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Nooe "drives" Kingsmill event
— Wayne Nooe will tell you that he's a detail guy and that he's persistent, which explains how a humble family man became a scratch golfer, how he helped build the local LPGA tournament into one of the best on tour, and as a kid how he finally got his dad to stop at the local Putt-Putt course.
He will tell you all of this graciously, if somewhat reluctantly. That's because he would rather allow weeds on his golf course and leave fence lines askew than talk about himself.
Nooe, tournament director of the Michelob Ultra Open, will talk all day about the people who work with him, who he says make his life easier and make him look good. The discussions are interrupted when he gets the itch to start crossing things off of one of his ever-present to-do lists.
"When we meet and exceed the expectations that people have for us," Nooe said, "it's a great feeling. I take a lot of personal pride in it, but I also take pride in the people that work here. I tend to be the representative of those people. I might hear more of the complaints and accolades, but I'm really a reflection of the staff. Without them, it wouldn't be anywhere near the experience that it is."
Nooe's efforts are on display again this week as the LPGA makes its annual stop at Kingsmill, where the 46-year-old native of Troy, N.C., oversees a small army of employees, volunteers and consultants.
Nooe's title is vice president of golf and club operations, which doesn't begin to convey his responsibilities.
When he isn't playing chief facilitator for the Mich Ultra Open or wearing the Kingsmill blazer on tournament Sunday, he is responsible for the resort's golf, tennis, marina, sports club, spa, camps, membership, merchandise, and golf maintenance and grounds.
"He's really an amazing golf professional," said Robin Carson, Kingsmill's executive vice president and managing director. "I would say he's an amazing professional. He's a terrific leader. He has a wonderful Southern gentility about him and he's able to make people around him comfortable.
"He serves as a significant leader of the overall resort, not just sports. There are a number of leaders here, but I seek his counsel quite a bit because he's very wise about the entire resort."
For someone who wears as many hats as Nooe, his office, and his desk are remarkably clean. The only things on his desk one morning last week were a lamp and a legal pad on top of a folder. He didn't clean up because he had a visitor.
"I'm a little bit of a neat freak, I guess you could say," Nooe admitted with a grin. "I don't like a lot of clutter."
Though Nooe forever praises the staff and the people who work with him, he said that he hovers probably more than necessary.
"I'd like to think that I'm one of those people who delegates and then gets out of the way," he said, "but I've been accused of being a little nit-picky."
For instance, he admits to being obsessive about the temporary fencing that frames the walkways and separates areas near the clubhouse during tournament week. It's not uncommon for him to let somebody know if the lines aren't straight or the flow doesn't meet his standards.
"It's kind of a pet peeve of mine," he said. "I've become 'the fence guy.' "
But then by way of explanation, he said, "If it's right and it's in place, it's fine. But if it's out of place and you look at it, it definitely would catch your eye."
• • •
What caught Nooe's eye as a kid growing up in Troy, a small town in south central North Carolina was Putt-Putt.
Not the miniature golf with windmills and waterfalls and clowns' mouths for holes, but the sport born in Fayetteville, N.C., with uniform 18-hole tracks, a sanctioning body and tournaments. Once upon a time, Putt-Putt even had a regional TV contract.
"When you grow up in a small town," Nooe said, "with an antenna on top of your house and only three channels on TV, you didn't have a lot of choice. On Sunday afternoons when it wasn't football season, there was Putt-Putt. I thought that was something I wanted to try."
Nooe, who was about 12 at the time, bugged his dad for months to stop at the Putt-Putt course when they would ride into nearby Albemarle. Howard Nooe was a NASCAR fan who never played golf, let alone Putt-Putt.
"After about six or eight months of asking, he finally stopped," Nooe remembered. "He thought I was kind of a nut."
Putt-Putt was Nooe's entrée into golf. He received a full set of clubs a couple of years later. He became a fixture at the Montgomery County Country Club, and took a summer job at the club shop so he could play more often.
