I joined Pinetree Country Club 17 years ago and it has become my home away from home and the friends I’ve made there are like a second family. There is nothing pretentious about Pinetree. The mood is always welcoming and genuine.

That mood was shattered on July 3 when our beloved director of golf, Gene Siller, was senselessly shot and killed on the 10th green. The horrifying crime has been widely reported locally and nationally, so I won’t re-visit it here. What I want to do is tell you about Gene.

He came to our club two years ago and almost immediately made his positive presence felt. You might say he was the perfect fit for Pinetree. I didn’t know him that well personally, but I was impressed by Gene’s professionalism and attention to detail. His staff obviously liked his leadership and the coaching he offered them as they pursue their own careers in the golf industry.

Gene was always on the move, checking the practice facilities and touring the course on busy days giving a friendly nudge to those who needed to pick up the pace of play. He was available to any member who had a question or concern. Gene also reinvigorated our golf programs for kids. It was rewarding to see so many youngsters receiving instruction and learning the finer points of the game.

“Any pro would have a challenge with nearly 550 members, but Gene was beloved,” said Brian Panosian, who serves on the Pinetree board of directors and worked closely with Gene as chairman of the golf and greens committee. “He not only attended to the members but took care of the members’ guests. If you are going to create a demeanor for a golf professional who has to deal with so many different personalities, Gene would be where you want to start.”

Gene’s path to becoming a club professional was unique. He graduated from Purdue University with a mechanical engineering degree and worked in that profession at first. It was only later he decided to devote himself to golf. He worked at several Atlanta area clubs before coming to Pinetree. After his tragic death, the outpouring of affection from all those who knew Gene along with many who didn’t know him was overwhelming.

PGA professional Pat Day, tournament director for the Georgia PGA Section, was a good friend of Gene’s who said, “He was the consummate golf professional. The other night, I read some of the comments on the GoFundMe page set up for Gene’s family. There were comments from PGA professionals around the country. They were there to help. I’ve heard it said before, ‘What does the PGA do for me?’ It gives you 28,000 brothers and sisters.”

That GoFundMe page was set up by Pinetree member Dianne McPherson and has generated more than $700,000 in donations for Gene’s wife, Ashley, and their two boys, Beau and Banks.

I was at the club last Saturday, and on my way out I saw Ashley, who was holding a vase of flowers and preparing to go out to the memorial for Gene on the 10th green with family members. I told her how dearly Gene was loved by all of us and gave her a hug, letting her know we Pinetree members will be there for her and the boys in the face of their unspeakable loss.

I was moved to tears when Ashley explained that Beau and Banks understand their daddy won’t be coming home, that he was a hero who died saving others.

On Monday night, Pinetree hosted a celebration of his life. Along with many of our members, his immediate and extended family was there. There was a video presentation of the private life Gene enjoyed with his wife and children, and I felt like I got to know him so much better as a husband, father, son, brother and friend.

Gene Siller was not at Pinetree Country Club very long, but his service and legacy will never be forgotten.

Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, writer and author who lives in Kennesaw. You can contact him through his website at kevinemmetfoley.com.

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