Source: Sherman Publications

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Recalls working with pro golfer Gillis
Lake Orion grad making the most on the professional golf scene

by Gabriel L. Ouzounian

March 14, 2012

Dave Zinc, Indianwood's resident pro, used to work with professional golfer Tom Gillis who just tied for second in the 2012 Honda Classic.
Lake Orion residents may go far and wide when they graduate from high school, but not many come back as professional athletes.

And not many come back after performances that put them in league with the likes of Tiger Woods.

Tom Gillis, a mid-1980's graduate of Lake Orion High School tied with Woods for second at the 2012 Honda Classic, finishing just behind Rory McIlroy. Gillis started his golfing career here in Orion and actually took a job at Indianwood Country Club where resident Golf Pro Dave Zink remembers him well.

"Gillis came to work for me when he was 13 years old as a caddy in 1982," said Zink. "He was a bit of a wild child - a little bit of a hell raiser - and him and his buddies were a group of them. They caddied for a couple of years and we put him on cart and bag staff after while.

"He was a good golfer from the get go."

Zink, who called Gillis a good friend even still, recalled a number of times the golfer inadvertently caused trouble on the golf course due to his somewhat reckless nature. "In the wrong place at the wrong time" was a phrase that could describe Gillis's time at the club, but throughout it all golf was his main focus.

"I probably tried to fire him three or four times, but I kept giving him more chances," said Zink. "He lived on the edge but he was never in any real trouble. I became what I would call myself a mentor, but we're really more good friends now. I still talk to him a couple times a week.

"I think Gillis grew up a lot and has a wife and two young kids now so he's calmed down and it shows on the golf course. Early in his career his brashness showed - he took a lot of chances he would never take today. He plays a lot smarter now and it's working for him."

Gillis managed to make an impressive $2.5 million since 2010 and the amount has helped keep him in the better competitions. But it wasn't always easy. Zink said Gillis had to pay his dues at one time and really found a stride when he went professional in 1990. He won the Michigan Open a number of times and Zink believes when Gillis started playing for a living his concentration on the game improved.

But throughout all the trials, tribulations and success, Gillis still finds time to come back and play with his old boss during the summer. Zink recalled a time when he took Gillis and some other seniors to Florida to visit family and said even then he knew the golfer would turn out to be quite good.

"I'm pretty good, but he was beating me soundly even then," said Zink. "Based on (the Honda Classic) I think he has a real chance of winning an event on the tour. His confidence is way up after this last weekend. If he can take an event he can be exempt from the qualification process for the PGA tour, which will help him a lot."

Zink started as a golf pro in 1975 in Washington D.C. and is now in his thirty-eighth season of golf. He originally planned on teaching math and coaching basketball but got into the golf business and just stayed. He started at Indianwood in 1981.