Leaving the Bay: Jackson was pro at exclusive club

Roaring Spring native Josh Jackson is looking to expand his horizons as a golf professional in south Florida after a six-year stint at the exclusive Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando.

Jackson assumed many responsibilities as an assistant golf professional at the Arnold Palmer-owned resort – including ‘heading up’ the women’s golf association and overseeing all equipment repair performed at the club.

Jackson, who grew up in Roaring Spring, became acquainted with golf at a young age. He spent many youthful, summer days at his grandmother’s home in Hollidaysburg, where he would walk to nearby Sylvan Hills Country Club.

“I would spend all day there,” said Jackson. “I would go around the course, hitting balls all day long.”

While attending Central High School, Jackson developed into one of the best young golfers in the area. Golf coach Bill Burket remembers the progress Jackson made during his high school years.

“The first year I coached Josh, I really didn’t have a problem beating him,” Burket said. “The second year, he really improved, and by his senior year – I had no chance. He became one of the best golfers I’ve ever coached, and he’s also one of the most sincere and polite young men I’ve ever been around.”

After graduating in 2003, Jackson competed at a high level in local amateur events, winning the Iron Masters club championship in consecutive years and finishing strong in several local best-ball events. Wally Clapper, of Martinsburg, partnered with Jackson at the Sinking Valley Classic for several years.

“Josh was a really great partner,” Clapper said. “He has such a great attitude, in addition to being a great ball-striker.”

About 10 years ago, Jackson had the opportunity to caddy at the prestigious Sunnehanna Amateur tournament in Johnstown and just happened to get the bag of Sam Saunders – grandson of golfing-great Arnold Palmer.

The two quickly became friends, and later, Saunders would recommend Jackson for a job at his grandfather’s famous course in Orlando, Fla. In 2007, Jackson accepted a position at Bay Hill, where he has been the past six years.

In addition to running tournaments for Bay Hill’s women’s golf association, Jackson’s duties also included working in the club’s pro shop and overseeing all club repair. A good deal of his time each year was also spent helping to prepare for the annual Arnold Palmer Invitational – a PGA Tour event held each spring at Bay Hill. Although most of his time was spent coordinating volunteers for the club’s merchandise tents, Jackson experienced a close encounter with a touring pro in 2010.

That year, PGA Tour player Joe Ogilvie had been struggling with his iron play and was looking to get his irons bent one degree upright. Jackson was the man for the job, and after altering his clubs, Ogilvie scored the low round of the day – a six-under par, 66. Ogilvie was so impressed that he relayed the story of Jackson’s help to several reporters – and the story was carried in local newspapers the next day.

While at Bay Hill, Jackson also attended classes at the University of Central Florida, earning a degree in golf and club management. Additionally, Jackson has worked to gain his Class-A PGA membership, furthering his credentials as a golf professional.

For Jackson and his wife, it was a difficult decision to leave Bay Hill, but after considering a move back to Pennsylvania, the couple finally decided to relocate to Naples, Fla. – where Jackson is looking to further his career at one of the area’s many highly-ranked clubs.