Fort Jackson Golf Club’s version of “The Man Who Came to Dinner” is finally coming out. On Tuesday, Mike Casto will bid farewell to the club after 32 years.
Like the lead character in the Broadway comedy and later film who became a long-term guest, Casto had no intention of making a career out of overseeing golf facilities at the sprawling U.S. Army post.
“I thought (Fort Jackson) would be a stepping stone,” he said, recalling taking over as general manager and chief golf professional on May 29, 1990.
Instead, he clicked with his membership, gained a deep appreciation for the men and women who serve in the armed forces, and became the epitome of a golf professional.
Casto’s job, he believed, was “to keep the golf course off the general’s plate.” And he did.
“Mike listens to his employees even if they have crazy ideas,” said Jeff Connell, superintendent of Fort Jackson Golf Club since 2009, known for thinking outside the box. “We have his support.”
Shortly after Connell’s arrival, the superintendent’s “crazy idea” focused on removing turf from the lush practice greens to make much-needed repairs to the course greens. “We had to do this for the members,” Connell said. The boss thought long and hard before giving his consent.
Casto can now laugh at this scenario – and he laughs at the base commander, an avid golfer, who ignored the chain of command and called him directly to talk about the course.
“So,” he said, “I should tell my bosses what the general said. They didn’t like it, but I couldn’t tell the general to follow the chain of command.
A West Virginia native who got his start in golf in his home state, Casto contacted the Carolinas PGA Chapter for potential job opportunities and received information about an opening at Fort Jackson Golf Club.
Shortly after signing, Casto learned that funding had been approved to expand the facility from 18 holes to 36. Challenge: He had no experience building courses.
But, with the help of architects and engineers who know these things, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. He learned, for example, that the wood cut to mark the new course could be sold, but what happens to the roots and other debris?
They buried what they couldn’t sell and, Casto said, the dirt from that excavation “became the elevated sixth green and seventh tee” on the Wildcat course.
Under Casto’s direction, FJGC hosted the Monday following the Masters pro-am; the South Carolina Open and State Juniors, focused on the PGA Jr. Golf League; hosted a myriad of junior competitions and fundraisers; and has become a staple of the Drive, Chip and Putt calendar. Named the 2005 PGA Carolinas Professional of the Year, Casto also coached the golf team at Dreher High during the years his son Zach played.
Along the way, Casto has been involved in policy-making duties for the Carolinas PGA Chapter, serving as a zone director, then an eight-year elective appointment – secretary, vice president, president, and past president.
An accident of timing led to the pinnacle of his 32 years at Fort Jackson. He became president of the PGA Carolinas Chapter in 2012, and his position took him behind the scenes at that year’s PGA Championship over the ocean to Kiawah Island. His responsibilities included representing the Carolinas Section at the Champions Dinner and seating arrangements with, among others, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem and Tiger Woods.
Over the years, he’s discovered that relationships are one of the joys of working as a golf professional, and he especially cherishes those with members who have served in the armed forces.
“Lots of memories,” Casto said. “Serving here has been a great blessing to me.”
Chip shots. The South Carolina women’s team finished 14th in the NCAA championships, failing to earn one of the eight match play berths that lead to the title. “While we expect to make a national championship run, our body of work…is something we have to hold our heads extremely high for,” coach Kalen Anderson said. “We had a record season.” … The USC and Clemson men’s teams missed out on the NCAA after finishing sixth in their respective regionals. The College of Charleston team advanced to finish fifth in their region. … Eddie Hargett (Blythewood) and Todd White (Moore) have won places at the US Senior Open. … Ella Stalvey (Blythewood) won the WSCGA Foundation Junior Championship at the Stoney Point Links in Greenwood. … Bob Edens (Columbia) and Tom Eberhard (Johns Island) combined for a 10-under par 62 final round to win the SCGA Super Senior Four-Ball title at Legends Golf Course in Parris Island. … Kerry Rutan (Daniel Island) won the WSCGA Senior Championship at Mt. Vintage Plantation in North Augusta.