BOZICH | Stormin' Norman makes Valhalla clubhouse go, go, go
When PGA golfers need a restaurant reservation, their shoes repaired or a package mailed, there's only one man for the job at the Valhalla clubhouse -- Stormin' Norman Callahan.
Thursday, August 7th 2014, 4:14 PM EDT
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Lee Westwood burned through Valhalla Golf Club with a six-under-par round Thursday. He shot to the top of the PGA Championship leaderboard. He signed several autographs and reported to the interview room. He was in a rush to get to the practice tee.
First, Westwood had one non-negotiable item to complete – wrap his arms around Valhalla clubhouse manager “Stormin” Norman Callahan in a robust hug.
“This is the guy who takes care of us,” Westwood said.
“I even came over to your locker room during the (2008) Ryder Cup,” Callahan said.
“Yeah, but you didn't bring us enough birdies,” said Westwood, who played with the losing European team.
“But I did today,” said Callahan.
That's how it works at Valhalla – during the PGA Championship, Ryder Cup or when members are playing a friendly 18. The Valhalla locker room is Norm's Place.
Callahan, 70, wants you to feel as comfortable as you are at home in your easy chair. That's also non-negotiable. That's why he reports to the course in the morning and does not leave until nearly midnight.
Clean and sparkling shoes? Norm and his crew take care of that. They do not leave until they have shined more than 120 pairs and then placed them back in the correct lockers.
“They want them
their locker,” Callahan said. “Not outside their locker.
Unsure about where to eat? Ask Norm. Not only will he give you a list of his favorite spots, he'll make the call and get you a table with the necessary privacy.
A charity that needs a flagstick or golf bag signed for a fundraiser? Norm will handle it. Two bags and more than a dozen flags are on display in the locker room. Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson did not say “No,” to Norm. On Thursday there was even a mammoth birthday card for Kenny Perry.
Forget a personal item or expecting a package? Stop worrying. Norm's got that under control.
Always has – from the moment Valhalla opened. Callahan had a job with Kitchen Kompact, the Southern Indiana-based cabinet manufacturer owned by the Gahm Family.
In the mid-80s the Gahms connected with Jack Nicklaus about their grand plan to build a championship golf course on a sprawling former Boy Scout camp off Shelbyville Road in Eastern Jefferson County. Gordie Gahm showed Callahan the design plans and asked if he would be interested in working at the course.
“I took the chance and it's been wonderful ever since,” Callahan said.
He has not stopped. For the first two years, while the course was under construction, Callahan worked outside. He obsessed over the 18th fairway from the bridge to the green. He was determined to make certain that every piece of rock was removed from the dirt before grass seed was planted.
“As big as boulders or as big as a dime, I had hundreds of piles of rocks,” Callahan said. “I did it myself. There aren't no rocks out there, I can bet you on that.”
When play began, Callahan moved to the clubhouse. He's never left. You'll find a picture of Norm and Jack on the clubhouse wall. I'm using the first names here because Callahan said the only time he upset the Hall of Fame golfer was when he called him, “Mr. Nicklaus.”
“What's this Mr. Nicklaus stuff,” Jack said. “Call me Jack.”
“I said, 'Jack it is, then,' said Norm.
Here is another guy on Callahan's speed dial – University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, who has been a member of Valhalla since he coached at the University of Kentucky.
Early in Pitino's career, Callahan told Pitino that if he stayed at Kentucky long enough he'd win an NCAA title. “Well, if I do,” Pitino said, “I'll get you a ring.”
Check the ring finger on Callahan's right hand. It's a 1996 UK NCAA championship ring. Callahan said Pitino has also promised him a 2013 U of L championship ring.
Callahan is also the guy who convinced the PGA of America to commission the $320,000 statues of Nicklaus and Dwight Gahm that overlook the 18th hole. Everybody pauses to take a keepsake picture there.
“If heaven is anything like this golf course, then I come through the gates every day,” Callahan said.
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