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‘Golden opportunity’: Craig Day celebrates 50th anniversary as Turf Valley golf pro

Craig Day, second from left, poses for a photo during Turf Valley Resort's 50th anniversary party. Standing with Morgan State's Chuck Thomas (left), Turf Valley Director of Golf Nick Spinnato (second from right) and Morgan State's Ivory Tucker, Day celebrated his 50-year anniversary at the golf club in early March.
Craig Day, second from left, poses for a photo during Turf Valley Resort's 50th anniversary party. Standing with Morgan State's Chuck Thomas (left), Turf Valley Director of Golf Nick Spinnato (second from right) and Morgan State's Ivory Tucker, Day celebrated his 50-year anniversary at the golf club in early March. (Photo courtesy of Turf Valley)

In his time working at Turf Valley, Craig Day has met countless local celebrities.

Many of them were sports stars in Baltimore, such as former Orioles stars Paul Blair and Boog Powell, former Colts players Stan White and David Taylor, Ravens defensive tackle Tony Siragusa and announcer Chuck Thompson. He’s even met Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath.

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“All of those guys were such good people,” said Day, 73.

But as Day reflects on his 50 years working at Turf Valley, including the past 29 as the head golf professional, his favorite people are his family — both by genetics and through working together at the club.

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“There are so few golf professionals who stay at one place for a long time. A lot of times they wear out their welcome,” Day said. “But with the owners here and the membership here and the people I’ve met and worked with, what a golden opportunity this has been for me.”

Craig Day, left, works with golf student Aldo Lago, right, in the late 1970s.
Craig Day, left, works with golf student Aldo Lago, right, in the late 1970s. (Photo courtesy of Turf Valley)

In early March, before the coronavirus pandemic changed everyday life and temporarily closed golf courses, Turf Valley held a small party to celebrate Day and his 50-year anniversary at the club. Day started as the assistant golf pro for Charlie Herling in 1970 before taking over as head golf pro in 1991.

“Craig, with the way he is, didn’t want any party,” said Nick Spinnato, Turf Valley’s director of golf. “But we threw a small one anyway, and it was just the staff. It was a great time.”

Day’s life in golf started shortly after he graduated from North Hagerstown High School in the 1960s. After he graduated, Day enlisted in the Army Reserve and served for six years while working at Fountain Head Country Club in Hagerstown. He started as a caddie before moving up to working in the bag room, to caddie master to then assistant pro under Herling.

When Herling was offered the golf pro position at Turf Valley in 1970 — a little more than a decade after the 36-hole course opened in Ellicott City — he asked Day to come with him.

“I was starting a family and so on, and he offered me a good increase in income,” Day said.

For the next 21 years, Herling continued to mentor Day, who took over as head golf pro in 1991 and has held the title since.

“He was like a father to me,” Day said of Herling, who died in 2015. “He took me under his wing. He guided me and taught me and brought me through the ranks.”

A year after Day took over, he brought in Spinnato to be a new assistant. Spinnato said the 1990s were a busy time for Turf Valley, and sometimes that meant less time spent with family, but Day was always about keeping his family first.

"Family is No. 1,” Spinnato said of Day, who has two children and grandchildren. “During the entire time I’ve known him, family is No. 1 for him. We all work very long hours and we miss a lot of family things, but he talks about his family a lot.”

Day also said he’s grateful for the Mangione family for promoting him and treating him like part of the family. Mangione Family Enterprises took over Turf Valley in 1978 and still owns the club.

“I can’t say enough about the owners,” Day said. “The Mangione family treats all of the employees like family. I’ve been there a long time, but there are also other employees with multiple decades there.”

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Day will celebrate another milestone this month when he joins the half-century club with the Professional Golfers Association.

“It’s gratifying, both being at Turf Valley for 50 years and to be a member of the half-century club with the PGA,” Day said. “I’ve also been married to my wife for 53 years, which has been an absolute pleasure. I have really led a blessed life.”

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