Bailey Wherry

Director of Golf



Not everyone can remember the first round of golf they played.

Bailey Wherry will never forget.

“I shot a 93,’’ he said.

For nine holes.

Wherry, 50, has come a long way since that first-round 93 while stationed at an Army base in Hawaii 30 years ago. He hardly followed the conventional path to becoming the recently named Director of Golf at del Lago.

Wherry was born and raised in the inner-city of Cleveland, Ohio. “I knew absolutely nothing about golf,’’ he said. “I once saw a guy walking with a bag over his shoulder. I had no idea there was a set of golf clubs in it.”

Wherry is one of 13 children. “I was the lucky number seven’’ he said. His father, Bernie, Sr., was a Navy veteran who worked for the City of Cleveland; his mother, Lela, worked at a nursing home.

Wherry’s childhood, as one might expect, was a series of challenges. He 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.

At 13, he stopped going to classes. “After 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.”

Wherry was one of many Africian-Americans who were part of court-ordered busing in the 1980s. They were bused daily from Cleveland’s East Side to the West Side. “It was a little inconvenient,’’ he said, “but it worked out fine.”

For the most part. He recalls in incident when someone yelled a racial slur at him. ‘Of course,’’ Wherry said, smiling, “the guy made sure he was yelling it from a car going 40 miles an hour.”

Wherry’s path to golf began after enlisting in the Army following high school graduation. “Like a lot of guys,’’ he said, I played all sorts of sports – football, basketball, baseball, even tennis.”

A friend, David Fortner, asked him to play golf. “No one plays golf,” Wherry told Fortner. What followed was that infamous first round. “(Fortner) started bragging to everyone how he kicked my butt,’’ Wherry said. “I mean, come on, it was the first time I ever played.

“Actually, it made me more than a little mad.”

Wherry, along with his then-wife, moved to Madison, Wisc., following his stint in the Army. He worked as a fire-fighter in Madison for 12 years before a disability (injured knee) forced him into retirement. “My ex-father-in-law really got me into playing golf,’’ Wherry said.

Wherry has become an accomplished golfer, as well as a highly-regarded instructor. His long-range goal is to some day making on the PGA Champions Tour. Meanwhile, he is 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,’’ he said. “I am letting people do their jobs here. Everyone has their strengths. My goal is to get membership up, to get more tournaments here.

“This is an outstanding facility.”

Burt Gaeff is a retired sportswriter from Cleveland who regularly plays golf at del Lago. He and his wife, June --- along with their Jack Russell terrier, Skip --- live in Vail.