Gene Bowman checks his score card after completing a hole at Oaksridge Golf Course. The course was recently sold to the Chehalis Tribe. (Hasani Grayson | Grays Harbor News Group)

Gene Bowman checks his score card after completing a hole at Oaksridge Golf Course. The course was recently sold to the Chehalis Tribe. (Hasani Grayson | Grays Harbor News Group)

Longtime owners reflect after sale of Oaksridge course

The sale of the Oaksridge Golf Course in Elma was finalized in late May and the reality of moving on from the course they’ve owned for 38 years is setting in for Rich and Denise Walker.

The Walkers sold the course to the Chehalis Tribe for $990,000 on May 22. Denise will stay on to manage the course until Aug. 31 while Rich is expected to stay on staff to help with the transition shortly after the tribe takes over.

Rich said it’s hard not to get emotional when he reflects on his time at Oaksridge.

“We were excited to sell it and I’m not a very emotional person, but all of a sudden the reality set in and I start feeling these emotions, thinking about all these awesome people. It will be hard. It is hard,” he said.

Though he will miss working on the course, Rich said he knows it’s time to move on to the next phase of his life.

“I’m just physically and mentally tired as well. It was time,” he said. “I often wondered what it would feel like when it’s time to retire, but now I know. It just hit me.”

One of the factors that made the Walkers feel comfortable finalizing the deal with the Chehalis Tribe was the tribe’s intention of keeping the golf course intact.

Tribal officials couldn’t be reached for comment. The tribe owns the Lucky Eagle Casino near Oakville. The casino to golf course drive would take about 30 minutes.

Gene Bowman checks his score card after completing a hole at Oaksridge Golf Course. The course was recently sold to the Chehalis Tribe. (Hasani Grayson | Grays Harbor News Group)

Gene Bowman checks his score card after completing a hole at Oaksridge Golf Course. The course was recently sold to the Chehalis Tribe. (Hasani Grayson | Grays Harbor News Group)

Both Elma and Montesano high schools will still use the course to host tournaments during the prep season. Rich made it a priority to avoid displacing the Eagles and Bulldogs when talking with potential buyers.

It is unclear what specific changes the tribe may make once the transition is completed, but the Walkers are expecting the Chehalis Tribe to make improvements to the course and clubhouse.

The status of the old restaurant is also up in the air. The Walkers doidnot own that building.

The Walkers say selling the course to a party that will operate it, makes it easier for them. Rich said they almost sold the course to someone who planned to take out at least nine holes to develop housing.

“There was a guy who was ready to pull the trigger on it and his plan was to develop nine holes and keep nine holes,” he said. “I’m not sure if he would have developed (the rest of the holes) so it could have very easily become a non-existent golf course.”

The Walkers are hoping the tribe is able to make improvements they weren’t in a position to make.

With Walkers as the sole owners, maintenance was sometimes a challenge, but the course never lacked personality.

Denise talks fondly of animals they used to keep on the property including a cat, a Labrador named Ziggy and on one occasion, an emu that broke loose from a neighbor’s yard and decided to make its new home next to the clubhouse.

Most of the patrons didn’t mind having Ziggy around except for one customer who demanded his money back after the Labrador drooled on his pants while eyeing his food.

Denise said the unsatisfied guest was surprised at the size of the relatively small staff that ran the course.

“The guy came in and said he wanted to talk to a manager and I told him I was the manager,” she said. “Then he said he wanted to talk to the owner and I laughed again said ‘That’s me too, sir.”

After almost 40 years of working on the ground and welcoming local golfers on to the course, Rich said he’ll miss the people the most.

“The clientele supported us through thick and thin. … I haven’t been able to maintain it like I like to. I’ve had equipment issues and things like that, and everybody kept coming out and patronizing us,” he said. “It was just awesome.”

 

A sign at Oaksridge Golf Course displays the layout of the links. The course was recently sold to the Chehalis Tribe. (Hasani Grayson | Grays Harbor News Group)

A sign at Oaksridge Golf Course displays the layout of the links. The course was recently sold to the Chehalis Tribe. (Hasani Grayson | Grays Harbor News Group)