It was the American editor and publisher Horace Greeley who two centuries ago implored young men to “go to the Great West,” adding that “there, your capabilities are sure to be appreciated and your energy and industry rewarded.”
New Mexico native Eden Foster, however, received the opposite directive from the PGA professional at his hometown course in the Land of Enchantment, the New Mexico Tech Golf Course in Socorro, about 70 miles south of Albuquerque.
“His name was Russ Moore, and we talked not long after I had graduated from college,” Foster said. “I had played all four years in school and was thinking of making a career in golf.
“I was also considering a job in financial services. I had already had two interviews with Paine Webber in Albuquerque, and a third lined up. But I wanted to give playing a try. Russ told me that becoming a club professional might be a better option, and that I would still be able to compete. He also said that the place to do that was back East, in the metropolitan New York area. The best clubs were in the Met Section, he explained, and also the best jobs and playing opportunities.”
Foster considered Moore’s advice and then decided. “I called Paine Webber and cancelled that third interview,” he said. “Then, I started applying for jobs in golf.”
Out of that effort came an offer to be the second assistant at Silver Spring Country Club in Ridgefield, Connecticut. Foster quickly accepted, then packed up his car and started driving.
“It was the first time I had ever crossed the Mississippi,” he said.
Horace Greeley may not have approved of the move, but it made eminent good sense for Foster. And in the roughly two decades since he headed east, Foster, now 55 and the father of three sons, has established himself as one of the most respected club professionals in that region.
For the past 25 years, he has served as the head pro at the Maidstone Club on the East End of Long Island, and in that time also has come to be regarded among the best PGA professionals in the land. For his teaching and merchandising skills. For his friendly demeanor and personal touch. And for the way he has mentored young assistants (including the co-head professionals at Augusta National, Tony Sessa and J.J. Weaver; as well as Ryan Sharp at RedStick Golf Club in Vero Beach, Florida; Boomer Erick at Boston Golf Club; and Peter McDonald at Shoreacres outside Chicago).
Growing up in small-town Socorro, Foster found his way into golf quite easily. Both his parents played, with his mother teeing it up at the NMT course on Ladies Day each week and his geologist father enjoying monthly games. But it was his friends who really got Foster into the sport.
“Socorro was a college town,” he said. “My father, Roy, was an expert in oil and gas production and worked in the research department at New Mexico Tech. The NMT course was open to the public and very welcoming to juniors, and we played there all the time. Saturday mornings, we’d ride our bikes to the 11th hole, because that was closest to where a bunch of us lived, and tee off.”
Not surprisingly given that access, the local high school became famous for its strong golf teams, and it captured a number of state championships for boys and girls alike. Foster played all four years on the Socorro squad and as a senior was one of the better players in the state.
“I got some looks from bigger schools but ended up going to New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs,” he said. “I wanted to work with the golf coach there, Jesse Blackwelder. One of his players was Ronnie Black, who played on the PGA Tour for years. And Jesse was also working with Bart Bryant, who was going to New Mexico State and eventually played the tour as well (winning the Memorial and the Tour Championship in 2005).”
Foster said he was never more than the fifth or sixth man on his team both years at NMJC. And he did not rise much higher at Eastern New Mexico University, where he competed on that school’s golf team for two years while earning a bachelor’s degree in finance with a minor in psychology.
“I loved to play, but looking back, I did not have the dedication to be really good,” Foster said. “I liked doing other things. Like playing basketball and fishing.”
As is often the case with college graduates, Foster did not have much of a game plan once he left school. “I started interviewing for jobs in financial services, as I began helping my father on a project,” he said. “Basically, I researched well production in the area around Hobbs, New Mexico (which is on the Texas border and part of the oil-rich Permian Basin). It was a lot of adding and subtracting, and not a lot of fun.”
Foster sought solace in golf and played most afternoons after work. “Suddenly, I found myself shooting lights-out,” he explained. “I won a tournament and did well in some others.”
It was around that time that Foster talked to Moore and determined he would try to make a living in golf – and do so by becoming a PGA club professional. Soon after, Foster was on his way to Connecticut.
He quickly found a home in the Nutmeg State. “I did not know anyone there, but the members at Silver Spring took me in and treated me like a son,” he said. “I loved the club and the people and being in the Met area was great, for all the good golf and also to be so close to New York City.”
After one year, Foster was promoted to first assistant. Then, in 1993, he took a similar position at Maidstone. Two years later, when head professional Jim Gerber left to take the top job at East Lake in Atlanta, Foster found himself in the mix to replace his former boss.
“There was something like 10 people being considered for the Maidstone position,” he said. “And I was thrilled when the club took a chance on me.”
He was only 29 years old.
"I still teach a lot, and sometimes when I am on the lesson tee, I look up to see whales swimming by in the Atlantic. I get to play, too, and be around this place every single day. It’s been like a fairy tale.”
Foster quickly settled into his new gig. For a few years, he did not work winters, doing little more in the offseason than playing in the occasional corporate outing. Then, in 1999, he assumed the position of head golf professional at the newly formed Calusa Pines Golf Club in Naples, Florida, splitting time between that retreat in the winter and Maidstone in the summer months.
“It was a chance to help create a very special club at which there were only three decision-makers in me, the owner, Gary Chesnoff, and the general manager,” Foster explained. “There were no committees, no members, per se, involved. It was just us. I’d make notes on my scorecards during golf games, about little things I saw that we needed to make better.”
Foster spent about a decade doing that. “But I really liked being around my family, and as our children were getting older, I found myself missing things like our middle son’s basketball games,” he said. “I also found that I wasn’t making many notes in the scorecards any more, which told me that the bulk of my work at Calusa was complete.”
So, he went back to having just the job at Maidstone.
A quarter century later, Foster is still there, as enamored as ever by the club and the oceanside town in which it is located.
“We love East Hampton,” said Foster, speaking for his wife, Laurie, whom he married just after he became the head pro at Maidstone, as well as his three boys. “And I still love my work. I own the golf shop, which is like having and running my own business. I still teach a lot, and sometimes when I am on the lesson tee, I look up to see whales swimming by in the Atlantic. I get to play, too, and be around this place every single day.
“It’s been like a fairy tale.”
And it never would have happened if he had not come East.
Top: Laurie and Eden Foster with sons Jordan, Turner and Toby, at Dromoland Castle in Ireland