Local community and family ties helped lure Oneonta Country Club’s new head golf professional to town.

Mike Bell has been hired as the new head golf professional for the Oneonta Country Club. Bell will be joined by his wife, Randi — an Oneonta native who will run the pro shop.

“I want my kids to grow up in a small town. I come from a small town. I used to ride my bike around and I knew everybody in town. I want my kids to have the same feel,” Bell said.

“I’ve had a lot of golf pro jobs in my life. I want this to be my last golf pro job, and I want to be part of the fabric of Oneonta,” he continued.

Bell will be in charge of the day-to-day operations and services of the course, including the pro shop, tournaments, member events and programs.

Bell, who is originally from the Pittsburgh area, graduated from Penn State in 2004 with a degree in professional golf management; he became a Professional Golf Association member in 2005 and has spent the last eight years working as a head golf professional.

“What really drew us to Mike was his energy and his passion. He’s just excited. He’s ready to go. Ready to bring golf, put it on the map and get everybody excited to play golf,” said David Weaver, head of the search committee for the Oneonta Country Club.

“I’m already excited to play golf and it’s only February — just from talking to him so much,” he added.

Because of Bell’s local family connections, he has visited Oneonta many times and played the club’s course. Randi’s family founded Riddell Brothers Inc., a local trucking company, and her parents are both members of the Oneonta Country Club.

“I love the golf course. It’s just a fun golf course to play every day. It’s just different every day,” Bell said.

For Bell, family was the factor that drew him to Oneonta.

“It (Florida) doesn’t have that same at-home feel where everyone knows you,” Bell said. “I want my kids to grow up with spring, summer, fall, winter ... a sense of seasons, but also a sense of community.

Looking forward, Bell said, he hopes to take the involved nature of club’s members and use that to help foster a love of golf in future generations.

Weaver added that Bell shares the club’s vision of having increased numbers of families, couples and women take up golf.

“A lot of places, they just want to do the same thing over and over,” Bell said. “Their drive to make the club different and evolved, trying to get younger people in, really attracted me.”

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