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For the past five years, you’ve known Michael Harger as director of golf and membership services at the Club at Spruce Peak. This past winter, he assumed the position of general manager. We sat down with Harger to discuss what he learned working at some of the country’s most prestigious golf clubs, his favorite course in the world, and how growing up in Vermont shaped him.

You’re from Proctor in Southern Vermont. What was it like growing up there?

It was pretty idyllic. It is a utopian little town, with one blinking stoplight, two stores, one restaurant, and a town watering hole. It’s a supportive community with a deep sense of camaraderie. Everyone knows each other, kids run around freely, and everyone comes out to watch high school sports. My best memories are from playing in the woods around town and some of my closest friends today are friends from childhood.

How did you develop your passion for golf?

My father introduced me to the game. I didn’t have an instant love for it, but after attending a weekly summer
golf camp and as some friends got into it, a few of us formed a small group of little diehards. In the summer, our parents would drop us off at Proctor-Pittsford Country Club—which was a blue collar, melting pot country club—on their way to work. We’d play 54 holes or more some days and get picked up at dark. We were essentially raised at that country club, which was super welcoming and inviting to juniors. They were proud of us kids.

You attended Clemson University in South Carolina, where you studied to become a PGA pro.

While spending so much time at the golf course, someone told me that I could turn my love of golf into a career. I decided on Clemson, given they have one of the best programs in the country and some pretty nice golf weather. I earned a degree in business specializing in parks and recreation business management, while simultaneously working towards my PGA accreditation. I was also required to become a big college football fan. Go Tigers!

Why did you return to Vermont?

After school, I lived in Miami, Boston, New Zealand, and northern New Jersey. I also ran golf trips to Argentina and traveled a ton thanks to the game of golf. As a kid, I thought the grass was always greener, but in my late 20s, I realized how special Vermont is. I love the outdoors and in Vermont, I can fish, hunt, camp, snowboard, and play golf—although not usually on the same day...except for maybe a few special days in the spring if Mother Nature cooperates! There is also a level of authenticity in Vermont that you don’t see elsewhere.

Spruce Peak is the only club and community of its kind on the east coast centered around high-level golf and alpine experiences, so when a golf professional position serendipitously opened up, I jumped on the opportunity to move north.

What’s your favorite hole at the Mountain Course?

Hole 4. There are more scenic and dramatic holes out there, but from an architectural perspective, I find it the most interesting as a great short par 4. You can play it safe with a shorter shot off the tee—but it begs you to bite off more with the driver and attempt to carry the bunkers, or hit it over the trees right at the green. You can use topography and terrain on a well-struck shot to get yourself in the optimal position. I never know what I’m going do when I step up to the tee and the variety of options makes it really fun.

You recently trained to be on Stowe Mountain Rescue team. What inspired you to join?

Greg Speer, Mary’s husband, is a close friend of mine and a member of Stowe Mountain Rescue and encouraged me to apply. I wanted to be a part of the team to give back to the Stowe community. It also has driven me to push my limits and learn additional outdoor skills to be proficient in the back country. It’s really rewarding to help others, especially when they may be having their worst day ever. Knowing I can have that impact brings additional purpose to my day-to-day life.

Tell us about one of your most exciting rescue missions.

It started as a beautiful fall foliage day with a call coming in around noon: Someone had an ankle injury at the top of Pinnacle, resulting in a simple litter carry out. Just as we were getting home, we got another call about a person injured on Mount Mansfield’s Sunset Ridge. We reached them fairly quickly, but on our way down, two more calls came in from hikers who were also hurt on the ridgeline. We made three consecutive litter carries, hiking back up in between each rescue. We finally sent our last patient to the hospital after midnight. It was the most strenuous thing I’ve ever done, but also a rewarding team effort. Most importantly, we got everyone home safely.

You’ve worked at some of the most prestigious clubs in the country. Aside from Spruce Peak, what are some of your favorite clubs that you’ve worked at and why?

I cut my teeth at Ridgewood and The Country Club [in Brookline, MA]. The leaders I worked for, David Reasoner and Brendan Walsh, were incredible mentors. While the caliber of the clubs they run clearly indicates their capabilities as golf professionals and leaders, I most admired the way they loved helping the staff develop. They were truly invested in making people’s lives better.

I am still friends with many of the folks I worked with at both clubs. In fact, the U.S. Open was held at The Country Club last summer, and I was able to go back and support former colleagues who were running it. It was wonderful to be among great friends at such a prestigious event—and the historic course played amazingly. I also spent a year working at Kauri Cliffs in New Zealand and it is one of my all-time favorite courses; it is jaw-droppingly beautiful. If I had only one more round to ever play, it would likely be there.

You’ve been our director of golf and member services for several years. What do you love about the Club at Spruce Peak?

The thing I like the most is the people—both our staff and our members. We all have a common bond of loving this place and the outdoors. The relationships and trust the staff has built with members is as important as any of the tangible amenities we offer. We truly care for each other as family. It motivates and inspires me.

You’re also an avid snowboarder. Describe your perfect run at Stowe.

I’d start before sunrise with a split board and hike up. I love reaching the top just as the sun comes up and then getting a few great turns in on fresh corduroy. There’s no better way to start the day.

What are you looking forward to most about your new position?

The Club at Spruce Peak has grown tremendously since I’ve been here and I am eager to add to what is already
a very strong legacy, by welcoming our new members, continuing to deliver an excellent day-to-day experience, and hosting traditional seasonal member events that we all love. To support this, I’m looking forward to developing our team by giving them opportunities to learn, grow, and try new things.

Further ahead, I am most excited about the future of Stowe Country Club and our mission to bring the Spruce Peak standard to everything we do there. It has been a true honor to work with Beau Welling, one of the greatest minds in modern golf architecture, on this project.

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