Harry Melling: 1945-1999
By Terry Moore
Harry Melling, owner of Treetops Sylvan Resort in Gaylord, suffered and died from a heart attack on May 29 in Gaylord. Along with Everett Kircher of Boyne and Paul Nine, formerly of Grand Traverse Resort, Melling must be partially credited with jump-starting the northern Michigan golf boom. President of Melling Tool Company and Melling Racing in Jackson, Melling purchased Sylvan Ski Resort in Gaylord in 1983. Soon after he revitalized the sleepy ski resort by convincing legendary course architect Robert Trent Jones to design a championship golf course there. Opened in 1987, it was aptly named Treetops due to the stunning vista offered golfers on the course's downhill par-three sixth hole. Treetops quickly became one of the most popular golf destinations in the state while also providing a tremendous boost to Gaylord tourism and its fledgling golf marketing efforts. With the help of Rick Smith, Treetops energetic and talented Director of Golf with a penchant for not-taking-no-for-an-answer, Melling later hired famed course golf architect Tom Fazio to design a second course at Treetops. "It took us 15 months to get Fazio here," Melling said in an interview, "but once he saw the land, he said there was no problem." At the Fazio Grand Opening dinner in 1992, the taciturn Melling, with his trademark cigar in hand, made an impromptu remark saying his dream was "to have a course at Treetops for every day of the week." His untimely death caused Melling to fall two courses short of his dream, as the Jones and Fazio courses were later joined by two 18-hole courses (Signature and The Tradition) and a nine hole par-3 (Threetops) course, all designed by Smith.
A graduate of Ferris State, Melling succeeded his father Benjamin as President of Melling Tool, a maker of automotive products, in 1975. In 1979, Melling first became involved in NASCAR Winston Cup Racing as a primary sponsor for driver Benny Parsons. In 1988, Melling Racing won top honors in NASCAR competition--the Winston Cup points championship with driver Bill Elliott. In 1997, Winston Cup Scene, an industry NASCAR magazine, named Melling one of the "40 most important people in NASCAR history."
In golf as in racing, Harry Melling knew his way around the track every day of the week.
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