New pros on duty at ‘timeless’ Pine Grove
IRON MOUNTAIN — A new group has come on board to operate and take care of one of the oldest golf courses in the region.
Pine Grove Country Club in the past year has ushered in a new office manager, course supervisor and a married couple that became head golf professional and teaching professional.
The new staff step in for course management that had been in place for decades. Yet they come with an appreciation of Pine Grove’s 118-year history, even as they bring what club board member Ray Cameron calls “a new enthusiasm, a new energy you can really feel.”
Amanda Blazer started as a server and bartender as Pine Grove. Ten years later, she’s risen to office manager, after Marcy Kasten retired with more than 20 years in the role.
In her first year, Blazer has had to deal with delays in opening the course due to the COVID-19 shutdown in the state. She thanks customers who responded with orders for takeout food, which was enough to get by until Gov. Gretchen Whitmer gave the go-ahead for golf courses to reopen. Pine Grove resumed play May 1, with a number of new protocols to adjust to COVID-19 best practices.
“We did a lot a lot of to-go (food), which did very, very well,” Blazer said, adding, “We kind of just weathered through it.”
“The new team has navigated these difficulties, I think, very well,” Cameron said.
Blazer also credits the new team working “seamlessly” to find ways to adjust and build on what the course could offer. New blood, she noted, has “brought a lot of new ideas to the program.”
Yet she was quick to point out she and the others were able to get training from their predecessors.
Tom Dolby joined Pine Grove as head golf professional March 1, after nine years at Mascoutin Golf Club near Berlin in east-central Wisconsin. His wife, Kalynn, is the teaching professional and both run the pro shop. They succeed Susie Fox, who retired in October.
Though new to living in the region, Dolby said he was familiar with Pine Grove, having come up perhaps 15 or 16 times over the years to play the roughly 160-acre, 18-hole course, dating back to when he was the pro at Timber Ridge Golf Club in Minocqua, Wis.
“I love the uniqueness,” Dolby said. Established in 1902, Pine Grove has features not often seen today, he explained, such as “push up” greens on mounds of soil. It also has a “fairly tight” layout that make it “more of an accuracy and precision-type course” to test golfers.
“The architecture is sort of timeless,” Dolby said. “It holds up well to today’s players.”
The course also features stands of white pine, red pine, oak and maple. Four sets of tees create challenges for all abilities — including of the natural kind: the course web site lists that a previous golf pro was asked about what stroke count to take after a red fox made off with a golf ball at the 10th green. The ruling: No additional stroke for the dropped ball.
Though only a few months on the job, Dolby said he and Kalynn are working to develop a junior program and increase activities for women, one of the fastest-growing segments in golf.
On Pine Grove staff as well are Kevin Kretz, who started as course supervisor Jan. 1 following Rich Victorson’s retirement after 40 years, and Kelly Burgess, the food and beverage director and event coordinator.
Along with the course and pro shop, Pine Grove has Pub 1902 for on-site dining. The 20,000-square-foot clubhouse, built in 2002, also has space for meetings, banquets and other special events, though some uses are on hold due to ongoing restrictions on group numbers.
Even with the disruption of COVID-19, country club membership did not wane, Blazer said. Pine Grove has about 435 members, with about 380 as golf memberships and the rest as social.
It helped to offer specials for new members such as a free third year if purchasing two years of dues.
The “normal” golf season at Pine Grove runs from April through October, with opening determined by the spring thaw.