(ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.) June 1, 2012 — A new management team, new maintenance equipment and a new philosophy has Pueblo de Cochiti Golf Course in the best condition it's been in 25 years.
That's the assessment of PGA professional Jim Surber, who recently returned to his native Santa Fe after several years as a golf teacher in the Denver area.
Surber previously ran Quail Run in Santa Fe and taught at Twin Warriors Golf Club. “This is a welcome return to top condition for one of my favorite courses,” Surber said.
The improved conditions at the1980 Robert Trent Jones design are a blessing for Santa Fe golfers, for whom the course is less than a 20-minute ride. For Albuquerque players, Cochiti's about 45 minutes away.
The conditioning turnaround at Cochiti follows arrival of a new leadership team at Cochiti.
Businessman Ron Fernandez heads the tribe's enterprise operation, Cochiti Community Development Corp. Former Towa Golf Resort Head Professional Ken Blake is the new general manager. Blake most recently was an the New Mexico rep for Adams Golf, Sky Caddie, Tifosi, Bag Boy and other lines.
Former Sun Country Golf House Tournament Director Mark Swanson took over last week as Cochiti's head professional and director of food and beverage. Swan previously worked at Santa Ana Golf Club.
A site visit to Cochiti this week found healthy turf throughout the course and well-conditioned greens running at between 9 and 10 on the Stimpmeter. Crews across the course could be seen hand-watering hot spots. Leaking underground irrigation connections causing occasional patches of spongy turf are being tracked down and addressed.
Helping to improve conditions was the recent purchase of more than $300,000 in mowing equipment, including groomers, verti-cutters and rollers, which have allowed maintenance crews to speed up greens speeds, Blake said. Sixty-six new E-Z Go carts are expected to arrive next week.
Sweeping changes will be made in the food and beverage operation to elevate the menu from core snack offerings to worthy lunch fare. Both Blake and Swanson worked at Santa Ana, whose Wind Dancer Lounge has long offered a menu that attracted a non-golfing lunch crowd from Bernalillo and Rio Rancho.
New Mexico's Tim Madigan continues to season his game on the eGolf Professional Tour in North Carolina, Virginia and South Carolina. Out of 11 events, Madigan has made five cuts and won $7,756. Madigan, who recently moved from South to North Carolina, plans to play in the San Juan Open in Farmington on June 21 and is considering whether he will return to defend his title at the New Mexico Open at Santa Ana Golf Club in September.
Santa Ana Golf Academy's Rob Lowry has signed on with Sun Country Golf House, the combined PGA section and amateur operation in Rio Rancho to head growth of the game initiatives, which includes junior golf, marketing of the Sun Country Golf pass. Lowry had run junior programs at Santa Ana first launched under the leadership of his father, Bob Lowry, now retired.
Former UNM Lobo Golfer Nick Geyer, the P.J. Boatwright intern at the Sun Country Golf House since late April, replaced Swanson as interim tournament director for the combined pro/am operation. Geyer is among finalists for the permanent position.
The Sun Country Amateur Golf Association's Match Play Championship, which starts this weekend at Twin Warriors Golf Club, has drawn a record 70 entrants, beating the past record by at least six players, said Sun Country Golf House Director Dana Lehner.
Isleta Eagle Golf Course has opened its night practice range, said Director of Golf Mike Ciolek.
— Dan Vukelich