Richard Zokol, who has parted ways with the Sagebrush Golf and Sporting Club in B.C.’s Nicola Valley, is moving into a new position in the Okanagan Valley. He’ll announce Tuesday that he’s taking on the position of head professional/executive director at the Predator Ridge Resort.
It’s been quite a ride recently for Zokol, the 53-year-old former winner of two PGA Tour events and a Canadian Amateur champion. He sensed in late November that he probably wouldn’t be continuing in his chairman's role with Sagebrush, which he had designed along with Rod Whitman and Armen Suny. Meanwhile, he’d heard from the general manager at the Shaughnessy Golf and Country Club in Vancouver that a head pro position there was opening up. Zokol had never considered such a position, but he thought it could be interesting, especially because Shaughnessy has been contemplating linking with nearby Point Grey and becoming, effectively, one club.
News of his possibly taking on the job at Shaughnessy was supposed to be kept confidential, but it leaked out. Zokol told me that he felt uncomfortable about that. In the meantime, he’d been chatting with Brad Pelletier, who had been his long-time agent at the International Management Group in Toronto. Zokol and Pelletier remained close friends after Pelletier left IMG and moved back to his native B.C. Pelletier is the Vice-President of Okanagan Region at Wesbild Holdings, the parent company of Predator Ridge. Predator has two courses. ScoreGolf Magazine made Predator’s new Ridge course, which Doug Carrick designed, its best new Canadian course for 2010.
Zokol’s chat with Pelletier proved fruitful. Pelletier told Zokol it would be great if he would come aboard and help guide and lead the resort’s long-term plan. Zokol withdrew his application for the Shaughnessy job, Predator made him an offer, and, this week, Zokol and his wife Joanie will travel to Kelowna to look for a house. They don’t plan to sell their home in the Vancouver area, but will rent it. They plan to rent in Kelowna.
“This is reuniting us,” Zokol said of his joining forces with Pelletier, one of golf’s gentlemen and a fellow with a keen business mind. Pelletier returned to British Columbia after IMG for the simple reason that he loves it out west.
“I see my role as predominantly threefold,” Zokol said. “From the 100,000 ft. macro level, my role will be to enhance the golf experience and help make it as good as it could be. Carrick did a remarkable job with the second course, and I think we’ll look to also enhance the first course (a Les Furber design).”
Zokol added that there’s room for a third course; in fact, 22 architects submitted plans as part of their proposals to join Mike Weir when he formed his design firm a few yearsa go. He picked Brantford, Ont.’s Ian Andrew, and for a time it appeared they would build a third course at Predator; a Mike Weir winery was also part of the plan then.
If a third course is built, Zokol figures he’d like to “build the type of [minimalist]golf we did at Sagebrush. That’s the kind of golf necessary for sustainability today.”
At the micro level, Zokol said, there’s “my personal engagement with members and guests. The position will also offer me the opportunity to focus on teaching, the kind of teaching I like to do, on the mental side.”
Zokol is working now with Chris Baryla, a talented 29-year-old Canadian who has won on the Nationwide Tour and been an exempt player on the PGA Tour. Baryla works on his swing with Sean Foley. Zokol is helping him with his mental game.
Predator Ridge has certainly made some significant moves recently. It announced on February 2nd that it will become the summer home for Hockey Canada, which will hold a variety of events at the resort. Former LPGA tour pro A.J. Eathorne, of Penticton, B.C., accepted a position last December with Predator’s teaching academy. Eathorne had caddied on the PGA and LPGA Tours much of the last three years.
Eathorne, Hockey Canada, and now Zokol. “I have no intention of looking for another job,” Zokol said, now that Predator Ridge has hired him on a multi-year contract. “I’ll be expanding what I did at Sagebrush and using the experience that I gained there.”
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at email@example.com . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein