Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Getting to Know: David Kass, PGA Professional, Salish Cliffs Golf Club

American Golfer: When did you start playing golf?
David Kass: I began playing at age 18 after graduating high school as something my dad and I could do together before I left for college. We wanted an activity that could connect us for a lifetime. After my freshman year of college, my mom decided to take up the game as well, which has blossomed into something we have been able to enjoy as a family ever since!

AG: Why did you choose a career in the golf industry?
DK: Like many, I dreamed of playing on the PGA TOUR. I journeyed around 3 mini tour circuits in Florida and Arizona after college. Golf had been my passion and escape from studying in college, and a great way to relax with friends and family.

When it became my job I struggled with my “escape” becoming my “work” and while I enjoyed competing, the tour-life wasn’t for me. Oh yeah, and I missed a lot of cuts and didn’t make much money! So I left golf to try the financial world, which last 3 (seemed like 10) uncomfortable years. I learned a lot but never enjoyed it. I went back to the F&B world as I had self-financed much of my mini-tour life and had experience from college summers bussing and waiting tables.

One day in a bagel shop, I ran into a hometown friend named Mike Kostelnik. We’d played mini-tours together and I had last seen him 4-5 years earlier when driving from S. Florida back to Pennsylvania. When I told Mike what I was up to, he responded by saying he worked at a club up the street, and thought they had an opening in outside services if I was interested in getting back into golf. Little did I know that the “club up the street” was Jupiter Hills where I interviewed and was offered a job by Kirk White the next day….that was September of 1999. I found that I sorely missed being around golf, and therefore I’ve been back in the industry ever since. I’m now able to call it both my job AND escape! I still love playing and competing, but also like knowing that my score does not influence what, or IF, I will eat each night.
AG: Describe a typical day as PGA Professional at Salish Cliffs.
DK: I’d say my “typical day” as a PGA Professional is a little different than most. In addition to the golf operations, I oversee the resort’s spa and gift shop. One of my biggest focuses is developing strong teams that are able to handle daily operations when I’m not there. I believe strongly in creating succession plans and ensuring that everyone is equipped with what they need to be successful in their roles. This includes physical equipment, training, authority to make decisions, and mutual expectations

AG: What’s your favorite thing about being at Salish Cliffs?
DK: It’s the golf course that brought me here, and all I thought it could/would be. I love that after being here for over 7 years, I still don’t have a favorite hole…that the course has so many really good holes that are unique to the design. It’s so much fun because some holes move left to right, others are right to left…some go uphill others downhill. They each have so much character that make them interesting every time I’ve played.

AG: Considering how Little Creek Casino Resort draws different types of guests and national touring acts, is there an interesting story you can share?
DK: A couple things come to mind. It was special getting to see BB King before we lost him. I also enjoyed meeting and chatting with Kenny Rogers. We talked about him once having a golf course on his own property and how it’s pretty hard to justify spending the money to keep a course in great condition for one person and his guests!

AG: How can we grow the game of golf?
DK: There are a lot of great programs such as Get Golf Ready, Drive, Chip, & Putt, and Operation 36 to name a few that ARE doing a great job at trying to grow the game. While there are other obstacles in our way, most of which have been talked about ad nauseam, the one item I feel could be handled better is the cost of playing. In my opinion, we (golfers) are asking for PGA TOUR conditions at our private and public golf courses. In order to achieve this, the cost of labor and materials drives the price of a round of golf too high for most to afford, or afford on a regular basis.

I played a lot of coed rec-league softball in my day and never once remember someone expecting the same field conditions on which the MLB plays. I’ve also never bowled a game where someone questioned the amount of oil on the lane or even complained about those crazy rental shoes. Yet we hear over and over about how our greens need to be rolling perfectly smooth at 11+ on the stimp meter and fairways, bunkers, and the even rough must be immaculately maintained. Realistic expectations of course conditions could help bring the cost of playing down and give people the financial-opportunity to play more or get into golf in the first place.
AG: What’s the most common mistake amateur golfers make on the course?
DK: This is easy. Simply not hitting enough club. Just because 15 years ago, you hit a 7-iron on a downhill, downwind 3 par in Denver, CO to the front edge of a green that had a back flag location 150 yards away, doesn’t mean you should hit 7-iron from 150 yards for the rest of your golfing career! Ok, so maybe that’s a little harsh. But in all seriousness, if you kept track of how many of your full swings finished OVER a green versus how many come up short, I think you’ll find your short percentage many times greater than your long percentage. Play a round or two where you hit one extra club into each green and see what happens, you might be pleasantly surprised.

AG: Is there a shot you dread?
DK: Not really. I actually have come to love the first tee jitters at a big event…it just means I care a lot about the event. I used to get overly serious about my game and score. After back surgery about a decade ago, I’ve seen more beauty in, and have a better appreciation for the game. At the end of the day, it’s still a game, and a great game at that. I’ll be fine regardless of what happens, good or bad. I was told early on in my playing career, though it took much longer to appreciate and believe…You are NOT your golf score.

AG: What’s your “dream foursome” (living or dead, golfer or non-golfer)?
DK: Golfers: Bobby Jones, Harry Vardon, and Walter Hagen (and now I’d dread every swing I’d make in front of these three)

Non-Golfers: Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, Abraham Lincoln (I’m not sure the golf would be any good, but the conversation and stories would be amazing!)

Wait! Am I allowed fictional characters?!
- Shivas Irons (from Michael Murphy’s Golf in the Kingdom)
- Don Shimoda (from Richard Bach’s Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah)
- Santiago (from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist)

They are all rather spiritual characters dealing with everything from golf, to love, to life and one’s own legacy or legend. I’d almost want to put Bagger Vance in this group, but for as much as I enjoy Will Smith’s work, the book-version was so amazingly inspiring that the movie left me utterly disappointed…the book was SO good, I saw the movie the day it opened. Then again I did the same thing with Tin Cup and you won’t see Roy McAvoy on this list.

AG: What course tops your “bucket list” to play?
DK: Probably the same as most people’s list…Augusta National. Given that’s not likely to happen, I’d really like to play Cypress Point, especially after reading The Match. Pebble Beach is pretty high up there on the list, but I know I’ll play that one eventually!

Learn more about David Kass and Salish Cliffs at

Updated May 16, 2018

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