Photography by Angelina Aragon

Will Work for Golf

Written by Christianna Silva Category: Valley News Issue: December 2018
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For a generation of links-loving Valley seniors, working on the green is preferable to playing through.

Todd McNulty, 55, worked for the United Parcel Service in Phoenix for more than three decades before retiring when he was just 52 years old. His voluntary withdrawal from the workforce took place about six months before one of his friends told him about a position at Coyote Lakes Golf Club working on outside services. It was a deal he couldn’t pass up.

“It was a perfect fit,” McNulty says. He golfed every Sunday with his wife and friends while he was working at UPS. Now, he gets to golf for free and make a bit of extra cash to supplement his pension, too.

Baby boomers are diverging from typical retirement paths – they want to make money, stay busy and feel connected to their communities. In the Valley – which is No. 2 in the U.S. for drawing baby-boomer retirees and has almost 200 golf courses – they’re heading to the green for work and play.

“I just might do it indefinitely,” McNulty laughs, adding that he loves “the whole golf scene.”

“You see a lot of people playing golf, and 80 percent or more are in a great mood,” he says. “Most of them are coming on vacation from colder climates, and it’s kind of fun seeing all the people. They’re friendly.”

Working at a golf course is a bit slower than most of the retirees’ previous jobs – and they aren’t complaining.

Greg Seltzer, 69, is retired after 34 years in law enforcement. He served in the Army, fought in Vietnam, was a uniformed officer in Philadelphia and capped off his career as a detective with the FBI’s joint terrorism task force. If you want to see him today, you can catch him at The Wigwam Golf Resort maintaining the pace of play and working as an ambassador.

Seltzer and his wife moved to Phoenix to be closer to their family after retirement, when he decided he wasn’t made to be a homebody.

“You gotta keep something going,” Seltzer says. “If not, you’re gonna sit around and become a vegetable.”

He knew he didn’t want to go back into law enforcement, because it’s too much of a “young man’s game.” He wanted to do something he enjoyed, and golf “was a no-brainer.” At the course, he gets to play for free and socialize with interesting people, and the stress level is far lower than it was in his last gig.

“If I have to tell someone that they’re playing too slow, that’s the most stress that I have in one day,” he says, adding that it still occasionally reminds him of his past life. “It’s patrol all over again.”
Seltzer and McNulty aren’t the only retirees heading back into the workforce – according to a 2017 RAND Corporation report, almost 40 percent of workers over age 65 had previously retired.

“Finding a fulfilling post-retirement career can be incredibly valuable for an older adult,” Brian Huebner, the owner of Home Instead Senior Care, said in a press release, adding that the Home Instead survey found that more than half of the workers in Phoenix approaching retirement think they’ll eventually start working again.

Ron Spellacy, 74, moved to the Valley from Seattle in search of a warmer climate, and within weeks he was working as an ambassador alongside Seltzer at The Wigwam Golf Resort.

“I actually started working at the golf course because I wanted to at least have something to do,” Spellacy says, echoing the reason 44 percent of retirees return to work, according to the Home Instead survey.

“I was in the people business for so many years that it’s really fun to get to know people [at the course],” Spellacy, who worked as the director of team travel for the Seattle Mariners before retiring, says.

And, of course, they love the sport.

“I think also some of us love golf,” Spellacy says of his older cohorts, before he starts laughing. “We don’t play it very well, but we love the game.”

Arizona: Boomer Magnet
Data from SmartAsset shows that Arizona gained more than 1,000 residents older than 60 in 2016. And Arizona is just behind Florida in drawing the most retirees, according to U.S. Census data.
Here’s why:

The country’s very first Active Adult Community opened in Sun City more than 50 years ago.

The state is one of the most tax-friendly, and it doesn’t touch retirees’ Social Security checks.

Sunshine, of course.
 
Plenty of outdoor recreation.

It’s fairly inexpensive. Census data shows that the median home value in Arizona is $38,700 less expensive than the national median.