Pro at the Peak
By Pat Perkins
Observer Staff Writer
Dave Spurgeon knows the Buffalo Peak Golf Course is well-liked and popular among Union County residents. But the courses new golf pro wants golfers outside the area to have the same feeling.
A group of golfers from Boise making a regional tour recently played the course, then went on their way.
They actually came here on the way back, Spurgeon said. We want golfers to just add Union to their schedule.
The 18-hole course got Spurgeon as its new pro just a day before last months formal grand opening. Spurgeon replaced Fadel Nahle, who was promoted within Classic Golf Management, the company that runs Buffalo Peak for the City of Union.
Spurgeon had been to Buffalo Peak once before when it was just a field, prior to any construction on the course.
I didnt expect the course to be the quality it was, he said. Its not typically what you would see for a city this size.
Spurgeon didnt start playing golf until he got a job in college picking up golf balls at a driving range. In 1988 he became the assistant pro at Veterans Memorial Golf Course in Walla Walla. He was the head pro from 1996 to 1998.
I moved from the Seattle area to Walla Walla, and I didnt want to go back, he said. In a short period of time I know all the principals (here). You almost get to be in a big family. Its not a rat race all the time.
Spurgeons main responsibility is to be the golf courses business manager. Hes in charge of the day-to-day operations, sales and marketing in addition to teaching and organizing club-level events.
Marketing is one of Buffalo Peaks main priorities. Revenues and expenses are significantly lower than expected this year, the first full year of operations. The city will have a larger bond payment next year, however; voter-approved bonds paid for the construction of the course.
The debt service this year was minimal, so a lot of it went toward operating, Spurgeon said. Were going to take a look at (revenue) closely because the payment for debt service next year will be larger.
Spurgeon is looking for a 30 percent increase in the number of golfers on the course next year.
We get a lot of traffic through this way going to Wallowa Lake, going to Joseph, so we need to let these people know weve got a golf course, he said.
A big help will be an upcoming article in Golf Digest. One of the magazines raters came through recently and played the course, rating it on playability, shot value, aesthetics, etc. The magazine has 10 categories worth 10 points each, and Spurgeon said a 65 is considered a very good to excellent score.
The guy indicated to me that we would be in the good to very good range, Spurgeon said.
Three to six raters will pass through before the magazine runs an article, probably in December, Spurgeon said. Buffalo Peak will get a list in November showing its ratings.
The biggest impact the article will have will be to let people know that were here, Spurgeon said. Most of them havent known were here until they drove by and saw the sign.
After the course closes this fall Were hoping for pretty good play through October, Spurgeon said. the pro will spend his time looking at the books and planning promotions to increase play. Weekday play has been light, even on a sunny August day this week. Mens and womens clubs have been started, and those will be further developed. A junior program is planned. A handicapping system and associated software is on its way.
Theres also the move to complete. Spurgeons wife, Jennifer, is still living and working in the Tri-Cities. The move to Union County will bring Jennifer full circle; shes a daughter of county commissioner Steve McClure, with whom Spurgeon is staying. Jennifer Spurgeons company will let her work from her home as a satellite office in Union County.
That leaves plenty of work for the pro, who expects to shepherd Buffalo Peak safely through these early years.
Were about where I expect a new course to be for a golf course this size, he said.