CAPE ELIZABETH — Golf may be an individual sport, but Tony Decker knows he hasn’t achieved success on his own.
The head golf professional at Purpoodock Golf Club was recently named the New England Golf Professional of the Year by the Professional Golfers’ Association.
Decker said receiving the award is an “unbelievable honor.”
“It’s not something I ever could have achieved by myself,” he said.
Decker, who has lived in Westbrook for 19 years, credits the award to support from his family, teachers and the Purpoodock staff and members.
After being nominated by another member of the New England PGA, Decker had to fill out an application to be officially considered for the award. He said he is humbled knowing another golfer nominated him.
“We all work hard in this business to make the game better, but to be considered by your peers to be the best is something I haven’t really come to grips with,” he said.
Decker started playing golf when he was 12 years old, after being introduced to the sport by his uncle. After spending his freshman year of college as a pharmacy major, he transferred to the University of Southern Maine and switched his major to business administration, with a focus on golf management.
By the time he graduated, Decker was considered a professional golfer and began the PGA apprenticeship program. He earned his PGA professional status in 1996.
From there he worked at the Gorham Country Club and the Woodlands Club in Falmouth, before starting at the Purpoodock Club four years ago. Those positions also overlapped with 14 years of serving as the executive director of the Maine chapter of the New England PGA.
At Purpoodock, Decker manages day-to-day operations and gives lessons. He said he loves interacting with members and seeing the variety of people who enjoy the game.
“It’s truly a lifetime sport,” he said. “You see an 8-year-old and an 88-year-old and they’re 80 years apart, and this is the only sport where you can have that.”
Although golf is a solitary sport – “your competitor is the golf course,” Decker said – it’s very social. Meeting new people and getting to know people more deeply has been one of Decker’s favorite aspects of the sport.
“With the game itself, I love the social interaction you have,” he said. “People say you can learn a lot about someone when you play golf with them.”
Golf has also taught Decker a lot about who he is as a person.
“Growing up playing team sports I always had teammates I could pass the ball to,” he said. “When I got more into golf I realized it was more individual. You learn a lot about yourself.”
The sport has revealed to Decker a skill that ultimately makes him a better golfer.
“I’ve learned that I’m a fairly patient person,” he said. “To have patience is important because golf can be a very difficult game and you have to balance your emotions.”
Keeping his emotions in check is second nature for Decker, who said he doesn’t like to brag about his accolades. In addition to his New England Golf Professional of the Year award, he has also been named the Maine PGA Professional of the Year for the past two years.
Decker said the awards are all an honor, but not the reason he plays. His passion for the sport and the excitement it brings to his life are what drive him.
“Every golf course is different,” he said. “And every round of golf is kind of an adventure.”
Westbrook resident Tony Decker, the head golf professional at Purpoodock Club in Cape Elizabeth, was recently named the New England Golf Professional of the Year by the PGA.Tony Decker has been golfing since he was 12 years old and said he plans to continue playing the game for the rest of his life.