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Pumpkin Ridge Takes shape

Golf course comes to fruition with help from designer Bob Cupp and businessman Shigeru Ito


Editor’s note: The first part of this story, which ran last week, detailed how back in the 1980s the original owners of Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains found and purchased the land that now makes up the golf course. This is the rest of the story.

The project was approved for accepted use in zoning laws by the county in late 1989. The owners secured a $1 million bank loan, put the land up as collateral and hired a construction company. Then they sought to procure an investor to help them finance the entire project.

“We couldn’t get a loan,” recalls Barney Hyde, one of the original owners. “Nobody wanted to touch the project. Nobody wanted to put up $12 million to take us to opening.”

But a business partner of Hyde told him about Japanese businessman Shigeru Ito, who had recently made an offer to build Emerald Valley in Creswell.

“When they went to close, whoever owned the property at Emerald Valley wanted to change the terms, and Ito walked away,” fellow founder Marv French says.

Ito bought in as a 50-50 partner, and the four owners formed Pumpkin Ridge Partners in 1990. It was a true moment of serendipity.

“If we had not found that particular guy who fit us so well, that course would not have gotten done,” Hyde says. “He had the same dreams we had, wanting to build something way off the charts.

“We knew we had the land that could give us a home run. When we got (designer Bob) Cupp involved, we knew we had the designer. When Ito stepped up, we knew we had the money to do it.”

During a pre-construction phase meeting, Ito “told us to ask Bob, ‘If there is something more you could put into the course to make it perfect, what would it be?’” recalls Gay Davis, the third founder. “Bob said he had never had that question before. Usually, owners want to cut 20 percent of the budget.”

Cupp recommended adding a lake at Nos. 12 and 14 on Witch Hollow’s layout.

“Mr. Ito, said, ‘Well then, build the darn lakes,’” Hyde says. “He didn’t even ask how much it would cost.”

Says Davis: “Every time I hit a ball into the lake at 12 and 14, I think to myself, ‘Mr. Ito, I’m not happy.’ He was a very generous person. He was phenomenal. You couldn’t have asked for a better partner.”

In 1999, Ito sold his interest in the course to his daughter, Kumiko Rodewald.

‘We were serious’

The first two employees hired at Pumpkin Ridge were Bill Webster as superintendent and Jerry Mowlds as director of instruction. After 22 years, Webster remains on the job and has few peers at his trade. Last year, the estimable Mowlds retired but still teaches on a part-time basis.

“We wanted people to know we were serious,” Davis says. “I think that played out pretty well.”

French served as general manager and chief operating officer at Pumpkin Ridge from its debut in 1992 until 1997, when National Golf Properties purchased a 50-percent stake and leased the property to American Golf Corporation.

“American Golf manages the day-to-day operations,” French says. “To this day, we have a debt-free property.”

Twenty-two years after its opening, Pumpkin Ridge has changed very little.

“We’ve taken out one bunker and one tree,” Davis says. “We haven’t had to go back and redo much of anything. We’re very proud how it has stood the test of time.”

Today, membership stands at 460, just short of the 525 maximum figure. Members are allowed to play both courses. Play is brisk from the public at Ghost Creek.

“We were so fortunate to bring the USGA here in 1996 and ‘97 (for the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Women’s Open),” French says. “They put us on the map, especially when you have Tiger as the winner (of the U.S. Amateur). When we opened, play was pretty good at Ghost. It took a while to sell memberships.

“Part of that was Oregon Golf Club was opening at about the same time.”

Davis has been at the forefront of bringing major events to Pumpkin Ridge. There have been the six USGA championships, the Nike Tour Championship in 1993 and ‘94 and now the Winco Foods Open, in its first of a three-year run.

“The golf course sells itself,” Davis says. “There’s no better place to play in the country in July and August than Oregon.”

Pumpkin Ridge’s ownership has always had “an open invitation” to the USGA to play host to the U.S. Open. The major has never been held in the Northwest but is scheduled for Chambers Bay near Tacoma next summer. When it goes west, U.S. Open officials have rotated the event from Pebble Beach (Calif.) to the Olympic Club (San Francisco) to Torrey Pines (La Jolla, Calif.) over the years. Chambers Bay broke through, and it appears Pumpkin Ridge never will. Witch Hollow’s length — 7,017 yards — is the roadblock.

“They’ve decided our course is too short” for the Open, Davis says. “They want a course 7,500 or 7,600 yards.”

So Davis and other Pumpkin Ridge execs have set their sights on the PGA Championship.

“In some ways, it’s a better fit,” Davis says. “It’s in August, right in our wheelhouse. We’ve talked with them. They’d love to play on the West Coast.”

The last time the PGA Championship was staged in the west was at Sahalee Country Club at Sammamish, Wash., in 1998. The tournament is contracted through 2017 — this year’s recently finished at Valhalla in Louisville. In 2015 it will go to Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisc., in 2016 it’s at Baltrusol in Springfield, N.J., and in 2017 it will be at Quail Hollow in Charlotte, N.C.

After that, who knows? Perhaps Pumpkin Ridge will add the biggest feather to its rather impressive cap.

Either way, it’s been a hell of a run since Marv French and Verne Perry took their little drive out to inspect a largely unused plot of land back in 1987.




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