NEW PORT RICHEY — It took a hurricane to bring Mark Haluska to the Tampa Bay area.
It wasn’t planned that way, of course, but eight years ago, when Hurricane Charley wiped out many Southwest Florida golf courses, Haluska didn’t have a lot of options.
“I was out of a job,” said Haluska, who was a professional at South Seas Island Resort on Captiva Island in 2004. It was as close to a perfect setting as Florida offered, but the golf course was devastated.
So Haluska packed it up and moved to the Tampa Bay area and eventually to New Port Richey’s Seven Springs Golf and Country Club, where he is the head golf professional at the 36-hole track that includes an executive course. Haluska may miss Southwest Florida, but he has taken the move in stride.
“There was nothing to do,” Haluska said. “Things happen for a reason.”
Haluska has always wanted to be in the golf business. Growing up in Illinois, he realized that there, golf was not a 12-month career. He started spending winters in Florida while polishing his game. He made it a career when he was offered a job at Walt Disney World as an assistant professional on the Palm and Magnolia courses, 36 holes of Disney’s renowned 99 holes of golf. He even helped with the changes to the courses, which host the PGA Tour’s season-ending event.
Haluska said he is lucky he got into the business when he did, even if he doesn’t get a lot of time on the course.
“Ninety percent of this is being part of the business,” Haluska said. “I manage things, run the pro shop, and do a lot of teaching. I just don’t get to play as much as I would like. Being a head professional is all about customer relations and training the staff. I watch over upgrades and enjoy it, but it would be nice to play more.”
He’s having plenty of time to teach and works well with children, especially during his Saturday morning clinics. He’s concerned about the game of golf and wants to make sure that — despite the decrease in golf revenue reported by some Tampa Bay area golf clubs — he helps the game continue to grow.
“I love working with kids,” Haluska said. “They are the future of the game. We need to get kids hooked early with the game. It’s a game you can play for the rest of your life. A lot of kids are playing soccer, but you can’t play soccer forever. We need to get the kids out here and once they get out here, they find that they love the game.”
As far as Seven Springs is concerned, the club is going through some renovations under Haluska’s watch. Renovations are being made to the clubhouse, lounge, locker rooms and driving range. The work is expected to be completed by Oct. 1. Trees are being cut and the 13th hole is being remodeled.
It might have taken a hurricane to move Haluska to Tampa Bay, but he has no plans to leave.