur Beach State Park. I did my interview to come to Florida with John D. MacArthur. He owned a hotel in Riviera Beach and was one of America’s first billionaires and he was very tight with the nickel. He owned all of the land that is now Ballen Isles which used to be PGA of America before they moved to their current location. Mr. MacArthur was the landlord for the PGA so I had to interview with him. We went to his hotel and sat in the bar area. It had a revolving bar. Mr. Mac, as he was called, was a very interesting character. He gave me the approval by saying “Ph.D.’s are a dime a dozen but a Ph.D. golf pro? You would be a heavyweight amongst your fellow professionals”. That was Mr. Mac and I was hired.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
A: I want to travel and I want to sell my golf collection to fund my travels. I want to continue writing and I hope I have more chances to speak and to talk to people about things that I think are important, like values. Next year, when I turn 85, I want to able to hit the ball 300 yards. You don’t find many 85-year-olds doing that.
Q: (Even for friends or family), what is something interesting that most people don’t know about you?
A: They didn’t know I was a Little all-American quarterback in NAIA college football and a grad assistant coach for two years at the University of Michigan… 1957 and 1958: also, a debater for all of high school and four years of college.
Q: What 3 words or phrases come to mind when you think of the word HOME?
A: A very favorite comment I make sometimes when I’m not there is “let’s go home”. It indicates how much I love it.
Q: If you had a full-time staff member that was fully paid for, who would you choose? Chef, Housekeeper, Driver, Coach, Physical Fitness Trainer, or Nanny?
A: That would be a housekeeper so my wife wouldn’t have to do it all the time.
Q: If you were cast into a major motion picture and had your choice of anyone to be your co-star, who would you choose?
A: I would like to do a show with Bing Crosby. His son, Nathaniel, lives in this area and his father loved to golf. He’s a good player and I think we would have a good time.
The Faces of The Palm Beaches is a project to showcase the amazing people that live or work in our community. Who do you know that should be nominated?