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Discovering game of golf fits retiree to a 'tee'

Retiring as an engineer, Paul Tee took up golf, painting and bonsai


by: BARBARA SHERMAN - STAYS BUSY ON AND OFF THE GOLF COURSE - Paul Tee enjoys golfing with the King City Men's Golf Club even though he calls his handicap 'terrible.'The most aptly named golfer in the King City Men's Golf Club must be Paul Tee, who joined seven or eight years ago and has been an enthusiastic player ever since.

After retiring as a production planning manager at Intel in 2000, he decided that he needed to pursue some hobbies: Golf interested Tee, and because he lives on Bull Mountain, the King City course was the closest and most conveniently located for him, so it was a no-brainer to use the course down below.

"I love the people here and the Pro Shop," Tee said. "I love coming to play golf here." Ironically, Tee's name, which is not common in his native Malaysia, means "water pond," which of course golfers try to avoid when playing the game.

King City is a long way from Tee's original home on Penang Island, and when he earned his degree in engineering in 1972, Intel was still a new company, while Motorola had been around a long time; Tee applied to both for a job but favored Motorola.

"I wanted to work there," he said. "It had a better reputation. At the time, everyone wanted to work there, but Intel hired me in 1974, and of course, it turned out to be so much better."

Tee spent eight or nine years working for Intel in Malaysia supervising the manufacturing of memory chips.

"I came to the U.S. for six months on a contract to work on new products being transferred to Malaysia," said Tee, who then returned to Malaysia and married Linda.

Again, he was offered a short tenure at Intel's headquarters in California, which ended up lasting for three years, and the couple's first child - a son - was born there.

Intel/Penang continued to grow; the Tees moved back home, where he worked as the coordinator for products shipped there, and the couple's second child - a daughter - was born during that time.

"I really enjoyed my work in the U.S. and asked for a transfer," Tee said. "My plant manager talked to someone in Chandler, Ariz., and I got transferred there. I managed a small group related to overseas products in Malaysia and the Philippines and then transferred to a central planning group overseeing products in the Philippines, China and Malaysia - we were starting to get into China then."

Tee, who became manager of a group that oversaw production planning in manufacturing plants, said, "The kids were growing up, and it was so hot in Arizona. We took a vacation every summer to get away from the heat, and one summer the temperature hit 124. I was on sabbatical, so we drove all the way from Arizona to Vancouver, B.C., stopping in Portland, which I thought was beautiful.

"I put my name in for a transfer, saying I was willing to move to Portland. There was no phone call - nothing - for almost a year. Then one day out of the blue, in June or July 1995, I got a phone call from the Oregon general manager who said he wanted me to move up here immediately.

"I said, 'I can't just leave,' and he said, 'Tell me who I need to talk to.' He talked to my plant manager, who the next day said, 'You are going to Oregon.' I was up here in a week."

Tee's children were in school so they and his wife didn't move to Oregon until December that year.

"That year was the first time I saw colors change in the fall," he said. "I had lunch in my car and just looked at the leaves."

by: BARBARA SHERMAN - GROWING ARTWORK PORTFOLIO - Prolific artist Paul Tee points to a painting he did that hangs in his Bull Mountain home; he likes to paint scenes from old Asia both from memory and photos.The family settled in Beaverton and lived there until Tee retired in 2000; they then moved to Bull Mountain.

"After retiring, I said to myself, 'I must do something - get a hobby,'" Tee said. "I thought I would pick up golf. About a year after we moved to Bull Mountain in 2004 or 2005, I came to the King City course since it was the closest and took lessons from the pro, Jim Smith. He was a nice man and very patient, and I practiced at driving ranges. I waited to join the golf club until I could play well enough to not embarrass myself."

Tee admitted that despite all those lessons and practice sessions plus actual playtime, "I have such a bad swing now. Everybody tells me that my practice stroke is very nice, and I follow through, but when I actually hit - I freeze up. It's psychological.

"I ask the other players to watch me and tell me what I'm doing wrong, and everybody says I freeze up. My handicap is terrible - it's 15 for nine holes."

Tee's name is listed among the winners in Roy Armour's monthly men's golf club report in the Regal Courier, but Tee said, "I win because of my handicap."

He added, "This is a very, very good club. Even when you don't play well, they still accept you. Lots of them have played 30 or 40 years - they call me the 'young man.' I haven't taken any more lessons, because my problem is psychological.

"Once in a while, I swing correctly, and the ball goes far and straight. There are so many nuances to playing golf, but it comes down to just you and the ball - you're trying to beat yourself.

"But it is a great sport - this is a nice course with nice scenery and good people to play with. You just enjoy playing golf and then talking about it afterwards."

Another hobby that Tee took up was painting, pursuing an interest he had in school.

"In high school, I liked art and had a very good art teacher," Tee said. "When I finished high school, I applied to the fine art school at the university in Bath, England and got accepted. I told my mom, and she said, 'You are not going to become an artist,' and I didn't touch it again until after I retired.

"I looked into taking art classes at Portland Community College, but it was too late to sign up for that term. Michael's offered watercolor classes, which is what I wanted to do, but the lady there said that I couldn't take watercolor until I had taken the basics using acrylic and oil. Watercolor is much more difficult because you can't paint over your mistakes like you can with oil and acrylic."

So Tee just started painting on his own, mostly using his favorite medium - watercolor - and has participated in two shows and won awards.

While he says he mostly paints landscapes, a tour of his home reveals a myriad of subjects featured in beautiful paintings displayed around the house. Among his favorite subjects are scenes from old Asia that he paints from both his memory and old photos.

Tee said the family used to return to Malaysia more often when his mom was still alive, and now what he misses most is the food. "My wife cooks the best Malaysian food," he added.

The children are doing well - Tee's son is a physician, just finished his residency and has a 1 ½-year-old son; his daughter has a master's degree in psychology and works at Oregon Health & Science University as a research assistant on multiple sclerosis.

Tee pursued the American dream and hit the jackpot, and now in retirement enjoys pursing his favorite hobbies and interests - even if he has more control over a paint brush than a golf club.