A little more than a year after the grand opening of the Palouse Ridge Golf Club in Pullman, the 315-acre course has garnered national attention as one of the best new courses in the country. It has also gained a cadre of Cougar alums who have come home to help run the business.
Most recently Tyler Jones ’92 joined as general manager last September. His last job was as general manager at Poppy Hills Golf Course in Pebble Beach, and before that he worked at the Poppy Ridge course in Livermore and the Sun Valley Resort in Idaho. “It was kind of a perfect fit, really,” he says of the course on WSU’s campus. He and his wife Callie had been living in California for 12 years. “We never thought we’d live there at all,” he says. “But it was time to make a change.”
Since he was hired by management firm CourseCo, Inc., last fall, Jones has had only one chance to play the course, but says that it lived up to its recent accolades. In January Golf Digest ranked Palouse Ridge as the No. 2 best new public golf course in the country. And last October Golfweek ranked it the second best new course in the country.
Unfortunately, the course opened at a time when the golf industry is on the decline. People don’t have the money to spend on a round of golf that they did a few years ago, says Jones. But maybe with its peak green fee at a mere $89, golfers will be drawn to the Palouse out of the Puget Sound, Spokane and Portland areas, he adds. “It’s here and it’s ready and it’s one of the best in the Northwest, if not one of the best in the country.”
Jeremy Wexler ’00, has been on the course a little longer, taking the job as the golf professional in 2008 before the course opened that fall. He worked in Scottsdale as an assistant golf pro, teaching and managing in “a golf mecca” that proved a good training ground for the instruction and customer service he does now. “I could just see that this was going to be something special,” he says of the Palouse Ridge course.
Pullman is home for Wexler, having grown up in town and returned after serving in the U.S. Army to earn a degree at WSU in Criminal Justice. He moved into golf management after college when he realized he wanted a change and that he could turn something he loved into a career. Wexler remembers playing on the old Pullman course as a kid. Other than both the old and new courses being player friendly, there’s no comparison, he says. The new 18-hole course has five sets of tees and as you move back, it can get very challenging.
Two more Cougs round out the team. Todd Lupkes, a 1992 turf management graduate, is the superintendent, and Mike Bednar ’92, ’04 is assistant superintendent.
Although the course is closed through the winter, the clubhouse and restaurant are open to visitors. The course itself is slated to reopen in March, weather permitting.