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Utah County will miss ‘old school’ golf pro

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PAYSON — He stands under the sun with this Titleist cap shading his face, arms folded. Jack Lomento is at the driving range, observing a golf clinic where young players are work through a bucket or two.

A hundred yards away in the Gladstan Clubhouse is his office, a closet that you can't move around in, it's filled with equipment, stuffed with papers. Jack avoids the closet like a sand trap. He's always wanted to be where golfers roam. A kind, gentleman, quick with a joke or a statement of golf fact, Lomento is what they call "old school." He's a dying breed in the golf business.

Lomento, the only head golf professional Gladstan has known, will put in his final week after the Fourth of July holiday. He's retiring.

Moving to Las Vegas.

He will be sorely missed in Utah County, where he's set the bar as a municipal course professional.

"He's an icon," claims 63-year old Tom Sisk of Provo, a former Major League pitcher for the Padres, Pirates and White Sox. "Jack is probably the hardest working pro in Utah county, probably in the state of Utah. I don't know if they'll know how good he is until he's gone."

His replacement will be No. 1 assistant Tracy Zobell. Two other Lomento assistants have launched solid careers. They include BYU golf coach Bruce Brockbank and Eaglewood head professional Ryan Rhees.

Said Zobell: "I don't know if you can measure what he's done. He's brought customer service second to none. He's basically put Gladstan on the map. He knows first names, he knows beginners and veteran players. He treats everyone like they are members of a private club.

"I'd say you can never replace him. He is old school. He's the ultimate pro's pro, from retail, teaching, tournaments and equipment. I've been fortunate to work with him."

For nearly two decades, Lomento has worked with Payson to fine-tune Gladstan, a course located on a ridge and canyon above Payson. There is approval to study course expansion further up a canyon with two holes, lengthening the yardage to 7,100 and minimizing safety concerns with holes 7 and 8.

"We hope those go through," said Payson city councilman Larry Skinner. "I'll do every thing I can. Jack's worked hard on pushing that, it would be part of his legacy if it is done."

Lomento began his golfing career working at Palos Verdes Golf Club in Southern California. From there he moved to Dominguez Golf Course in Carson and was the first assistant at Hacienda Golf Club, a private course in Hacienda Heights, Calif. After working at Las Vegas Golf Course, he took a job at Canyon Hills in Nephi before opening Gladstan in 1988 in Payson, where he's worked ever since.

Lomento plans on settling in Summerland's Sun City outside of Las Vegas, where he figure's he'll find a golf job part time.

When Payson hired Lomento, he tried to make it a country club with emphasis on service. "I think we did a lot of word of mouth that way, from fitting of the clubs, taking care of equipment to doing corporate outings. We wanted to make people feel comfortable, give them a country-club atmosphere and inviting them to take ownership of the course and care."

He refuses to grade his effort.

"If you think you've done it, then you sit on your butt and you really don't do it," Lomento said. "You have to do it every day. The first thing I do when I get to work is check the bathroom and see that it's clean, that there's toilet paper and that everyone has done their job, that carts are clean and people are having a fun time.

"First impressions are important. If people feel a part of it, they fix ball marks, they rake the traps and they take care of it with you."

More than 17 years ago when Gladstan opened, there were only a couple of players in the men's association. Today there are 170. With new courses cropping up at The Ranches and Talon's Cove outside of Lehi and Cedar Ridge at the mouth of American Fork Canyon, Orem will open the 18-hole Links at Sleepy Ridge in July. Add Soldier Hollow's 36 holes in Midway more than a year ago and central Utah's golf choices are suddenly legion.

Courses like Gladstan feel the pinch. Lomento digs in. Gladstan still chases those corporate outings as the pie shrinks. It becomes a shuffle. But it's a dance Lomento knows.

Key basketball and football coaches at BYU are swinging clubs they bought through Lomento. Little wonder, if they ask Brockbank about a club, he sends them to Jack.

"People want to come here and play because they feel they are treated right," Lomento said. "You try to do the best job possible. There is a lot of competition out there. We want to beat them. I've always been a hands-on visible professional. Look in my office. I don't go in my office. I can't figure out anything in my office. I want to be behind the counter and talking to people, making things work. When people come in, they see me behind the counter. I'm old school — I want to make sure everything happens."

Lomento calls little Payson City the best organization he's ever worked for. With limited funds, he says the city's choices for golf have always been correct.

"We need Jack to stay around," Brockbank said. He takes his BYU golf camp to Gladstan every summer. Much of it is Jack.

"Jack isn't one of those guys who just comes to work and fill in his hours," Brockbank said. "He comes in and works 80 hours a week minimum because that's the way he was when he started and since I came to work. He loves the profession. He loves people and he loves golf and to serve people."

Old school?

"There aren't many guys who gets up at 5 a.m. and are there when the course closes, but that's what Jack does," Brockbank said.

Next week, Lomento's face will be missing from behind the counter.

It will be as if they'd erased the lake on No. 3.

"Payson and Gladstan are very fortunate to have Jack as the head pro," Skinner said. "His friendships and influence reach far beyond the Payson golf community and that has been good for Gladstan.

"It will be difficult to replace Jack and he will be missed by many.

"On a personal note, Jack is a good friend and it is hard to have friends leave. I wish him the best and hope retirement is all he hopes it will be. He deserves it."

Birdies to you, Jack. Viva Las Vegas.

E-mail: dharmon@desnews.com