Derek Schnarr has taken the position that his father, Mike, held for three decades at the Madison, Wis. club. Derek’s devotion to Blackhawk also stems from support that the membership provided to his family after his mother’s death, and to him during his own struggles with addiction.
Doug Moe, a columnist with the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, Wis., recently featured the story of Derek Schnarr, the Director of Golf at Blackhawk Country Club in Madison.
Schnarr’s family history is “connected to Blackhawk like a golfer’s hands to a club,” Moe wrote—and Schnarr, 43, feels an “incredible debt to [the Blackhawk] membership,” he told Moe, because of the support he has personally received from people associated with the club through a series of personal challenges in his life, dating back to the death of his mother, Julie, when Derek Schnarr was just 11 years old.
Mike Schnarr, Derek’s father, became the head golf pro at Blackhawk in 1971, the year Derek was born. Mike Schnarr, now retired, would stay in that position for three decades, wrote Moe, who himself worked in the club’s golf shop, cleaning clubs, during the summer of 1972. Moe recalled seeing Derek inside the golf shop when he was “just old enough to walk” whenever he was brought in by his mother, Julie.
After Julie Schnarr was diagnosed with cancer in 1979, Moe wrote, “her courageous fight included doing televised public service announcements for the American Cancer Society, and she received an award for her volunteer work from [Wisconsin] Gov. Lee Dreyfus in 1981.”
After Julie died in May 1982 at the age of 38, the Blackhawk membership “treated us like family,” Derek recalled to Moe. “It was like Darby [his sister] and I got 200 sets of parents,” he said.
Schnarr grew up to be an outstanding junior golfer, playing at the varsity level for four years for Madison Memorial High School, Moe reported. He was considering pursuing a job as a club pro when a Madison native and family friend, Sean Toulon, who today is a top executive with the TaylorMade golf equipment company, offered him a Midwest sales rep job with Toulon’s company at the time, Zevo Golf.
Schnarr eventually followed Toulon to TaylorMade, with a side trip or two into the mortgage industry and other businesses, Moe reported, before his struggles with alcohol and drug dependency began to take a toll.
Mike Schnarr arranged an intervention for his son on New Year’s Eve of 2004, Moe reported. Derek Schnarr now credits his father with saving his life and getting him back on track to a life of sobriety and fulfillment through golf.
In 2007, Moe reported, Derek Schnarr organized a resurrection of The Capital Times invitational, a once- prestigious Madison tournament that he remade to include the state’s top pros, amateurs and, most significantly, juniors in the field. By the following year, a local newspaper ran a profile of Schnarr and his work with juniors that was headlined, “The Pied Piper of Prep Golf.”
“It was about more than golf instruction,” Schnarr told Moe recently, as he talked about how the game’s values translate off the course and spoke of his own struggles.
“If I showed some vulnerability,” Schnarr said, “it encouraged [junior golfers] to open up to me.”
In 2009, Moe reported, Schnarr launched a junior golf tour called Bucket of Hope, with money raised going to cancer research.
Derek Schnarr’s current association with Blackhawk CC began in the summer of 2013, Moe reported, when he accepted a position as Director of Instruction, with an emphasis on growing the club’s junior program. “The things he has overcome give him a clarity of purpose,” Ben Dickey, Blackhawk’s President, told Moe. “He’s an impressive person on any number of levels.”
A student member program that Schnarr launched last year at Blackhawk sold out its 25 slots, Moe reported, and is now being increased to 35.
Moe began his column began by relating the story of Derek Schnarr driving his wife Christina, past Blackhawk CC on their first date. “That’s the best place on Earth,” he told her.
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