Company is celebrating 30 years of caring for golf courses
LAS VEGAS, Nevada – For any company to survive and thrive for 30 years in any industry, it must have one very important element: Satisfied customers. Very satisfied customers.
Pro Turf International, Inc. (PTI) is a shining example of this success formula in the golf industry.
PTI is a Las Vegas-based company celebrating its 30-year anniversary of serving golf courses across the country in a maintenance and construction capacity.
PTI’s vast client list includes such high-profile courses as Cascata Golf Club, Shadow Creek Golf Club, Rio Secco Golf Course, Las Vegas National and Red Rock Country Club in Las Vegas, plus Coral Mountain Golf Club in Southern California, and Wildfire Golf Club and TPC in Scottsdale as well as Wigwam Resort in Litchfield Park, Arizona.
“We have been privileged over the years to work with many of the very best golf courses and course managers in the southwest,” said CEO Mickey Brown. “What we are most proud of is the length of many of those relationships. Our customer-first philosophy has led to many solid relationships that we still cherish today.”
That customer service philosophy reflects the personalities of the two men who helped form PTI and who are still active today. Mark Doble and Kip Wolfe are throwbacks to the old “business-by-handshake” days, confident that the work they delivered would be so satisfactory that the skill of lawyers and high-paid accountants would never be needed. That’s one reason they have remained at the top of the business for so long.
“We pride ourselves on being flexible and making the customer happy with each and every project,” said Wolfe. “We work as a team with our customer. There is no nickel and diming. If something comes up that none of us had planned on, we make it right by the customer. That’s how you develop the relationship. That’s how you get the phone call the next time they need something done. We are fair with them, and in the end they will be fair with us.”
WHATEVER IT TAKES
That “whatever it takes” attitude has proven to be the key ingredient of the PTI success recipe. The company’s project list is full of repeat customers, satisfied with the work and returning year after year.
“Pro Turf was fantastic to work with,” said Michael Kropf, Head Golf Course Superintendent at The View At Oro Valley. “They were very flexible when challenges came up. They always seem to go the extra step to do things correctly without cutting corners to finish quickly. I was worried one of the big companies would come in and just try to get it done as fast as possible and if there were any necessary changes they would charge extra for change orders. Pro Turf ended up being exactly what I was looking for in a construction company.”
Another happy customer is John Wright, Director of Club Membership Operations at JW Marriott’s Desert Ridge Resort & Spa.
“PTI has always been great to work with over the years,” said Wright. “Their pricing is competitive and the quality of work is top-notch. The team is reliable and always reachable and responsive. Working with PTI over the years has been a pleasure.”
In the beginning however, sublime customer service wouldn’t matter if there weren’t any customers. It was PTI’s other key ingredient, the ability to think outside the box, which attracted the first clients and formed the foundation of the company for Wolfe and Doble.
While grassing athletic fields and golf courses for a company called Western Sod, they were asked to pitch in on the completion of TPC Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Arizona, eventual home to the PGA Tour event there. They then were invited to assist in the next TPC course, TPC Summerlin located in Las Vegas, Nevada.
It was at the completion of that project that Pro Turf International, Inc. was born.
OUTSIDE THE BOX
The premise of the new company was similar to what the TPC group had set up, and something that had not been seen in the industry before. PTI approached SunCor Development Company located in Phoenix, Arizona about hiring them to manage the golf course construction for the company’s initial golf community Palm Valley Golf Club in Goodyear, AZ. Several more were on the drawing board.
“We knew one of the principals of SunCor Development (Tom Patrick) and we said to him, ‘Why don’t you give us a chance to do these courses for you,’” said Wolfe. “We told him that we would oversee everything from start to finish: excavation, irrigation, cart paths, materials, greens construction, drainage, grassing, the works. They could focus on the homes and community. We would oversee the courses.”
Definitely outside the box thinking.
Patrick agreed and PTI was born. Wolfe served as the conductor, managing all the sub-contractors and budgets, assuring the project stayed on time and on budget. The Palm Valley project came off without a hitch, and the happy executives at SunCor inked PTI to another project. And another. And more. Added to their portfolio were Arizona courses StoneRidge, Sanctuary (now McDowell Mountain) and Sun Ridge Canyon, plus Coral Canyon in Utah.
