In August of 1970, Mike Hollern, Chairman of Brooks
Resources Corporation, and Bob Harrison, President of Brooks
Resources Corporation, hired me as Golf Development Consultant
for their new venture, Black Butte Ranch. I was still employed
by Columbia Edgewater, but worked with Brooks as a consultant
until 1972. I returned to Columbia Edgewater in 1992.
The original plan was to build a nine-hole golf
course and a large number of tennis courts. Tennis was a big
game in the 1970s. But we worked things out in a hurry. We ended
up with thirty-six holes of golf before it was done.
I worked a small amount with Bob Graves (Robert
Muir Graves) on the design of the Big Meadow course at the Ranch.
Then I designed Glaze Meadow with the help of my great friend
When it came time to hire a golf professional
to manage the golf courses, I was asked how much it would take
to get me. Little did Harrison know that I might have paid them
for the job! As neither of these gentlemen (Mike Hollern and
Bob Harrison) had knowledge of the golf professional trade, I
was commissioned to write my own contract. It must have been
OK, as it stood twenty-three years with practically no changes.
My reporting obligation was to the President of the Board of
Brooks Resources and no other. That feature was of great value
as I lived through, if memory serves me, nine general managers
at the Ranch in twenty-three years.
I still have a letter in my files from Bob Harrison,
in which I think he was expressing the thought that I was making
more money than appropriate. He must have been right, as he was
one of the brightest guys I ever worked with.
Bright, but a little absent minded. He was driving to the valley
(Willamette Valley) one morning with another party when he was
apprized that there was a deer in the road some 300 yards ahead.
He hit the deer!
He was a wonderful guy who left the company early
on to do great things in his own right. We had a going away party
for Harrison when he left with a few “roast” type speakers prior to his
final words to his former associates. When Harrison finally got the
microphone, Mike McNeil stepped up and asked who wanted a beer. Every
last man got up and left the room, leaving Harrison to speak to the
The Big Meadow golf course filled up very fast,
even though the tennis craze was in full swing. Early property
sales were outstanding and people took advantage of some of the
greatest bargains imaginable. The only glitch of any size was
caused by the gas shortage. Even with a wonderful sales staff,
featuring Australian expatriate, Haze Wells, Towner Menneffe,
Mike McNeil and the late Ron Lettenmier, we had to go on the
In about 1974 we started having owner oriented
parties in the valley. We (Brooks Resources) hosted the cocktail
hour and the owners paid for their dinner. I think we stared
with three dinners a year. We ended up going to twelve dinners
a year, including going from Seattle to Palm Springs. I think
we entertained some 2500 people the last year. I made home movies
for these dinners with a hand-held Super 8 camera. We spliced
together what we thought would entertain people and help sell
the product. It seemed to work, the lots were selling.
We all have to work under a bit of pressure from
time to time, but try sitting through dozens of meetings with
two, not one, superiors who possess total recall. As I earlier
stated, Mike Hollern is one of the smartest men I know, the other
is Bill Smith. Early on Smith was Hollern’s Executive Assistant and for a short time General
Manager of Black Butte Ranch. Bill graduated from the University
of Colorado and earned an MBA at Stanford. While my IQ is just a
bit higher than my shoe size, these two remember every single word
or number they ever heard. Mike dazzled Dartmouth College as a hockey
player and a brilliant student. I believe his second degree was Stanford,
too. When he first graduated from Dartmouth he started in radio,
for which he must have been great. He’s a wonderful public
speaker with a big-time radio voice. Anyway, Brooks Scanlon was able
to drag him away from all that and bring him to Bend, where he has
done so much to develop the community in the healthy fashion it has
enjoyed. Mike also held the chairmanship of ODOT for a number of
years. He’s an outstanding public servant and a wonderful boss.
To go back a few years, I won the State Professional
Championship at the Bend Country Club in, I believe, 1961. I
was asked to speak to a service club the next day. It was my
pleasure to predict that the whole world would be coming to Central
Oregon soon. I distinctly remember my old friend General Bob
Thomas labeling me as a heretic and an enemy of the people. In
retort, I predicted that there would be twenty-five golf courses
in Central Oregon before I died. At that time there were four
nine-hole courses. There are now approximately 30 courses and
more coming. As far as I know, I’m still alive,
if slow moving.
Shortly after coming to Black Butte Ranch I got
into golf course design work. I had the pleasure of doing about
twenty projects, including Glaze Meadow, Aubrey Glen, Persimmon,
and Skamania Lodge, to name a few. Haven’t got one right yet, but will keep trying.
Over the years we were fortunate enough to have
some fine young people on the payroll including Craig Griswold,
Mike Davis, Pat Fitzsimons, Derrick Johnson, Rick Gloor, Marti
Loeb and my right arm Carly Seitz, shop manager and secretary.
Superintendent Robert Rickabaugh, from day one
until retirement, was an inspirational man of unending talent.
Starting as a laborer in construction on Big Meadow, he finished
as General Superintendent over both courses. Later John Alexander
took over the job (he is currently superintendent of Waverly
County Club) with Gus Johnson and Jerry Kessel working the two
courses. Johnson and Kessel are still at Black Butte Ranch today
and doing a wonderful job on their own.
