(This Q&A appeared in the April/May print issue of Flagstick Golf Magazine)
Garrison Golf & Curling Club in Kingston, Ontario is still weeks from opening for another season but Dale Pedersen is already in mid-season form. The Vancouver native juggles the phones, books in kids for summer camps, and handles unexpected drop-ins. Some pros might be miffed at the intrusions but for Pedersen, this is what is thrives on.
FGM: When did golf come into your life?
DP: I don’t remember my world before golf came into it I think I was seven or eight when I started playing. My dad played infrequently. He would have been hard pressed to have ever broken 100. I would caddy for him on occasion when I was quite young. One day we found a broken golf club, a 3 wood. It was broken off at the bottom of the grip. We wrapped some tape around it and I used to swing it around in the backyard.
Pedersen says he played a lot of tennis, soccer, baseball and did a lot of skiing growing up but golf was different.
FGM: What was it that appealed to you so much?
DP: To tell you the truth I don’t what it really was. It’s hard to explain. I started to go to the range and my first clubs were old and heavy. I started to play more when I was 9 but it was just part of the things I was doing. Then I had a couple of friends that were playing, I think I was about 10 or 11. We played in the Junior Masters in Vancouver, a local golf event. Then I just started playing in golf tournaments.
Dale kept on playing a variety of sports but then, at 14, after a couple of years in a row where he got injured at baseball, he decided to drop that sport in favour of more golf. Until then he had played his golf at Musqueam Golf Centre and then McLeery Golf Club, two public courses, but at 15 he became a junior member at prestigious Point Grey Golf Club and starting play all the local junior events.
FGM: How was your golf ability by that point; how were you progressing?
DP: I would have been one of the better kids but I was never one of the top ones. I played in B.C. juniors but I was never in contention. I wasn’t that good. I did win a Vancouver Junior Tour event where I beat Brent Franklin (Ed note: Franklin is now a member of the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame) at Point Grey. I think it was the only Vancouver Junior Tour event that he didn’t win that year.
At a time when there were few golf scholarships going to Canadian kids, and with high school ending, Pedersen says he did the next best thing and got into the golf business full-time. Dale got on the staff at Point Grey. He ran the back shop there for three years under Wayne Vollmer.
FGM: How was that first full-time industry job for you?
DP: It was a great experience and I think it’s one of the things that helped farther on in my career. I’ve had that opportunity to work at a driving range, to pick balls, to work in a back shop, to manage a back shop. When you get into operations after that where other people are doing that or you, you’ve been there and understand how it works. That’s invaluable.
Looking to further his career, Dale made the plunge and moved to Ontario in 1985 with another Point Grey employee, Bruce Bundy. Dale joined the PGA of Canada and spent the next five years working with Bruce at Toronto’s Dentonia Park.
FGM: I assume going from private club to a public course in Toronto was a bit of a contrast?
DP: It was a real learning experience. It’s one of these things in your past that helps you later. Bruce was there to get the place under control and the first year was pretty wild. But the cool part was that we got to see the place get busier again and watching families and kids come back. The environment became much more conducive to golf.
Dale earned his Class A professional status while at Dentonia. He had learned a lot but it was time to keep growing from different experiences. He caught on at York Downs but he still had the bug to play. He wanted to take his shot. It was 1991. He cobbled together a schedule of various small events and Monday qualifiers in hopes of achieving the dream of playing for a living that he had held as a teen.
FGM: So how did that go for you?
DP: I learned an awful lot. I didn’t earn much at all. I played in only a couple of Canadian Tour events and realized that the skills set of those players was a little higher. I had been a good assistant player, a steady player, but that was not enough.
With playing in the rear-view mirror Dale returned to club professional life with stretches in Peterborough, at Tam O’Shanter Golf Club in Scarborough, the Dynamic Golf Centre in Oshawa, and at Dalewood GC in Cobourg. He then decided to try to play again but as he says, “I had just as much success as the first time.”
In 1999, while he was teaching at Heron Landing in Peterborough when he had his biggest playing success. He won the National Club Professional Championship of Canada at Pine Ridge in Winnipeg.
FGM: At this point what was your plan? Keep teaching or maybe play some more?
DP: Well, I really missed that interaction with people in the shop. Things like that, so I started to look around and that brought me to Kingston, to The Landings where they were just getting started. And now here at Garrison.
FGM: Outside of your work responsibilities you also got involved as the PGA of Ottawa Zone President and as the National Board Representative. What did that mean to you?
DP: Those were good experiences. It was good to do things to try to make the association better, to do things for your fellow pros. The business has given me everything that I have, everything that I have accomplished from a professional standpoint. If I can’t give back to that, it’s kind of selfish.
FGM: You’re in your second full year running golf operations here at Garrison. Are you happy with the progress?
DP: I don’t think I’ll get complacent again. I’m happy with what’s transpired but I think I have learned a lot of lessons over the years. I think it’s important that you are always progressing, that you’re working as hard as you can.
FGM: That said, what keeps you busy away from the course? I know you like to travel, any golf courses that come to mind as favourites?
DP: Of the modern designs, out there I like Streamsong in Florida, the Dormie Club (Pinehurst). They have a little bit of a look of being unfinished. I much prefer that over something that is overly manicured and perfect.
FGM: So what should people know about Dale Pedersen that they don’t?
DP: Maybe that I have a lot of fun here every day. It may not always look like it some days, but it is.