WEST CHESTER – In the late 1970s, Doug Hendricks was first exposed to golf through sheer happenstance. Today, the game dominates his incredibly busy life. Just compiling a list of his current projects can be quite a chore. Hendricks, 55, is the president of the golf-centric RDH Enterprises, which markets events that teach and promote the game. He’s also been a golf professional for more than three decades, and still gives private lessons at Penn Oaks Golf Club.
In addition, he is entering his fourth season as the head women’s golf coach at his alma mater, West Chester University. And then there’s his television show, ‘Winning Golf,’ which airs regularly on Comcast SportsNet and reaches millions of households in the Philadelphia and Mid-Atlantic region.
“It’s unbelievable, but it’s a good busy,” Hendricks said. “Finding time is my biggest challenge, but I am blessed to have a very understanding wife.”
As the host and producer, Hendricks puts a lot of time into ‘Winning Golf,’ which will begin its third season this spring. Each of the 20 half-hour shows will air an average of six times per week during the summer months, potentially reaching 7.5 million viewers.
“It’s been extremely well received,” said Hendricks, a West Chester resident. “The happiness of the competitors makes it worthwhile to me. It’s a friendly competition and everybody wins prizes, gets to play a round of golf and, if they get lucky that day, they get to move on.”
Open to golfers of every skill level, Hendricks gathers together groups of 12-16 amateurs and stages a short game competition, testing the participants’ abilities in areas like chipping, putting, lob shots, bunker shots, etc.
“Every week, we go through about five rounds of competition, narrow it down to two players, and those two go at it to become the champ,” Hendricks explained. “The day includes breakfast, lunch, a skills competition, and a round of golf at some first class facility in the area.
“It’s really a full day, and the highlights of the competition get to be on TV.”
The victor each week gets a chance to make a 90-foot pitch and win a new car, and becomes eligible to compete in the ‘Winning Golf’ Championship. The 2012 season champ, Greg LeGrand of Conshohocken, nabbed the grand prize last October: a five-day, four-night all-expense paid golf trip to San Diego. LeGrand and Hendricks will depart for the trip on Feb. 9th.
“I am always thinking of ways to grow the show,” Hendricks said. “I have ideas of someday expanding into Myrtle Beach (S.C.) area during the winter months. The weather in this area only gives me about 20 good outdoor weeks in May through September.
“We have all ages participate. I did a show with all women last season and my goal is to do a parent-child event at some point.”
Putting on the show, however, is a year-round endeavor because Hendricks does it all, from scouting locations for filming; to doing all of the marketing and advertising; to working on the website (www.winninggolftv.com); to recruiting most of the participants; as well as securing sponsors. He spent several days last week in Orlando, Fla., recruiting sponsors at the massive PGA Merchandise Show.
It’s all quite ironic when you consider that Hendricks was a basketball star at Upper Perkiomen High School, and went to West Chester to play college ball for head coach Earl Voss. He didn’t even pick up a golf club until he was 21 years of age.
“I lived in a house off campus and ended up rooming across from a guy on the WCU golf team,” Hendricks recalled. “One day, he threw a 5-iron in my hand and we went down to south campus and I started hitting balls down the middle about 180 yards. He said, ‘man, you should think about playing golf.’
“I thought it was a good idea because I seemed to have some natural ability and at the time I was battling a bunch of knee injuries from basketball.”
As a senior, Hendricks went out for the WCU golf team, and then-head coach Jack Trezish inserted him into the lineup. The team’s home course was White Manor Country Club at the time, which proved to be another twist of fate.
“I built some relationships there, and by the time graduated I was offered a job as an assistant golf pro at White Manor,” said Hendricks, who left West Chester in 1982 with a degree in secondary education.
Hendricks proceeded to compete on the PGA Mini Tour for three years and eventually was offered the head professional job at the age of 27. He wound up spending 20 years at White Manor.
In 2001, Hendricks became the golf director of the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center in Malvern and began an eight-year run as the co-host of the Emmy Award-winning program ‘Golfshots’ on Comcast SportsNet.
“When ‘Golfshots’ ended, I had a desire to grow my own show,” Hendricks said. “So when the opportunity for ‘Winning Golf’ presented itself, I was blessed to land SAP America as a title sponsor and that got the ball rolling.”
In the summer of 2009, he also signed on as the women’s golf coach at West Chester, and promptly guided the Rams to a third-place finish in the PSAC Championships. He garnered coach of the year honors in the process, and then helped the squad finish third again in 2010.
“You could say the foundation of my life has been more around coaching and mentoring, rather than just teaching,” he said. “In my opinion, a teacher just relays information. Coaching is somebody that does all of the extra things so that the student can grow in more than just the golf swing.
“Golf is so much like life, in that its success is directly related to making good decisions.”
With the college golf season running in early spring and again later in the fall, it sandwiches around his summer television responsibilities without too many scheduling conflicts. In addition, Hendricks estimates he’s given over 20,000 private lessons over the years.
The winter months used to provide a bit of a respite from the grind to spend some time with his wife, Christine, and their two teenage daughters. But Hendricks admits that now he is thinking about ‘Winning Golf’ year round.
“The offseason used to be my time to take a breath, but now the second I’m done with the last show, I am starting to plan for the next season,” he said.
By Neil Geoghegan