It’s all about golf: New Sunridge Golf Club owners say love of the sport motivated investment
For the new owners of Sunridge Golf Club, it doesn’t matter who is better on the green. Both men love golf. It’s all about the golf.
“What makes it fun is that it’s always a good match-up,” said John Heldman, 39.
“It depends on the day,” business partner Wes Hull, 31, said with a widening smile.
In February, the long-time golf buddies purchased the 12-year-old Sunridge course, which lies like an emerald, pond-patched quilt in the north end of the Valley between a grand view of the Carson Range and the rugged sweep of the Carson River as it winds its way northeasterly.
“For most golfers, it’s a dream come true. It’s a giant playground,” Hull said. “From a career standpoint, there’s a lot of uncertainty in the industry. A lot of golf courses have been closed down or there are new ones not being built. This was a way to buy ourselves job security for the next 20 years.”
“For me, it’s all about golf,” said Heldman. “Somehow, golf got a hold of me. It’s either in your blood or not. For us, to work 12-13-hour days doesn’t seem that bad. Anything that deals with golf is good for me. I feel lucky to be here.”
With the purchase of Sunridge, Hull relocated to Minden. Heldman, still living in Reno, is looking to relocate as well to be closer to the course.
“We’re definitely in it for the long haul,” said Hull.
Together, the men have nearly 30 years of combined experience in the golf industry. They became friends while working at the Spyglass Hill course in Monterey, Calif., and have since served in various course management positions, whether at the Somersett course in Reno or Squaw Creek near Truckee. For the last three years, Hull has been overseeing Sunridge, and Heldman came on about a year ago to run the pro shop.
“Basically, the owner approached me about a year and a half ago,” Hull said. “He lives in Vegas and has a very high-profile job, so he didn’t have time for the course.”
The partners wouldn’t disclose the sales price, but said they paid what they felt was fair and could spend.
“In the next year, we’ll see if it was really a fair price,” said Heldman. “The first year will tell us everything, and we’ll have a good idea of where we are at financially.”
To keep overheard low, the golf-loving duo has assumed the majority of operational duties. They have only two part-time employees.
“I’m about five guys,” Heldman said with a grin. “We’re trying to build up a cushion.”
He said the course has a decent base of regulars who come to play; however, they wouldn’t mind attracting more locals and visitors from Lake Tahoe and Reno.
“Obviously we have to figure out the most productive and most efficient way to advertise,” he said.
As such, the partners are redesigning their Web site, offering coupons and specials, while planning more tournaments in the future, including a cancer benefit tourney slated for September.
Sunridge also sponsors Sierra Lutheran and South Lake Tahoe high schools. Above all, though, the new partners believe in the quality of their product.
“What I’ve noticed is the comfortable feel here,” Heldman said. “People like the fact that it’s all about golf. We get golf guys in here, and it’s fun. We’re on a first-name basis with everyone.”
Hull said the 19-hole course, with 100 maintained acres and 26 acres of lakes, offers a unique topography. For example, he said, the 14th hole has a 300-foot drop from the tee to the fairway.
“It’s a challenging course,” he said. “We have five different sets of tee boxes that can challenge anyone from the seasoned veteran golfer to the average or beginner golfer who needs to tee up closer.”
As for the future, the partners are optimistic.
“Hopefully, in five years, we’ll have the golf course running like a well-oiled machine,” Hull said. “Any money we make will be put back into the course.”