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Local golf: Racine's John Feiner has spent a life linked to the links
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Local golf: Racine's John Feiner has spent a life linked to the links

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John Feiner, then the assistant pro at Racine Country Club, tees off on the first hole of the White course at Ives Grove Golf Links in Yorkville during the final round of the 2011 Racine County Men's Open. Feiner, who won his only County Open title that year, is the new director of the Tri-Course Amateur Championship and has also been reinstated as an amateur golfer.

For most of his life, John Feiner IV has been involved with golf.

The 1999 Park High School graduate played golf for the Panthers and was a two-time All-Racine County golfer. He turned pro in 2001 when he was 20 and became the assistant pro at Racine Country Club in 2002. Late in 2013, he got what he called his “dream job,” succeeding Charlie Brown as the head pro at the H.F. Johnson Park Golf Course. Feiner worked at Johnson Park during high school and honed his game there.

His father, Tom, was a regular player in the Racine Tri-Course Amateur Championship and Racine County Men’s Open — he won the Tri-Course title in 1984 — and is the chairman of the prestigious Mike Bencriscutto Junior Masters Match Play Championship.

Tom’s brother and Feiner’s uncle, also named John, was the longtime superintendent at Johnson Park until “Big John” passed away suddenly on July 30, 2015. The 2016 Junior Masters was renamed for a year in his honor and the tournament’s long drive contest now carries his name.

Some of Feiner’s earliest memories involve going to the Tri-Course for the final round and hanging out by the scoreboard. He was three when his father won the Tri-Course title.

So in a sense, John Feiner’s life has come full circle — he was recently named the director of the Tri-Course, taking over for Jim Nord, who held the position since 2009, when he succeeded the late Bill Rossman, the co-founder of the tournament.

Feiner, who became a realtor for Shorewest Realtors in March 2017, was asked to join the Tri-Course committee in 2014 as a representative of Johnson Park, and was told a few years ago he would be likely be next in line to lead the tournament.

“Jim asked me if I would be interested in continuing on the committee as the tournament director when he decided to step down,” Feiner said. “I said I would be happy to. At one of the later meetings it was briefly discussed and everyone was fine with the plan.

John Feiner h/s

Feiner

“With experience as a director at the Junior Masters and years of tournament management as a club professional, I think they were aware of my knowledge and no one else asked to take on that role.”

It was quite a year to take over the role, considering this year’s Tri-Course was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. But the tournament under Nord has been running smoothly and Feiner and the rest of the committee — Mike Greb, Greg Romano, Tim Monfeli, Roger Hoff, Paul Zarek, Gary Goodsell, Joe O’Brien — have no plans to make any significant changes over the next year.

“I feel the tournament is heading in a really positive direction,” Feiner said.

In addition to his new role as chairman, he also has a new designation on the golf course — amateur.

Two years after he stepped down as the head pro at Johnson Park, he has finally gotten his amateur status back.

After he left Johnson Park at the end of 2017, he applied to the United States Golf Association, the governing body of golf, for reinstatement as an amateur.

It’s an involved process.

“First you need to fill out an application and send a filing fee to the USGA,” Feiner said in an email. “It’s pretty detailed, wanting to know how and when you made money from golf, whether through employment or competition. Someone from the local district goes over your application and sends it along to the USGA for final approval.”

Feiner said the general rule of thumb is reinstatement happens one year from application for players with five or fewer years of pro experience and two years for those with six or more years of pro play.

Feiner thought that seemed a bit unfair.

“Mine was two years from my last day of work as a club professional, which I have always felt is a bit much,” Feiner said. “Club professionals are growing the game, creating the future dues-paying members of the USGA and we are in turn penalized for it when we want to return to amateur competition. It’s all a bit archaic.”

But returning to amateur status allows him to play in the Tri-Course again — after almost 20 years. The pandemic kept him from that this year, but he’ll be ready next week for the County Open and for the Tri-Course in 2021.

Playing in local events against local players — many of whom are good friends — is one of the joys of the game for Feiner.

“The two things that I have always loved about golf are the competition and camaraderie,” Feiner said. “The Tri-Course is a perfect example of this — grinding it out with one another for four or five hours on the course and then enjoying time afterwards catching up, sharing stories.

“The Racine area has a great golf community and we look forward to events like the Tri-Course and the County Open. I haven’t been able to play in the Tri-Course for the past 20 years and though I missed playing, it was still fun to go watch the event and see some friends.”

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John Feiner follows through on a fairway shot at the Racine County Men's Open Golf Tournament on Aug. 7, 2011 at Ives Grove Golf Course.

Golf may be a big part of his life, but his family is vitally important.

That was one of the main reasons he decided to step away from being a pro after he left Johnson Park at the end of 2017.

“There are benefits to being pro,” Feiner said. “But as I got older and was married with kids, there was less free time after work day was done and the things that made the job fun weren’t available.”

Feiner still has a lot going on — things that aren’t golf-related.

The nature of his job as a realtor allows him to work at home. While his wife of almost eight years, Jessica, works full-time for Johnson Financial Group and also works at home, Feiner isn’t stuck in a 9 to 5 schedule. He can work odd hours and help take care of their children, Tommy, 6 and Ava, 4, whose daycare shut down during the pandemic.

“Ninety percent of my work, other than doing showings, I can do from my laptop,” Feiner said. “That makes it nice to be at home. I’d rather sit on the porch (to do work).”

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of his life is his other job, as a baker at Bendtsen’s Bakery in West Racine. He starts making the bakery’s hand-made kringle between 1 and 2 a.m. and finishes up around four or five hours later. The dough made the previous day is used for that day’s kringles so it can “rest,” Feiner said.

He started out working for Bendtsen’s — the bakery is now owned by Bendt Bendtsen III, one of the area’s best golfers and one of Feiner’s best friends — during the holiday season while he was still working as an assistant pro at Racine Country Club. The two average about 100 kringles per day, which jumps exponentially during the Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons.

Bendt Bendtsen III

Bendtsen

“The hours work out well,” said Feiner, who added the bakery’s busy season is opposite of the home-selling busy season.

In between his baker duties and his realtor duties, Feiner finds time to sleep — he averages between four and five hours a night — and he takes naps during the day.

“I’ve always been a light sleeper,” Feiner said. “When I was a golf pro, I got about five hours a night, five or six days a week.”

Feiner also is a very proficient cook, a skill he learned from his mother.

“She let me help her at an early age and I always enjoyed it,” he said.

His time is still at a premium. Tommy has started playing baseball after trying soccer for a couple years.

Feiner said his life did not turn out the way he planned—it’s even better than he figured.

“If you would have asked me five or six years ago where I thought my life would be, I don’t see that,” he said. “It’s funny how it all worked out, and worked out well.”

“If you would have asked me five or six years ago where I thought my life would be, I don’t see that. It’s funny how it all worked out, and worked out well.”

 

— John Feiner

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