By Clifford Cowley
Occupation–Director of Golf
Location–Sudden Valley G&CC–Bellingham, WA
Pro Status–PGA Member since 1992
Brian Kruhlak was 15 when he first started playing golf at Sudden Valley Golf Course. His family had moved from Ontario to British Columbia and reconnected with friends in Bellingham from when his dad attended and then taught at Western Washington University. “They discovered Sudden Valley. My dad rediscovered his passion for golf, and would drag me along with him on the golf course.”
Although Brian could be considered a late bloomer, playing-wise, he quickly developed into an accomplished player. According to Ron Hass, who was the head pro at Sudden Valley at the time, he had a swing that wouldn’t quit. “He could scratch his ankle with a three iron on his backswing,” laughs Ron.
Business wise, Brian started his golf career early when Ron hired him to wash carts and pick the range. “Brian was a great kid,” says Ron. “He had a natural rapport with the customers and the other employees, as well as a great work ethic.” Under Ron’s watchful and patient eye, Brian worked the golf season throughout his high school and college years.
Ironically, Brian never really intended to have a career in golf. “I went to college planning to go to law school,” says Brian, “but after a couple of years at the University of British Columbia, I realized I didn’t want to do three more after my undergrad degree,” he adds.
In the fall of 1989, he decided to take a year off from school and go to Australia with a buddy, where he worked at a golf course during the day and tended bar at night. However, six months later, an assistant professional position opened up at Sudden Valley and Ron asked Brian to take the position. “That’s when I ‘officially’ began my career in the golf business,” says Brian. Like his full swing, Brian put his full amount of energy into the job at Sudden Valley while going to college to complete his degree in Political Science, and enrolling in the PGA Apprentice program. While he was doing all that, he married his wife, Christie.
No Place Like Home
“Those years were a very exciting time for me,” says Brian with a sparkle in his eye. “In May of 1991, I had just graduated from UBC. Ron and his family were just completing construction of the Avalon Golf Links in Burlington. That month, I left Sudden Valley for Avalon and was able to assist in the final phases of opening a new 27-hole facility. In November of 1992, at 25 years old, I became the head professional at Avalon and I remained there in that capacity until February of 2011 when I returned to Sudden Valley as their Director of Golf.
“I worked for Ron Hass for over 28 years. He really has helped shape who I am, not only in the golf business, but also as a person. I am very fortunate to have been able to stay close to home and, essentially, work in only two places throughout my career. In a business where the average tenure in one place for a golf professional is 3 to 5 years, I consider myself privileged.
“I have been ridiculously fortunate to have amazing friends and family who have also guided me in my personal and professional life. My parents and my sister are a huge part of my life. We still play golf as a family whenever possible. My wife Christie, and my 3 kids, Sarah, Rees & Kylie, have been involved and supportive during my long career in a biz that challenges family time– to say the least.”
Brian also cites Greg Paul and Bill Porter as life influences. “I worked alongside Greg as an assistant at Sudden Valley and then under him for a year at Avalon. He is a great businessman, and I have learned a ton from him. Bill Porter taught me a lot with respect to playing and teaching. He is an amazing player and teacher and an even more amazing human being!”
Ron Hass looks back at all the years and positive experiences he and Brian have shared and feels that he is the fortunate to have been able to work with Brian. “Brian brings a combination of intelligence, integrity and a strong work ethic– which is unique to our industry. He is a fantastic golf professional. Absolutely, one of the best I’ve ever known. Brian is a product of a wonderful family. He is a friend to many people. All of whom hold him in high regard.”
According to Brian, every golfer has their own swing, so you can’t force students into a cookie cutter version that’s perfect for everyone. “I try to create awareness of cause and effect for my students and then let them be a part of figuring out what adjustments to make,” he says.
First and foremost, Brian believes genuine customer service is key to the business end of golf. “Golfers come out to have a good time playing golf,” says Brian. “I want to provide the best possible experience for every customer. The experience includes the service we provide and the quality of our product. “I strive to provide that to our customers and hopefully, by example, pass it along to my employees.”
Brian’s life has been all about providing good service and quality of product. He’s not shy about giving others credit for his success– as he mentions Ron Hass, Greg Paul, and Bill Porter. Along with his parents, those three men have served the golf community by producing a quality product like Brian.
What’s in Brian’s Bag?
Ping G Driver, Fairway and Hybrid
Ping S-55 Irons
Ping Glide 50°, 54°, 58° wedges
Ping Ketsch mid putter
Titleist ProV1-x balls