Dave Kass knows it's 3,950 miles by interstate highway from his last job in golf to his new one as head professional at Salish Cliffs Golf Club near Shelton.
He knows it because he drove it, arriving this week to begin work at the emerging golf course at the Little Creek Casino and Resort.
“Given the time of year,” Kass said, “I thought it wise to go on the southern route.”
Kass pulled up stakes in North Palm Beach, Fla., where he had been director of golf at North Palm Beach Country Club, and hit the road.
He picked up a buddy in Naples, Fla., then headed north on Interstate 75. He hooked up with I-10 in northern Florida, then pointed the car west through Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before hopping on I-5 in southern California for the last northward leg to Washington and (by way of Highway 101) on to Mason County.
Kass, 40, knows how far he’s come, and he’s equally clear on why he chose to steer his life to the other corner of the continent.
“The golf course, and the Gene Bates design,” he said. “It was good in photos, but when I saw it in person it really, really hit me how fantastic it was.”
The Squaxin Island Tribe, owner of the Little Creek properties, is aiming at opening Salish Cliffs this spring.
“It’s an opportunity to take a facility from startup,” Kass said, “to really put your fingerprint on a golf operation.”
Kass has been busy right away, he said, getting golf carts set up, opening accounts for pro shop merchandise, establishing fee structures and putting together stay-and-play packages for the resort.
The course is taking shape: All 18 holes and the driving range/practice facility have been shaped and seeded with T1 bentgrass turf, according to the tribe.
Construction of the log and cedar clubhouse began in October and is expected to be completed by winter’s end.
Kass, a Pennsylvania native, is a 1993 graduate of Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., where he played on the golf team.
Before North Palm Beach Country Club, Kass worked at Jupiter Hills Club in Tequesta, Fla., for six years.
He was on the professional staff at Canterbury Golf Club in Cleveland, site of a PGA Championship and two U.S. Open events.
He also directed the Junior Golf Academy at the Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Mich.
Kass has worked at courses designed by legendary golf architects – North Palm Beach CC is a Jack Nicklaus signature course; Canterbury was crafted by Herbert Strong – and he puts Bates, the Salish Cliffs designer, among the best in the business.
The topography Bates had to work with at Salish Cliffs is “just fantastic,” Kass said – the ravine running through it, 600 feet of elevation changes, views of Mount Rainier from many holes.
Kass said he has been asked to name his favorite hole at Salish Cliffs. He’s not ready just yet.
“It’s great hole after great hole,” he said.
Bart Potter is an Olympia freelance writer and golf enthusiast. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.