The success we had in the development of Golf
Operations was immensely helped by the quality of people I was
able to recruit. First and foremost was my lifelong best friend,
Sidney B. Harman. Sid left the Yakima Elks Club the same time
we came to Black Butte Ranch. At an unbelievably youthful 65
years of age, he did not want to retire. He was with us as the
finest teacher, player and public relations practitioner until
his death in 1988. Every golfer can dream of shooting his age,
but only one out of thousands ever succeed. Sid did it every
year from age 63 until death took him at 80 --- probably 750
times. He was the finest fly fisherman I ever saw, too. Gentleman
was the one word.
On the other side of the coin, we lost one of
God’s great works
when Mt. St. Helens blew away Bruce Faddis. Bruce was our baby: tough
as a rat with a heart of pure gold. At age 26, he was my Big Meadow
Superintendent with a great future. After he was killed by St. Helens’ explosion,
I started a memorial fund at Oregon State University to benefit agronomy
students. It’s the Bruce Faddis-Sid Harman Memorial, now administered
by the OSU Foundation. Each school year a couple of deserving students
get some financial aid from the fund, which was largely donated by
the good folks at Black Butte Ranch.
The development of Black Butte Ranch golf was
for some years a classic in the industry. Initially I did not
like Bob Graves’s seed
specification. So to be sure we did not make a serious error, we
called in the best expert I knew, John Zoller. Hollern, Smith, Zoller
and I met at the Big Meadow course, prior to spring 1971. Management
indicated that price was no object as long as we got the best. Zoller
advised creeping bent grass seed, so that is what we did. Dead wrong – it
turned into steel wool. We had to poison out all of it and start
over in 1972 with Oregon rye and fescue, but mostly native blue grass.
Central Oregon is blue grass country and you can be thankful for
that. It took us making the mistake to find out.
Early on the engineering company that was in charge
of all construction had put a foreman in charge that was not
too sharp at reading golf blue prints. When I was out of town,
he built four greens up-side-down on the back nine of Big Meadow.
They all had to be regraded. We had a lot of fun building the
first nine with an unlimited budget, using the Brooks Scanlon
logging road crews who thought every fairway should be flat.
The second nine was a new deal. We were running
out of cash. And dirt from the lake was not topsoil. Net result
was that, to this day, you are subject to hitting the footings
of Mt. Washington with a deeply dug divot.
In spite of our sometimes clownish efforts we
came up with what people wanted – a beautiful course that anyone can play. We opened
the first nine, spring of 1972; second nine, spring 1973.
Sometime, in about 1974, Brooks expanded the Ranch
size by purchasing 700 acres that became the Glaze Meadow section.
Old cow poke, Carl Campbell, had cared for that land for many
seasons. Campbell told me I would live to see the lovely springs
on that parcel dry up one day. Seemed impossible, but he was
right as they disappear several years during draught, only to
come back stronger than ever in the high water table years.
In 1974 I was commissioned to design and build
nine holes in the Glaze Meadow addition. It was to be the last
golf built. By the time we opened in 1976 property sales were
so good I was told to do the second nine. The good fortune to
have such a lovely piece of ground is deeply appreciated. As
Brooks was still in the timber business, I was required to pay
out of the budget for every tree over 24 inches diameter that
I left standing.
Those holes opened in 1978 and golf was sold out
within a few months. Brooks was generous to allow me to leave
enough of those big ponderosas to maintain the “big forest feel.” (They
were worth approximately $1500 each.) When you design a golf
course you can expect to be examined by every hacker who owns
a set of clubs. The first hole at Glaze Meadow has had me pilloried
in all the halls of the land. To this I say, “A golf ball goes where you hit it.” Golf
is not a straight line game.
When Brooks Resources sold the golf course assets
to the homeowners association my contract went with the deal
in its original form. Some owners were disappointed to find they
still had no say in golf “policy matters.” Frankly,
they would have just cost themselves a lot of cash. Every time a self appointed
committee would come to me with a proposal, I would get out the statement and
show them the damage to the bottom line.
By treating every owner the same way and taking
care of the renter and guest who contributed over 65% of our
income, golf operations provided over $10 million to the bottom
line the last ten years I was there. Not possible with all the
competition now in the area. Still, the sale by Brooks Resources
of the golf courses to Black Butte Ranch homeowners association
was the best land deal for those homeowners since Manhattan Island was
sold for a handful of beads.
In 1992, I found it was best to turn the job over
to J.D. Mowlds, my assistant and right arm for the previous nine
years. I still had a couple of years on the contract, but with
four golf courses under design and construction it was time to
Brooks Resources had their ups and downs over
the years. Like the Canyon Lakes deal in Kennewick, Washington.
We bought into the development about six months before “WOOPS” collapsed with some 2000 big paying jobs down the
drain. The past few years have all been up for Brooks Resources with Mike Hollern
at the wheel. Bill Smith stayed with the Canyon Lakes deal on his own and weathered
things long enough to see the area change from atomic energy to great Wine County.
Brooks expected the best of their people and I
can say they were absolutely great to work with.
Thanks for the ride.