New management, but same vision

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Andy Deiro serves two bosses. But from his vantage point, the relationship between Dalhousie Golf Club and Arizona-based O.B. Sports Golf Management couldn't be more complementary.

Deiro's past is with O.B. Sports, a firm for which he has worked since 1991.

"It's a great company to work for," he said. "They're great folks."

His future is with Dalhousie, where he became the general manager on Dec. 1.

"I fell in love with the golf course the first time I saw it," Deiro said, recalling a visit about 18 months ago, when O.B. Sports' relationship with Dalhousie included marketing but not management. "O.B. sent me to another property, and I kept it in the back of my mind that I wanted to come here if it ever came available."

Deiro makes the move to the 3-year-old course in Cape Girardeau after serving as the general manager during the start-up of Aliante Golf Club, a Las Vegas public resort course that opened in December of 2003. Of his 14 years with O.B. Sports, Deiro has spent 12 years in Las Vegas and about two years in Portland, Ore.

Deiro and his family -- he and his wife, Kris, have two children and are expecting another -- was looking for a change of pace that went beyond golf.

"We lived in Las Vegas for so long, I was looking forward to the opportunity to come here and get out of such a big city," he said. "I grew up in Idaho, exposed to hunting and fishing and all those things, and I wanted to expose my kids to that.

"People say, 'Why would you want to move here from Las Vegas?' But it's so different to live there. ... It gets so hard to be there with kids because you see the stuff all the time. Everywhere you go, there are billboards that have pictures with less and less clothing. You want to wrap you arms around your kids' eyes. We had a great church and great friends there, but there's always some of that stuff that infringes.

"For me, this is like a retreat."

A retreat but no vacation. Deiro has plenty of projects to keep him busy and draw upon his 20 years of experience in the game.

"Andy has done everything within golf," said Orrin Vincent, founder and CEO of O.B. Sports. "He has had some jobs with us that he probably didn't like, but he was cross-training to prepare to run a golf club. He has a global perspective."

Deiro said his duties over the years ranged from booking corporate outings for very busy Angel Park to being a national director of sales and marketing to being a director of golf to being a general manager. He has worked at resorts, high-end public courses and private clubs.

Before joining O.B., he worked at courses in Idaho as a golf professional and even played some on the Ben Hogan Tour.

"It was great to have some experiences and make some friends," Deiro said. "But I knew if I wanted to be a golf professional, I had to get into the business side, and that's where a company like O.B. helped me.

"O.B. focuses on hiring from within because it shortens the learning curve," he added. "When Orrin founded the company, he didn't want it to be a golf company that grew so big that people became numbers. I'm not so far removed from the founder of the company that I can't call him and have a conversation."

Vincent and O.B. Sports vice president C.A. Roberts III were in Cape Girardeau earlier this month to meet with Dalhousie managing member Cord Dombrowski and discuss the club's progress.

2005 is shaping up as a big year for Dalhousie.

* Earlier this month, it was honored as the No. 2 golf course in Missouri, leaping ahead of some established St. Louis County country clubs in its first appearance on Golf Digest's state-by-state list.

* Two cottages being built near the practice facility should be completed this year and will provide housing to national members who visit the course.

* The Professional Shoppe also is under construction near the practice range.

* Construction on the Members Manor clubhouse will begin this spring with a projected completion date of next spring or summer.

The number of large projects influenced Dombrowski's decision to interview management companies and ultimately strike a deal with O.B. Sports.

"I feel like we've taken it as far as we can," Dombrowski said. "It's been a fascinating journey from where we started to where we are now. The challenge is to get the word out and let other people know about it."

That's where a company like O.B. Sports comes in. With most of its properties in the western United States, the company has a track record of developing courses, developing business plans for courses and managing courses.

"We have had a lot of successes and a lot of mistakes," Vincent said. "We can help them get to a level of service and detail faster. We work with how to place the club in the market and who we should be. We match the golf course with the community."

Added Roberts: "Cord had a big responsibility with day-to-day operations as well as the overall global perspective. There are thousands of details. Cord has done a fabulous job and the club is first class, but they were getting into some waters they hadn't been in before."

O.B. Sports has been in almost every water imaginable, and the company's leaders welcomed the chance to work with a course the caliber of Dalhousie.

"We can pick our projects," Vincent said. "We're in a position that we don't have to take every job that comes along, and we ask about the owners more than the golf course.

"We were looking for someone we thought we could fit with. Knowing this golf course and the ownership and the community, we were anxious for an opportunity like this," he added. "You don't find owners like Cord. He has a tremendous respect for the history of golf, and he has a respect for the history of the property. You don't get that opportunity all the time."

The admiration is mutual, said Dombrowski, who interviewed about a half-dozen management and marketing firms.

"Orrin is in the top 1 percent," Dombrowski said. "He has done it all in the game of golf, all the way to giving Elvis Presley golf lessons. He's conceived national events, he's well known with the USGA, the PGA, the AJGA. We're in good hands."

Those hands could help Dalhousie someday land a major golf event, still one of Dombrowski's goals.

"I think it will happen," Dombrowski said. "It will be great for the area, great for the course. We know the course will stand up."

Added Vincent: "I can tell you this golf course doesn't take a back seat to any golf course anywhere."

Golf Digest's ranking is a sign people are noticing Dalhousie.

Deiro would like to see the course make its way into the magazine's list of the nation's top 100 golf courses, a list that in 2003 included former Missouri No. 1 Bellerive Country Club. Bellerive, host of last year's USGA Senior Open and other major events, was listed behind Dalhousie this time around, as were Old Warson, which hosted a Ryder Cup, and Boone Valley, which briefly hosted a seniors tour event and will host the 2007 U.S. Junior Amateur.

"I'd like us to be in the top 100," Deiro said. "I know that's something Cord wants to see. It gets harder and harder because there are more and more golf courses and more and more money. We've already got a great golf course.

"Once we get the buildings completed, we will start getting more exposure," he added. "There are many things that factor in that aren't supposed to factor in, but you pull into a club that has gates, and there's landscaping and a beautiful big clubhouse, and you eat a good lunch before you play golf, you remember those things. They make an impression on you.

"That's why we're so thrilled that people who rate the courses for Golf Digest overlooked that."

By the end of next year, Dalhousie hopes to boast the amenities that will place the course on a higher level. O.B. Sports Golf Management has been recognized in the business for the quality of its clubhouses and pro shops, successfully carrying out themes in developing courses such as Langdom Farms Golf Club and The Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club in Oregon and Trophy Lake Golf and Casting in Washington.

"When people come with the buildings, it will be twice the experience," Roberts said.

The theme for Dalhousie's Members Manor, cottages and Professional Shoppe will have a Scottish feel to relate with the history of land, which was first settled in 1798 by Sarah Ramsay, whose brother was the Earl of Dalhousie.

"This really is a theme; there's real history here," Roberts said. "It's not just some guy who fell in love with Scotland."

Instead, perhaps, some guy with a dream being fulfilled.

"This course is well-researched, well-planned and, with O.B. Sports, well-managed," Dombrowski said. "I really believe this is something that was meant to be. You still pinch yourself, and you can't believe it happened. When we jumped from nowhere, from being an unknown and the courses we jumped over in the Golf Digest ranking, it's really something. ... The building of the golf course is done, and we're just getting started."

That passion and vision inspire Deiro.

"This is Cord's dream," Deiro said. "It really is, and that's one of the things that's great for me is working with an owner who is so passionate about it, and he's knowledgeable too. I think that's why Cord and O.B. Sports get along so well. O.B. Sports recognized Cord's passion and was able to visualize his dream with him and is working to help Cord realize that dream."

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