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Pebble Beach personalities

By |  May 23, 2019 0 Comments
Steven Spatfore (Photo: Joann Dost)

Steven Spatfore (Photo: Joann Dost)

Steven Spatafore

It’s fair to say the 2008 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am changed the life of then-12-year-old Steven Spatafore.

Not because he had a chance encounter with Kevin Costner, Ray Romano or Kevin James. Huey Lewis could have walked right by him and Spatafore wouldn’t have recognized him — Sports came out in 1983, 13 years before Spatafore was born.

To Spatafore, the celebrities at Pebble Beach were the men and women on the grounds crew. More than getting any autograph, he just really, really wanted to put the pin in the cup.

Spatafore’s father, Pete, brought his young golf-nut son to the AT&T Pro-Am as a reward for his good grades in school. They arrived plenty early at the course, in time to see the crew changing cups. Young Steven asked then Pebble Beach Assistant Superintendent Billy Hausch if he could put the pin in the cup. Hausch obliged.

On the next hole, Hausch spotted Spatafore and waved him down. This time, he gave him a lesson on how to cut and change a cup. Spatafore asked Hausch, “You get paid to do this?” to which Hausch replied, “Absolutely.”

After pleasantries were exchanged and Hausch explained a little more about the work that goes into maintaining a golf course, Pete Spatafore and Hausch exchanged contact information. Hausch mentioned offhand that the two should come play the course sometime as his guest.

From L to R: Steven Spatafore with dad Pete Spatafore in 2010, with PGA Tour rules official Jon Brendle in 2014, with dad in 2016. (Photos courtesy of Steven Spatafore)

From L to R: Steven Spatafore with dad Pete Spatafore in 2010, with PGA Tour rules official Jon Brendle in 2014, with dad in 2016. (Photos courtesy of Steven Spatafore)

“Dad gave me the classic, ‘Oh, he was just being polite,’” Spatafore recalls. “But that summer, he called my dad and said, ‘No, I really mean it, your son seems really interested in golf maintenance.’”

The rest, as they say, is history. The next summer, 13-year-old Steven Spatafore found himself on the AT&T Pro-Am volunteer crew, raking bunkers. Year after year he’d return, each year the job getting better, from filling divots to mowing greens, then data collection. Spatafore went to college at Cal-Poly San Luis Obispo, graduating with a B.S. in agricultural and environmental plant science with a concentration in turfgrass and sports fields.

Spatafore had three internships — Valhalla GC in Louisville, Ky., Pasatiempo in Santa Cruz, Calif., and Cypress Point. Now he’s 23, engaged to his college sweetheart and “blessed” to be working at a job he loves. Once a competitive golfer, he realizes there was no looking back from that moment he placed the pin a decade ago at Pebble.

“At Valhalla, I was working 90 hours a week in 100-degree weather growing bentgrass,” Spatafore says. “And I left there still loving this career. My takeaway was, if I can do that and still love it, then yes … I found the right career.”

Spatafore and Hausch still stay in regular contact. Pete Spatafore is proud of the career his son has found, but a little upset the two haven’t played Pebble Beach together since Steven got his job there.

(That’s OK, the two played Cypress Point together, a day Steven Spatafore describes as one of the best days of his life.)

“I’ve been very blessed in the things people have done for me to get to where I am — from the golf courses I’ve worked at, to a fiancée who supports my dream unconditionally,” Spatafore says. “I have a love of Pebble Beach deep in my heart. There’s just something about the atmosphere — it just never loses its shine. There are some tough days of hard work … but you can’t ever have too bad of a day at Pebble Beach.”

Jack Holt (Photo: Joann Dost)

Jack Holt (Photo: Joann Dost)

Jack Holt
Assistant Superintendent

For nearly the last four decades, Jack Holt has rolled out of bed, laced up the work boots and reported to Pebble Beach Golf Links for work. Somehow, he says, it’s become a 38-year career, going on 39. Soft-spoken, Holt knows this will be his last U.S. Open working at Pebble Beach. He’s ready to see some new scenery. The sunrises at Pebble Beach are incomparable, but the sunsets of a retirement well deserved are even prettier.

