Those Lucky Spokan­ites!

Golf Today Northwest - - Front Page - By TONY DEAR

Any way you slice it, Spokane golfers are a for­tu­nate lot. Yes, they may have to wait un­til the end of March or even mid­dle of April be­fore the quar­tet of city-owned cour­ses (ran as en­ter­prises with­out tax dol­lars) have shaken off the worst of the win­ter and are able to re-open. But when they do, those lucky Spokan­ites get seven or eight months of very af­ford­able golf on lay­outs that could just about pass for pri­vate club cour­ses. They may have some ‘muni’ around the edges - a lit­tle wear and tear here and there; but the bones are un­de­ni­ably strong. With slightly less traf­fic and a slightly more gen­er­ous main­te­nance bud­get, a course like the Creek at Qualchan for ex­am­ple, would likely fill up with dues-pay­ing mem­bers in no time at all. There’d be a wait­ing list too. Six miles due south of Down­town on High­way 195, Qualchan was de­signed by Bill Robin­son, a fairly pro­lific ar­chi­tect in his day in­volved in well over 100 de­signs dur­ing a ca­reer that spanned sev­eral decades and which saw him team up with

Ge­of­frey Cor­nish in the 1960s and 70s. Robin­son’s work is fo­cused mainly in New Eng­land, cen­tral and western Canada, and the Pa­cific North­west where, in ad­di­tion to Qualchan, he de­signed the OGA Course in Wood­burn, Ore., Ocean Dunes in Florence, Ore., Wil­lamette Val­ley CC in Canby, Ore., and sev­eral oth­ers. Qualchan opened in the spring of 1993, mak­ing it the youngest of the City’s four cour­ses. The head pro and gen­eral man­ager is Mark Gard­ner who be­gan his ca­reer as an as­sis­tant pro at the pri­vate Man­ito GCC just a cou­ple of miles away, be­fore mov­ing to the Ci­ty­owned Down­river as head pro in 1990. He moved to Qualchan for the open­ing, and has been there ever since. Now, just a few months shy of a quar­ter of a cen­tury at Qualchan, Gard­ner looks back at the highs and lows. “I have been a part of some­thing that has been both chal­leng­ing and ex­tremely re­ward­ing,” he says. “The hard­est times have been the two floods the course suf­fered - in 1998 and 2009 ($300,000 was spent on sta­bi­liz­ing Latah Creek’s banks in De­cem­ber 2010) - which sig­nif­i­cantly af­fected the amount of play we recorded, and cre­ated some rev­enue is­sues. But there have been nu­mer­ous high points. We ob­vi­ously had no es­tab­lished cus­tomers, no men’s or women’s leagues, and no ju­niors in 1993. Now we av­er­age about 36,000 rounds a year, have the largest men’s league in the city, and are home to the First Tee of the In­land NW.” Gard­ner, who hopes to re­main at the course un­til he re­tires “prob­a­bly in seven to ten years’ time”, is also proud of the many of the many great hires he has made at Qualchan. “I’ve been for­tu­nate to add some amaz­ing peo­ple to our staff here,” he says. “We have all worked hard to make Qualchan a place where peo­ple want to be.” One such per­son is Bob Bost­wick. You may re­call Bob. Un­til he re­tired a cou­ple of years ago, he was the Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic Re­la­tions at the Coeur d’alene Casino Re­sort Ho­tel and its Cir­cling Raven GC in Wor­ley, ID. A larger than life char­ac­ter peo­ple in­stantly warmed to, Bost­wick was a fa­mil­iar fig­ure at Cir­cling Raven for many years, and has now be­come a reg­u­lar at Qualchan. “I don’t play nearly as much golf as I’d like to, but I en­joy com­ing here,”

