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Salish Cliffs lures its superintendent

Veteran golf course superintendent, in a job he liked, at a complex he enjoyed, for an employer he respected.

Set for life.

Until he got another offer.

Bob Pearsall was always happy working for The Golf Club at Hawks Prairie, where he was in charge for 61/2 years.

Before that, he’d had two stints with another Oki Golf property, Olympia’s Indian Summer Golf and Country Club, sandwiched around a couple years at Olympia Country and Golf Club.

“I loved working for Oki Golf,” he said. “Thirteen years, and I loved every minute of it.”

So he wasn’t looking to move when Ray Peters, executive director of the Squaxin Island Tribe, called to ask what he thought about going to work at Salish Cliffs, the golf course emerging from a Kamilche Valley hillside by the Little Creek Casino Resort near Shelton.

“The more I got around Ray and the tribe, it felt like family,” Pearsall said. “It felt like a good fit.”

Pearsall, 43, became superintendent at Salish Cliffs in August, taking the job at a critical time in the course’s life: its early childhood.

A July trip around the rugged contour of Salish Cliffs with its designer, Gene Bates (The Olympian, July 6 and July 13), revealed a course in rough-draft stage.

A similar trek three months later with the superintendent revealed real golf holes.

While Bates in July had to talk mostly in terms of what “would be” at Salish Cliffs, Pearsall three months later was able to point to the fairways, bunkers, greens and visual avenues that will greet golfers next June(ish) when Salish Cliffs opens.

Salish Cliffs through a superintendent’s eyes:

• Good rollout on the fairways and firm putting surfaces are a product of “sand-capping” tee-to-green with river sand from the Longview-Kelso area. The roughs were seeded over native soil.

• The course is planted in bentgrass of the T-1 cultivar, whose blades “roll over” under a mower and produce the contrasting shades on the fairways and green surrounds.

• Leaves in the crown of the giant maple right of the No. 1 fairway were just starting to turn yellow on the late September day of our tour.

The design by Bates, who was on the Pearsall interview panel, played into the superintendent’s decision.

“Gene has a knack for the lay of the land and getting the most out of a particular site,” Pearsall said.

When Peters called, Pearsall worked through the decision points in his mind: Gene Bates design (check), affinity for Peters and the tribe (check), distinctive course topography (check), state-of-the-art equipment (check).

And a couple other things: He’d never been lead superintendent during construction, when a guy can bring a designer’s vision to life. And he’d never worked for a resort. For Pearsall, that counted as a two-for-one.

FAMILY TIES

The dog trotting beside the mower and its operator at Salish Cliffs is Clover, a Jack Russell terrier. She belongs to Mike Pearsall, the assistant superintendent and Bob Pearsall’s brother.

He’s not the only Pearsall kin in the close-knit world of golf course maintenance in the South Sound.

Rick Hancock, who was promoted to fill the Hawks Prairie vacancy, is Bob Pearsall’s brother-in law.

“I hired him at 15 to be a weed-eater kid,” Pearsall said. “I ended up marrying his sister.”

EURO COOL

It’s only natural, if you’re an American, to root for the U.S. side in the Ryder Cup, and man, it’s tense.

But am I the only one who found it hard to root against the Europeans? Great players, refreshing personalities, and on the whole better-dressed than the Yanks. When Rory McIlroy got a haircut, he looked a little less like Bozo the Clown.

I didn’t mind the Americans’ manly lavender motif on Friday, especially the retro cardigan vests.

But they lacked the dash of the Euros’ white-on-black argyle sweaters. And look who won.

Olympia freelance writer Bart Potter can be reached at greygoatee06@comcast.net

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