Holt and his wife bought a retirement home in northern California, five acres, with a trout stream. He doesn’t know if the dogs will miss chasing the geese, but at least they have the land to kick around. And he knows this gem of a golf property will be in good hands.

“(The younger generation) is as excited, or more excited, than any of us older guys,” Holt says. “It’s not the same every time for us, but to them, it’s the unknown. It’s fun to watch them, to see that enthusiasm. It’s a great opportunity for them, too.”

Holt has seen the course change for the better over the last four decades. He’s also seen the surrounding community change … perhaps for the worse.

“The Peninsula is not the place it was … I’ve lived here my whole life,” Holt says. “It was a sleepy fishing village when I was young. Now there’s a lot of traffic, a lot of tourists. It’s not the same place.”

Holt is mostly ready to get back to those sleepy days. He’s ready to say goodbye to the traffic, for sure. But like most people as retirement stares them down, he’s wondering if he’ll get bored with it.

“As you get closer to the reality of it, you do start to wonder. How much can I fish, you know? But I think I’ll make the adjustment,” he says. “It’s getting up in the morning every morning. Instead of bouncing out of bed, if it’s a little cold, I’m more likely to roll over closer to the wife to stay warm. I still enjoy coming to work early every morning. I don’t know … I guess as you get older, you get to a point where you say, ‘I’m ready to do something different.’”

Rick Pieper (Photo: Joann Dost)

Rick Pieper (Photo: Joann Dost)

Rick Pieper

It was the 50-percent pay increase that got Rick Pieper into the maintenance game. And it was love that got him to Pebble Beach.

Forty-one years ago, Pieper was a “cart man” at Spyglass Hill when a friend on the grounds crew told him he needed to switch jobs if he wanted to make the big bucks. “At the time, I was making four bucks an hour, and he said, ‘We make $6 an hour out here as greenskeepers,’” Pieper recalls. “I wanted me some of that.”

Pieper has now been at Pebble Beach for more than 30 years and has seen some amazing golf along the way. His perspective on the evolution of championship golf is unique — his memories of the 1982 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach still are vivid.

“We came over from Spyglass to help out (the Pebble Beach crew). Back then, they had the crew and about four other guys,” Pieper says. “There were only about 15, 16 guys that would go out and get the course ready for the ’82 U.S. Open! In ’92, I bet we didn’t have 30 people working on the crew. It just wasn’t that big. The 2000 U.S. Open was when he had 40 people working. Then in 2010, we had 100 volunteers! That was quite a change.”

Pieper marvels at the advancements the industry has made over the last 40 years.

“We didn’t have the technology to get the course in such great shape that we do now, with the fertilization programs and the technology,” Pieper says. “The equipment has changed so much — we can split hairs now with mowers, and we have a mechanic that takes care of the equipment every day. Back then, we didn’t even have a full-time mechanic at the shop! Now, if you have a problem, the mechanic comes to you.”

For Pieper, the work has been good for one primary reason: the view and the happiness it brings everyone.

“I’m always around people who are really happy to be here. Not very often are our customers grumpy. That’s really cool because a lot of people have jobs where they deal with unhappy people,” Pieper says. “I had a guy come up to me a year or so ago. I shut down my mower on No. 17 to let him hit … he comes up to me and he says, ‘You do know, don’t you?’ I said, ‘Know what?’ He goes, ‘You have the greatest job in the world.’ I said, ‘Oh yes, I do know that.’ He said, ‘You get it.’ Every day, I look around first thing in the morning when it’s a clear morning like we had today, and it’s just gorgeous. Even the rainy, windy days are pretty cool.”

Read more about Pebble Beach Golf Links — and everything it’s take to get the course tournament-ready — here.

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