By John Toole
Derry News golf writer
---- — DERRY — Tony Zdunko is coming home to the course he played as a junior golfer.
Hoodkroft Country Club named Zdunko, a 1979 Pinkerton Academy graduate, as head pro for the 2013 season. He succeeds longtime pro Rich Berberian, who retired.
“It’s cool,” Zdunko said of his return to the course he played as a schoolboy golfer at Pinkerton. “I was a member here as a kid, growing up. Then I worked for Rich. He hired me as his assistant.”
The Berberian influence remains at Hoodkroft. His son, Rich Berberian Jr., is assisting Zdunko in the pro shop. Matt Dizzazo, a Pelham High graduate, is returning as course superintendent.
The hiring of Zdunko, 52, pleased the Hoodkroft board of directors.
“We’re very happy,” charter Hoodkroft member and past president Ed Holm said. “Tony knows a lot of the members from the past. He grew up in Derry, he went to Pinkerton. That’s a big advantage.”
Zdunko lives in Hampton now, but his mother, Judy Zdunko-Blair, still lives in Derry.
He is an experienced pro whose professional travels recently took him through golf equipment sales with Dick’s Sporting Goods. But he has served as pro in the past with Campbell’s Scottish Highlands in Salem and Brookstone golf course in Derry.
PGA pro Rob Hardy of Pelham, territory manager for equipment maker Adams Golf, said Hoodkroft is bringing back one of its prized possessions.
“They are lucky to have him,” Hardy said.
Weather permitting, the nine-hole, par-36 Hoodkroft will open for the season this week.
Zdunko has no big changes in store for the Phil Wogan-designed layout.
“I can’t see any big changes,” Zdunko said. “We’re going to try to grow the game, increase the customer base and try to get some outing business.”
Hoodkroft has about 250 members, Berberian said.
The club is offering new member promotional rates to build on that membership. Those include $1,575 for a family, $995 for a single and $735 for a senior weekday package.
Players also will get an early season discount until May 1. The rates will be $17 for nine weekdays and $23 on the weekend. The early season rate is $35 for 18 holes weekdays, $38 on the weekend.
Zdunko and Berberian will be offering lessons. People should call the pro shop.
J. Michael’s Sports Pub of Windham will continue to operate the course restaurant.
The Hoodkroft Open, one of the state’s premier amateur tournaments, is set for May 31-June 2. There are senior and women’s divisions in that tourney.
The Hoodkroft pro staff knows how to play the course.
Zdunko is a past open winner (1987), club champion (1981) and junior champ (1977-1978).
Berberian, a past state PGA champ, holds the nine-hole Hoodkroft record, a 28.
“Everything went right — correctly,” Berberian said of the round.
His dad holds the 18-hole record, a 62, when the course played as a par-71 for 18 holes.
The pros say Hoodkroft is a good course for players of all abilities.
“This is a pretty friendly course,” Berberian said. “Hit your driver as much as you can. The rough is the real defense. The greens are big and fairly flat.”
Zdunko said the variation in tee boxes makes a round enjoyable for all ages.
“This is a shorter course for seniors to play. They can go out and shoot good scores,” he said. “This is a very generous senior layout.”
The PGA is pushing golfers to “play forward” on the tee based on their ability both to speed up the game and make it more enjoyable.
“Golfers should do whatever they can to make it more fun for them,” Zdunko said.
Berberian said juniors want to start on forward tees, too, because it makes the game fair and more enjoyable.
“It helps them get confidence,” he said.