Tumwater Valley GC’s Denny gets his men

Contributing writerApril 6, 2013 

Chuck Denny went hunting for help last month to lift Tumwater Valley Golf Club out of its fiscal doldrums.

Denny, the parks and recreation director for the city of Tumwater, last week got his man – or, to be exact, he got his men – to replace PGA professional Stu Aden, who was let go in March after 17 years at the municipal course.

For his “day-to-day guy,” Denny didn’t have to look far: Dave Nickerson, who had the title of recreation supervisor at the city, has been promoted to golf operations manager. He will run the Tumwater Valley pro shop, tournaments, golf range and carts, and work with superintendent Dwane Ehrich on course-maintenance details.

Denny also is bringing in Russ Olsen to be his “numbers guy,” he said. Olsen, 38, of Lacey, was formerly general manager at Capitol City Golf Club when it was operated by American Golf Corporation, and later was assigned by American Golf to manage the Classic Golf Club in


Denny said Olsen has been hired on an 18-month consultant contract that ends October 2014.

“Two golf seasons is what I was shooting for there,” Denny said.

And because neither Olsen nor Nickerson are golf professionals, Denny said he will bring in a PGA-certified pro on contract to teach golf at Tumwater Valley.

When Denny talks about “numbers,” he means dollars and cents, and lately the numbers haven’t been good at the golf course.

Denny said the course lost $350,000 in 2012, the third year in a row the city-owned property had shown a loss.

That didn’t sit well with the Tumwater City Council and, more than anything, demonstrated a need for a change of direction at the course, Denny said.

Olsen’s work life is full. Besides his new duties in Tumwater, he is a manager in the voluntary cleanup program of the state Department of Ecology and is a candidate for appointment by Gov. Jay Inslee to direct a small state agency, according to a governor’s office spokesperson. Olsen was also appointed in February to fill an open seat on the Thurston Public Utility District Commission.

Olsen will take a fresh look at all parts of the golf business at Tumwater Valley – the inventory, pricing structure, retail shop, passes and value memberships – with a goal in the first year, Denny said, of at least getting the ledger back to even.

Denny said he hopes to boost revenues without an increase in green fees.

“We’re not going to jack rates,” he said, adding that he hoped to find ways regular golfers at the course could play for less – in the hope they’ll play more often.

In general, Denny said, “do a little better job of filling the tee sheet.”

Nickerson, 49, worked 15 years for Olympia Parks and Recreation before coming to Tumwater to work with Denny almost 14 years ago.

“I think there are a lot of similarities,” Nickerson said of his new job compared with the one he’s leaving. “Organizing events, training and supervising employees … the challenge is going to be the business end of things.

“I’m looking to (Olsen) to be a mentor.”

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