"I wouldn't say I was a natural," he said. "I wasn't very good at it, but I loved the game and I loved playing."
He made the golf team at West Montgomery High, where he was a decent player, nothing more. He then attended North Carolina State — he didn't play golf there — and remains a devout Wolfpack follower.
"I talk to the TV," he joked. "I help Sidney (Lowe) coach every game."
After college, Nooe had friends who worked at Pinehurst and helped get him in the door, essentially launching his career. He began as a shop clerk in the spring of 1984, the start of an educational and illuminating 10-year run at the golf mecca.
He got into the PGA apprentice program and quickly earned his Class A card. He became the head pro at Pinehurst No. 6 from 1986-92, then director of Pinehurst's Golf Advantage School from 1992-94.
As he progressed, Nooe became more interested in the business and administrative sides of resorts and golf. He took the job as director of golf at the Homestead from 1994-2000, then spent 15 months as the head pro at the Roanoke Country Club before the position at Kingsmill opened.
Nooe worked Kingsmill the final two years of the PGA Tour's run under longtime tournament director Johnnie Bender. She stepped down after Anheuser-Busch chose not to renew with the PGA. When the company threw in its lot with the LPGA, Nooe assumed the role as tournament director.
"When you look at a successful partnership," A-B Vice President for Sports Entertainment and Marketing Tim Schoen said, "you're looking at all the different things we do with the LPGA and the players. But when you look at the venue and the actual stuff that makes this thing happen, Wayne is the epicenter."
The tournament quickly became one of the LPGA players' favorites and is often referred to as the unofficial fifth major.
Kingsmill's longtime PGA affiliation and Anheuser-Busch backing certainly gave it a running start with the LPGA, but Nooe and others admit that they've begged, borrowed and stolen ideas from other tournaments and events to enhance the product and make it more fan-friendly.
"He really drives this event," Schoen said of Nooe. "He's grown this event. He is one of the most important elements we see in this overall formula. He's just such a professional guy. He's even-keel, he's logical, he makes great decisions, and he's a very personable guy. So when you're looking for talent, what better qualities are there?"
• • •
Nooe jokes that he's a fairly vanilla guy who spends much of his free time with family. He and wife Amy, a Charlotte, N.C., native, have been married 20 years and have two children: 17-year-old daughter Anna and 15-year-old son Seth.
The Nooes enjoy spending time on the water in their motorboat, skiing and wakeboarding and puttering about at home in Williamsburg. They get to the beach regularly.
Nooe still plays golf, though he jokes that he's no longer good enough to beat his son. He was a scratch golfer when he worked at Pinehurst, but figures he's a 7- or 8-handicap now.
Nooe's golf score might be the only handicap in his life.
"I feel very fortunate," he said. "There aren't a lot of positions like this, where a golf professional can be involved in so many different areas. My family really likes the area. There are a lot of great things about this area and Kingsmill."
If this isn't his dream job in an ideal location, he isn't sure what is.
"I'm really happy doing what I'm doing," he said. "I enjoy coming to work every day. This is a pretty nice place to drive into. From a personal standpoint, I'm proud of Kingsmill and the role that I have here. It's a pretty good situation."
The Nooe file WAYNE NOOE
HOMETOWN: Troy, N.C.
JOB: Vice president of golf and club operations at Kingsmill.
NOTABLE: Tournament director of the Michelob Ultra Open. .... Head pro at Pinehurst No. 6 from 1986-92.
Michelob Ultra Open WHEN: Thursday-Sunday.
WHERE: Kingsmill Resort and Spa, Williamsburg.
PAR: 71. LENGTH: 6,315 yards.
FORMAT: 72-hole championship stroke play.
2008 WINNER: Annika Sorenstam.
On Page 3 Michelob Ultra Open tournament guide. We tell you what you need to know before you head to the course this week.
Coming Thursday We break down the tournament with a special section.
Online Read more tournament coverage from Daily Press staff writers at dailypress.com/lpga.