HOUSTON – A self-described tomboy growing up, Wendy (Obenrader) Franty has never been far away from sports.
(Cover photo: As membership director at the Golf Club of Houston, Obenrader sells memberships to the prestigious club and also gets to work a PGA Tour event, the Shell Houston Open, which is the week before the Masters. The Tournament brings in some of the biggest names in golf as they tune-up for Augusta.)
Franty, the all-time leading scorer in North Clarion girls’ basketball history with 1,822 career points, the eighth-most in District 9 history, has, in fact, made sports, in particular, golf, her career.
Currently the membership director at the prestigious Golf Club of Houston, home of the Shell Houston Open, just north of the city, Franty, a Fryburg native and the daughter of Jim and Barb Obenrader, literally worked her way up through the golf ranks while traversing the country.
She started her journey at Wanango Country Club in Reno as a teenager before traveling, first in the winter and eventually full time to Jonathan’s Landing Golf Club in Jupiter, Fla. serving as an assistant golf professional in both places.
From Florida, she was off to Montclair Golf Club in New Jersey as a teaching professional before moving on to Desert Mountain Golf Course in Scottsdale, Arz., Minocqua Country Club in Wisconsin and Cimarron Hills Country Club in Austin, where she met her husband, Trip.
After a five-year stint selling golf apparel, she became the membership director at Royal Oaks Country Club in Houston and eventually landed her current job at the Golf Club of Houston in Sept. 2013.
In her position, she sells memberships at the prestigious club that start with an initiation fee that is more than a lot of people in Clarion County make in a year.
“I found a path for me,” Franty said. “Having golf, having sports, being able to be outside and have that, it was a game-changer for me. I’ve literally been in the golf industry since I was 19. I am 43 now. It’s been in my life in every aspect.”
Watch Franty talk about her life’s journey.
For someone who has been in the golf business her entire life, Franty didn’t go looking for golf, golf found her.
“I played a little bit with my family back in Pennsylvania,” Franty, who starting playing golf at Hunter Station in Tionesta with her dad, her brother, Rob, and her boyfriend at the time, said. “But I really came to serious golf late. I was 23 when I turned pro.”
Gary and Nancy Schmader had a hand in helping Franty get her start in the golf business helping her get a job at nearby Wanango Country Club.
“They are amazing people,” Franty said of the Schmaders. “I actually got my job at Wanango Country Club because of the Schmader family. That’s how I got into the golf industry.”
At Wanango, Franty worked for the head pro at the time, Scott Sundstrom.
“Scott traveled down to Jonathan’s Landing in Florida during the winter and he asked me if I wanted to go down and work winters down there. So I went down there and started working.”
Franty quickly took to the golf business, much more so than to college life – she started at Pitt-Titusville but didn’t last very long before realizing college wasn’t for her.
“I didn’t like school,” Franty said. “It (not liking it) is horrible. I don’t encourage that. But it just wasn’t for me. I went to school to play sports. That was the wrong focus. My grades weren’t that great. I don’t recommend that.”
But while school might not have been Franty’s thing, hard work and a willingness to try new things was.
“I’ve been so lucky,” Franty said. “I feel like I’ve worked really hard, and being a female in the golf industry, it’s tough. There is one of me and 150 male golf professional So, I’ve really had to toughen up.
It probably shouldn’t be a surprise, though, that Franty has worked her way up the golf industry chain.
That drive and determination started well before she got involved with golf.
As a high school basketball player at North Clarion, Franty burst onto the scene as a sophomore – only four of her 1,822 career points were scored as a freshman – scoring a school-record 47 points against East Brady in just her second varsity start in 1989.
She never really slowed down after that averaging 23.2 points per game as a freshman while scoring at least 30 points five times. Then, as a junior, she averaged 22.7 points per game and scored 30 or more points five more times before concluding her career in 1991 by averaging 26 points per game and scoring at least 30 points eight times. In her career, she averaged 24 points per game, one of the top marks in D9 history.
“I didn’t realize the magnitude of my statistics until later on,” Franty said. “When you are in it, you are playing and having fun. I had fun. It was awesome. I really did just want to play all the time. When we got done with a basketball game, I could have played a whole other basketball game. That’s one of the things the coaches used to say to me. They would say I could go four more quarters, and I was always like let’s go.”
Franty said growing up in Fryburg and her time at North Clarion shaped who she is today.
“I have zero regrets about where I grew up,” Franty said.
While Franty misses home – so much so that she said she wished her husband and she could transport their jobs to Clarion County and raise their 6-year old son A.J., named after his father, there – she is also glad she took the risk of moving away from home.
“You can always come home again,” Franty said. “If you would have told me when I was living in Fryburg that I would be living in the fourth-largest city in America, I would have probably told you that you were crazy. It’s been awesome getting here. I met my husband in Austin. I think about all those things that if I had taken a different path my son wouldn’t be her.e All those things you think about.”
Although Franty is nearly 1,400 miles from home, she is never that far away.
The Obenrader clan, as anyone who has ever spent time in or around the North Clarion School District, is rather large. And the sports bloodlines continue to run deep at the school.
Her cousin, Mitch, is an outstanding Division III track and field athlete at Penn State-Behrend and was a 1,000-point scorer in his own right for the Wolves. And Mitch’s youngest sister, Tori, is a superstar on the North Clarion girls’ basketball team leading the squad to its first PIAA playoff berth in 30 years and in the process accomplishing a feat her older cousin wasn’t able to achieve.
And make no mistake, Franty is very in tune to what her cousins are
doing – in a neat little twist of history Tori is actually living in the house in Fryburg that Wendy grew up in – and a quick look at the record book shows that Mitch, Tori and their middle sister, Ashton, when combined with Wendy’s scoring numbers have scored 3,910 career points for North Clarion, including 2,644 points for the girls’ basketball team. That will surely go over 4,000 points this season with Tori, who was a first-team All American Award and Engraving D9Sports.com team member, only being a junior.
“They are my family,” Franty said. “In fact, Ashton was just down here a couple of weeks ago. I want them to (a) have fun. And I want them to learn those lessons about being a good teammate. I really want them to understand how much to enjoy it. It does by in a heartbeat.”
Franty also knows her cousin, who enters her junior season with 754 career points, has a shot at her school record.
“I’ve said if she breaks it, I am going to come up and be there,” Franty said.
That’s just the type of person Franty is.
Whether it’s pampering her cousins or donating banners to her alma mater for to display the school’s 1,000-point scorers in the gym or volunteering with PugHearts of Houston as a foster parent for rescued dogs, Franty is more than just about work.
“Working with the pugs, it’s something that I feel I’m doing to give back,” Franty said. “I’m fortunate enough to be able to do that. It’s pretty awesome.”
Franty also still cares deeply about her hometown and ended the interview my asking how she could help Clarion County prosper and create jobs.
“I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without that (Clarion County/Fryburg) upbringing,” Franty said.