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GM at Carson Valley Golf moves

by Sharon Carter

Taking over as general manager at the Carson Valley Golf Course is a career move Tom Brooks has been preparing for, whether he knew it or not, his entire adult life and perhaps even longer than that.

Brooks, the new general manager at Carson Valley, remembers the day 15 years ago when his parents, Lynn and Don Brooks, took over the Gardnerville Ranchos course.

The senior Brooks, who had owned a dental laboratory in Reno, bought the then 23-year-old golf course when Tom was in college. They acquired it from Red Swift, the developer of the original Gardnerville Ranchos subdivision who had designed and run the course since it opened in 1960.

“Carson Valley wasn’t in good shape when my parents took over and I came down on weekends to help,” Tom Brooks said. “But all the credit goes to them, they worked hard and did a great job putting it in shape.”

But Brooks, 33, had began his golf course career while he was still a student at Procter Hug High School in Reno.

“In high school I worked at Wildcreek Golf Course (in Sparks) and when I was in college, I worked at Northgate (in Reno),” Brooks said.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in horticulture at the University of Nevada, Reno, Brooks was hired by the Arnold Palmer Golf Management Corp. to work at the Dayton Valley Country Club.

After two years, the company transferred him to the Kildare Hotel and Country Club near Dublin, Ireland. At the Kildare, Brooks was the golf course superintendent.

“At Kildare, my primary responsibility was to keep the client happy,” he said. “The Kildare was owned by Jefferson Smurfit PLC, the largest cardboard box maker in Europe. It was sort of their toy and their jewel.”

During Brooks’ five-year tenure at the Kildare, the European Open, a televised tournament as prestigious as its American equivalent, the U.S. Open, was twice played there.

Jefferson Smurfit also used the luxury golf resort as a corporate retreat for its top officials.

While in Ireland, Brooks met and married his wife, Manya, a Dublin copywrite attorney whose work focused on the recording industry.

“We both worked long hours at our jobs, so she understands when I spend long hours here,” he said. “Right now she’s busy with Colin, our son who was born in February. We foresee a time when she’ll work at here least part-time.”

From the Kildare, Brooks returned to the United States to manage the Presidio Golf Course in San Francisco for Palmer. Counting the year he spent as course manager at the Presidio, Brooks had spent eight years in the international corporate world. Brooks’ next logical career move would be to become the general manager at some golf property.

It was a combination of circumstances, including his corporate experiences, which brought Tom Brooks home to Nevada.

“There are fewer egos and less politics involved here,” Brooks said. “It’s also a nice place where you can to get to know people and to raise a family.”

In October of 1996, Don Brooks had successful bypass surgery. Less than three months later, the New Year’s Flood of 1997 devastated the Carson Valley Golf Course. Don and Lynn Brooks and course superintendent Ron Fukuyama and his crew and numerous volunteers rebuilt the course and had reopened all 18 holes by August of 1997.

Then, barely five months later, several fairways, four greens and sets of tees were destroyed when three teenagers drove pickup trucks onto the snow-covered course and attempted vehicular acrobatics.

“Ron and his crew and my dad put it back together after a horrific flood and the vandalism,” Tom Brooks said. “My dad is doing really well, but as as we get more into the business, my parents plan to go more towards semi-retirement.”

His education as a horticulturist, his experience at various levels of responsibility in golf course management and events in his personal life, including the birth of his son, have led Brooks to this point in his life.

While at the Kildare, Brooks had rebuilt and remodeled the course and instituted an ecologically sensitive management program.

“In Ireland I had started an Audobon program even though they didn’t have them there yet,” he said. “And in San Francisco, since the Presidio is part of the National Park Service, we had a lot of conditions we had to meet to protect the environment. We came up with a lot of creative solutions to manage the course in an environmentally friendly way. As we get further on the ground and things go ahead, we’ll continue to do some of those things here.”

The long range plan is to lengthen the developed course, he said, and add some new tees and greens and make the course more challenging while, at the same time, keeping golf at Carson Valley affordable.

“This golf course is kind of a best-kept local secret,” Brooks said. “We have the advantage that we can offer people a reasonable rate to play golf. You don’t have to pay $75 and up a head. We’re a local, family golf course where kids can come and learn to golf and it’s easy for people to come and play a round after work and on the weekends.”

Another advantage in sometimes windy Northern Nevada, he said, is the course’s physical setting.

“It’s the most tree-lined course in this area. None of the courses in Reno or Carson have near the trees that we have. It’s a nice sheltered course that sits low in the valley.”

Brooks said they are working on an advertising and promotions plan. He plans to highlight twilight golf and several lessons programs, including one for juniors.

Now that Tom Brooks and his wife and infant son have relocated to the Gardnerville Ranchos from the San Francisco Bay Area, he said they look forward to skiing in the winter and golfing in the summer. He has also begun building furniture in his small home workshop.

“It’s nice to have my family nearby,” Brooks said. “And what I like about the golf course business is it’s never done, there’s always more to do. I’m one of those people who has to get out and build things – I can spend just so much time behind a desk. Here I’m not roped into any one thing, I’ll be wearing lots of hats.”

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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