By Clifford Cowley
Occupation: Golf Course Superintendent
Location: Quail Ridge Golf Course, Baker City, Oregon
Pro Status: GCSAA SM Member, Idaho GCSA Member, Oregon GCSA Member
They say that we are the sum of our experiences in life. For Jeff Stahman there is no truer statement. Jeff’s life experiences have led him to where he is now, partly by fate, but mostly by keeping his dream in sight and a willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve his dream.
Even though he didn’t really decide what he wanted to do for a living until he was in college, fate had a way of pointing him in the right direction. His dad introduced him to golf at an early age. “We played a lot together, and I loved being out with my dad. I never planned on becoming a golf course superintendent,” says Jeff. “I wanted to be an attorney like my parents, but when I got older I realized that I loved the game of golf and loved being outside.” Indeed, in elementary school, he took career assessment tests and it always came out that he should be a farmer. “Working the land comes from my mom’s side of the family,” says Jeff.
While attending the College of Idaho, he worked on the maintenance crew at Ban Bury Golf Club. During that time, he learned golf course maintenance at the ground level (no pun intended), doing all the different jobs required to maintain a golf course. “That’s when I decided I wanted to be a golf course superintendent. Kansas State University had a really good program, requiring a business minor in addition to the required turf courses, so I transferred there to pursue my dream,” states Jeff.
During college, he served as an intern at Sahalee Country Club and Royal Oaks Country Club. “While I was at Sahalee, they hosted the 2002 NEC World Golf Championship. I learned a lot about what it takes to set up a course for a prestigious tournament like the WGC.” During his final year at Kansas State University, he had the opportunity to participate in the Study Abroad Program in Palmerston North, New Zealand, at Massey University and was involved in the very start of a research project by the New Zealand Sports Turf Institute. In 2004, he graduated from Kansas State University with a degree in Agriculture.
A Circuitous Path
Fate has a funny way of throwing us a few curves, and maybe even a few switch-backs as we travel the road of life. Jeff has certainly paid his dues, and has lived through his share of twists and turns, on his way to becoming a superintendent.
He worked close to home after college, with short stints at Crane Creek Country Club and Headwaters Golf Club. Wanting to be close to his sister, he moved to Maryland, but headed back to Idaho when things didn’t work according to plan, taking an Assistant job at Meadow Creek Resort in New Meadows.
“Then I fell in love with Amy,” he says, “who is now my wife and an amazing mother,” he adds with a broad smile. So, he moved back to the Boise area to be closer to her, and landed a job at Purple Sage Golf Course, working for Ken Wheeler. “Purple Sage was perfect for me,” remarks Jeff. “I felt at home there, and I was excited to learn under a talented and hard working superintendent like Ken.” Unfortunately, it didn’t work out so perfectly. “The recession hit and Ken had to lay me off, right after Amy and I purchased a house, and a week before we got married. I was, of course, devastated. I had gone to school to be a golf course superintendent during the golf boom, and now, when I needed a job most, I didn’t have one.”
Not one to give up and not too proud to do any job, Jeff took whatever he could get. “It was definitely a humbling experience, and I believe it got me re-energized and re-focused on achieving my goal of being a golf course superintendent,” he says. Jeff finally caught a break when he was tagged for an Assistant position at Blue Tip Golf Club at the Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands, but after the birth of their first child, Parker, he and Amy wanted to get back to the United States to be closer to the grandparents. “I landed a job at Entrada Country Club in St. George, Utah, but we still wanted to be closer to home.”
Finding a Home
In January of 2014, Jeff landed a job in Baker City, Oregon, as the Superintendent at Quail Ridge Golf Course, at last reaching his goal. Most of all, Jeff finally found a community and location that fit his family. “I have worked at a large variety of golf courses including resort style, private, member equity and municipal,” says Jeff. “Quail Ridge is truly unique. The golfing community here is like an extended family. They treat me and my family like their own. The community members volunteer over 90 hours per week to help maintain the course. The town is proud of their course, and I’m proud to be the Superintendent at Quail Ridge.
“Good, bad, or indifferent, I have worked at a lot of golf courses before landing where I am today. I have had a chance to work for a number of superintendents and assistant superintendents, and I have tried to take the best traits of each one and make them my own. I think I am a better person for having taken the path I’ve traveled. And if it wasn’t for the support of my parents and my wife, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
Carry on, Jeff.
What’s In Jeff’s Maintenance Cart?
Tool box–“tools and spare sprinkler parts.”
Putter and stimp meter–“to see how the greens are rolling.”
My four year old son as much as possible–“quality time!”
Cell Phone–“always available.”