PTI then linked up with the Senior Tour Players Group, and managed construction on courses designed by members of that group – Johnny Miller, Chi Chi Rodriguez and others. Then the recession started to settle in, and the golf course real estate boom came to a screeching halt.
“We had anticipated some of that, so we started making changes,” said Doble. “We veered from construction management to just doing renovations and maintenance. We were doing projects around the country: Connecticut, Florida, Texas. We survived during challenging times.”
Added Wolfe, “It was like working for a carnival. We come into town, do the job then pick up and move to the next town.”
KEY GOLF MANAGEMENT IS BORN
The 50/50 partnership between Doble and Wolfe maybe was not thriving at the time, but it was definitely surviving. Considering the economic turndown during that period, simply surviving gave them a leg up on most.
“We went through a lot – the highs and lows – like any company starting out,” said Wolfe. “Some weeks you got paid, some you didn’t. You use credit cards to keep the company going. But we hung in there and now 30 years later we’re still going strong.”
It was a relationship from a former job – The Badlands – that helped PTI make the next big step. Eric Dutt had been the General Manager at The Badlands when PTI managed construction on that Las Vegas course. He was now overseeing golf operations at two of Vegas’ high-end courses, Cascata and Rio Secco. Another outside-the-box thinker, Dutt had outsourced the entire golf course maintenance program to a company but was not happy with their performance.
So he approached Doble and Wolfe about taking that over. They agreed, and formed a new division, Key Golf Management, for the outsourced maintenance project. Jared Bumpus was the golf course superintendent at Rio Secco at the time, and they brought him onto their team to oversee the work.
That portion of their business grew quickly as they added Las Vegas National, Red Rock Country Club, Siena Golf Club, and Coral Mountain Golf Club among others to their outsourced maintenance roster. Bumpus remains with the company as the Director of Maintenance Operations.
Others who were hired in a similar manner and remain with PTI today include Director of Construction & Landscaping Operations Jeremie Smith, and Superintendents George Folopoulos and Nathan Shipley.
“Our approach is simple,” said CEO Brown. “We take the burden of the entire maintenance and agronomy programs off the shoulders of owners and general managers. We also take care of the entire employee package, benefits, payroll and taxes. We provide a turnkey maintenance program so the owners and GMs can focus on driving revenue.”
The company completely turned around a struggling Red Rock complex, leading General Manager Thom Blinkinsop to say “hiring PTI was probably the best business decision I have ever made.”
ARCHITECTS AND ARBORISTS
Construction and renovation projects continue to be a key element of PTI’s success. They have worked with many high-profile golf course architects, including Mike Gogel and Tom Lehman, with whom they have completed multiple projects at Wigwam Resort in Arizona.
“Working with the guys at PTI is great,” said Gogel. “They are flexible on the move. They keep the project going even when there are setbacks. It is always a team effort with PTI.”
That is the consistent reaction with all of PTI’s clients and partnerships.
“From Day 1 we become partners with ownership, whether individuals or companies,” said Doble. “We make sure they know that we are part of their team, from initial budgeting to bid procedures to completion. We are always in a constant evaluation. What can we do to make it better and less expensive, as if it were our own property? That’s how we started and it has continued that way all the way through. We are outside contractors that are treated like internal parts of the company.”
PTI continues to be innovative in its approach. Brown joined the company as CEO in 2018, and oversees daily operations. While the golf course construction and maintenance efforts continue to drive PTI, he recently turned his focus to building a local landscaping presence, creating the PTI Landscaping division, working with homeowner associations, commercial properties, and individual homeowners.
Included in that division is the super successful Mr. Tree, southern Nevada’s leading tree maintenance company headed by certified arborist Joe Noriega.
“Mickey has done a great job in keeping the company functioning well,” said Doble. “He has maintained our customer service orientation, while diversifying our company by recognizing other opportunities.
“Overall, it’s been a great run for Pro Turf International, Inc.”