he says. “Qualchan is the best-groomed mu­nic­i­pal course I have ever seen. The soil is quite sandy so it drains pretty well (the floods not­with­stand­ing), but the grounds crew seems to go way above and be­yond. As you make your way up the very scenic drive­way, you get the im­pres­sion this is a high-end coun­try club. It’s a tough course, too.” For Corey Prugh, how­ever, it proved fairly straight­for­ward dur­ing an April 2012 PNWPGA In­land Em­pire Chap­ter Pro-am when the four-time Rosauers Open In­vi­ta­tional win­ner nav­i­gated Qualchan’s ponds, creeks, el­e­va­tion changes, and av­enues of pines in just 61 shots. But for you and me, the course can in­deed be a gru­el­ing test with no pushover pars and a hand­ful of holes – 2, 4, 11, 12 an even 18 – where you might ac­tu­ally be quite con­tent to walk off with a bo­gey. The open­ing drive car­ries over a 100ft sandy cliff and Latah Creek be­fore plum­met­ing back to earth hope­fully some­where near the green. It’s an ex­cit­ing but rel­a­tively harm­less opener, where any trou­ble you find is re­ally of your own mak­ing. Trou­ble might come look­ing for you at the par 4 2nd though with a tee shot that ac­tu­ally looks a lot nar­rower than it is, and a tough, up­hill ap­proach over a tree and bush-cov­ered em­bank­ment that calls for one, maybe two, clubs more than the yardage sug­gests. Good ball-strik­ing is nec­es­sary the whole way round, ex­cept per­haps at the quirky down­hill par 4 13th which po­lar­izes ev­ery­one who plays it. It’s im­pos­si­ble to be in­dif­fer­ent to­wards the hole – you either en­joy its ec­cen­tric­i­ties or think it pos­si­bly the dumb­est hole you ever saw. The tee shot, with as lit­tle as a 5-iron or 6-iron drops down a steep slope to a level patch of fair­way at the bot­tom of the hill. You then turn 90 de­grees to the left and are faced with an up­hill wedge to a two-tiered green. “I may be alone, or at least lonely, but I like 13,” says Bost­wick. Me? I like quirk, but this is more La La Land than Cru­den Bay. The fi­nal four holes do of­fer four de­cent birdie op­por­tu­ni­ties with two short 4s and two short 5s - a stretch that in­cludes the ter­rific par 5 16th with its two wa­ter car­ries (there is a safer route for the less am­bi­tious), and the some­what daunt­ing 18th which Gard­ner says looks

very dif­fer­ent to dif­fer­ent golfers. “For longer play­ers, it’s a good op­por­tu­nity to pick up a stroke,” he says. “But it’s a very daunt­ing, dif­fi­cult par for shorter hit­ters who may strug­gle to clear the fair­way-cross­ing chasm with their sec­ond shot.” The greens at Qualchan be­gan life as bent­grass, but the orig­i­nal turf has now been more or less en­tirely over­whelmed by poa an­nua. They nev­er­the­less putt su­perbly well thanks to the ex­per­tise and dili­gence of Su­per­in­ten­dent Fred Marchant whose ca­reer be­gan at In­dian Canyon in 1978. Since then he has worked at Down­river, Qualchan, and In­dian Canyon again, and, last year he re­turned to Qualchan fol­low­ing a reshuf­fle of the City’s su­per­in­ten­dents. “Fred and his team do an amaz­ing job with the small bud­get they have,” says Gard­ner. The same is true at In­dian Canyon where Josh Harty re­placed Marchant as head su­per­in­ten­dent last year. You may re­call Marchant and Harty had been the dou­ble-act ap­pointed to turn In­dian Canyon’s woe­ful con­di­tions around in Fe­bru­ary 2015. Quick im­prove­ments were made, and when Marchant re­turned to Qualchan, Harty, who had worked at three of the City of Spokane’s four cour­ses, was the ob­vi­ous choice to take over. The 1930 Chan­dler Egan de­sign, that cost $200,000 to build and even­tu­ally opened in 1935, is of­ten ranked among the coun­try’s best mu­nic­i­pal cour­ses, and re­cently played host to the 2A Girls State Cham­pi­onship won by Ephrata HS’S Kenedee Peters by nine shots with a 36-hole score of 146.

The Creek at Qualchan Hole #6 © 2010 Rob Perry

In­dian Canyon Hole #18 Cour­tesy In­dian Canyon Golf Course

The Creek at Qualchan #18

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