Above Par: The Lasting Legacy of Gary Soule on Samoset’s Golf Experience
The game of golf lost one of its greats in 2022. We take a look at the lasting impression that the former head pro and late Gary Soule left on Samoset Resort’s 18-hole oceanside course – and the ways you can still see his legacy live on today.
There’s a lot that makes the 18-hole championship course at Samoset Resort distinct. For one, it’s a historic course dating back to 1902 that’s home to one of the most challenging finishing holes in New England (Golf Digest even called it “Pebble Beach of the East” in 2023). And two, it boasts an oceanside setting that is unlike any other. “It’s the epitome of an ocean golf course in Maine,” says Alex Pappas, head pro of the 6,548-yard course. “On seven holes alone, you are teeing off right next to water – you don’t see a lot of venues with that kind of real estate.”
But there’s a third distinction that has more than left an indelible mark on the golf experience here – not to mention, the Rockport-based resort itself and the game of golf in Maine in general, too. We’re referring to the late Gary Soule, an always-pressed-pants-wearing, Pine Tree State native who served as Samoset’s head pro for 17 years up until his passing from cancer in 2022. One of the state’s best-known PGA golf professionals, he was certainly par excellence, having taught the game for more than 40 years to novice and amateur champions alike. And Gary did it in a way that no one else could.
A SAMOSET GOLF FIXTURE FOR ALMOST TWO DECADES
“He wasn’t just beloved by members of the Samoset Resort Golf Club, but guests of the hotel that would come, for example, every second week in July for the past 20 years and make sure to get in a few lessons with him,” says Pappas, who stepped into the head pro position after having worked as assistant pro under Soule for two seasons. “He was a part of these guests’ traditions – a summer staple if you will.”
In fact, he had quite the ever-expanding collection of gifted Cutty Sark – a type of blended Scotch whiskey – to prove it. “People would find out it was his favorite brand of liquor, so they were always bringing him bottles as a thank you,” laughs David Day, the resort’s food and beverage director who developed a close friendship with Gary over his own 21 years at the property, referring to him as “Soul Man” (Gary, in return, referred to him as “D-Day”). Day goes on to describe Gary’s office in the pro shop: Immaculately neat – just like Gary who, every day, sported a freshly-pressed pair of khakis. But the one thing throwing it off? A blooming stockpile of the bestowed bottles.
“It shows that he was just that good of a teacher,” Pappas explains. “He just had this style of instructing – it was kind of old-school, very simple, but effective – that would uncomplicate the game for people who were clearly frustrated or bogged down. He could just show you the way.”
He also served as a coach and mentor to many young aspiring golfers. Take, for example, Camden native Cole Anderson, who went on to be recruited and play for Florida State. “Gary was a faithful coach, and attended all of his events,” says Day. In fact, when Anderson finally won first place in the 2019 Maine Amateur – after winning second in 2018 and third place in 2017 – Gary was there with a Samoset shirt ready for him to don in honor of his official big win.
GREATEST GARY MEMORIES
Pappas remembers his first interaction with Gary after applying for the job: “We were discussing the details of the position over the phone, and I could just sense he was a character right even then,” says Pappas, who first took the position in 2021. “He had all these quips – or ‘Gary-isms’ as I started to call them. For example, he would refer to everyone as ‘bud’ or ‘buddy.’ And he would also always say ‘it’s all good’ in response to things I knew I had messed up – it was his way of telling people ‘not to worry, we’ll figure it out.’”
Day remembers how Gary used to always, without fail, leaf-blow every inch of the parking lot outside of the pro shop first thing in the morning upon arrival. Or how he used to always order the same thing for lunch – grilled chicken breast on a bun with bacon (no lettuce or tomato) – at the Clubhouse Grille, the restaurant overlooking the golf course. “He had ordered it so much, we started referring to that sandwich as the Gary Soule.”
He was also a storyteller. “He’d tell me some wild tales that seemed pretty far-fetched,” says Pappas. “Like the time he met Jack Nicklaus or Tom Watson. But later I would learn they were actually true.” Prior to taking the position at Samoset Resort in 2005, Gary worked and lived in Florida and also started two golf schools in Myrtle Beach.
HOW GARY’S LEGACY LIVES ON AT THE RESORT
It’s clear that Gary is far from forgotten. Right at the first tee box on an adjacent rock, the resort had a memorial plaque installed, dedicating this particular 378-yard par-4 in his name. “You can’t miss it,” says Pappas. “Every player walking by, regardless of where they tee off, sees it. We picked it for that reason.”
Other nods to his legacy include two upcoming golf tournaments that Samoset is hosting, starting with the Maine Amateur, a 54-hole stroke play event for players 20 years or younger, in July. “Again, Gary was a proponent of empowering youth through the game of golf. He worked his entire career to bring this tournament to Samoset,” says Pappas. “I’m happy to say, we finally got it in his memory.”
The second is the annual Gary Soule Memorial Golf Tournament (scheduled for September 24 in 2023) – quite literally being hosted in his honor. “I get calls at least once a week – either from regular guests or members that knew Gary – making sure that they have a spot in that tournament. It fills up fast,” notes Pappas.
In addition to honoring Gary in various ways throughout the event, it also benefits two programs: an organization called First Tee of Maine, which supports junior golf throughout the state, and the Gary Soule Scholarship Fund, which benefits a player in the Midcoast area who is working to play high school or collegiate golf.
“It’s kind of a full-circle thing,” explains Pappas. “His favorite thing was helping people find joy in this sport. Now, we can continue that for him.”