A 78-year-old golf pro has sued the town of Cumberland in federal court claiming that he was illegally fired by a manager who told him the town-run golf course wanted to go in “a younger direction.”

Gary Rees, 78, has sued the town of Cumberland for age discrimination in federal court in Portland. Rees claims he was illegally fired as a golf pro at the municipal golf course after his boss decided to go in “a younger direction.” Credit: Courtesy of Gary Rees

Gary Rees of Yarmouth claims that he was the victim of age discrimination when his much younger boss last year fired him and two other “older” part-time workers from the pro shop.

Rees is seeking unspecified damages from the town, according to the complaint filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland.

Cumberland owns and operates the Val Halla Golf Course.

Town manager William Shane declined Thursday to comment on the lawsuit.

Before his firing, Rees worked as a golf pro for 45 years. He was head golf pro at Val Halla between 1976 and 1980 and then again between 1984 and 1992. He was working as an assistant golf pro when he was fired in January 2021.

Rees was the only golf pro at the course who was a PGA professional, and he had run one of the largest junior programs in the state when he served as Val Halla’s head golf pro, according to the complaint.

Rees began experiencing age discrimination after a new head golf pro, Nick Plummer, who is about 40 years younger than Rees, was hired in 2019, the complaint said. The younger man allegedly told Rees when he fired him that the course wanted to go in “a younger direction.”

Plummer is not a defendant in the lawsuit.

Rees enjoyed teaching and working one-on-one with members, his attorney, Laura White of Kennebunk, said in the complaint.

“Plummer falsely claimed that part of the reason for Rees’s termination was that Rees did not want to give golf lessons anymore,” the complaint said. “This was false because Rees spent years running a junior golf program and he was a high school golf coach for many years. Rees has always enjoyed teaching golf lessons.”

The town manager allegedly asked Rees how Plummer was doing in his first year on the job.

“Rees told Shane candidly that Plummer seemed to lack experience and dedication to the job,” the complaint said. “For instance, Plummer often did not show up on weekends [during the golf season] until 11 a.m.”

Before filing the lawsuit, Rees received right-to-sue letters from the Maine Human Rights Commission and its federal counterpart, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Neither agency issued findings in the case.