You can’t get through a conversation with Larry Gladson without talking about Zach Johnson.
That’s just the way it is. Gladson will forever be linked to the PGA star from Cedar Rapids.
And he’s OK with that.
“Zach has had a major influence on golf in the state of Iowa,” he said.
Gladson has to, which makes him much more than just Johnson’s youth coach.
Gladson will be inducted into the Iowa Golf Hall of Fame on Thursday at Glen Oaks Country Club in West Des Moines. While teaching a young Johnson the game is part of that story, it’s not the beginning or the end of it.
Gladson has received many honors during his 33 years as head pro at Elmcrest Country Club, but a handful stand out — the ones with “teacher” in the award.
There’s the 2013 No. 1 Teacher in Iowa by Golf Digest, the 2005 Golf Digest and Golf Magazine Top Teacher in the region and the 2004 Iowa PGA Teacher of the Year.
Gladson has a deep love for the game and enjoys sharing his passion with golfers of all ages.
“When somebody gets better, to see the joy in their face,” he said. “They are loving the game. It’s fun to be part of that.”
Gladson, 60, grew up in Dubuque and started playing golf at the age of 10 when “I invited myself” into games with his father and older brother.
“I just really took to it,” he said.
That love of the game continued to grow at Hempstead High School and then at the University of Northern Iowa. He started teaching soon after that, first in Dubuque then, in 1986, he moved to Cedar Rapids and Elmcrest.
“I thoroughly enjoy it,” he said. “And I love to share that.”
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The two things he’s most proud of are all the junior golfers he’s taught who have gone on to play in college, and all the assistant professionals he’s mentored who are now head PGA pros.
Gladson said he doesn’t “compete” as much as he used to, but still loves to play the game.
“I get out and play as much as I can,” he said.
And he has no plans to stop any time soon.
“I’m as energetic as I have ever been,” he said.
There’s more to learn and, of course, more to teach.
As Johnson wrote in a letter of recommendation for Gladson: “This club fostered my love for the game, cultivated my passion for competition, instilled the proper values golf demands, promoted the game as ‘fun’ and allowed me to chase my dream. Larry Gladson created all of these notions.”
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