“A labor of love, absolutely,” says Dean Brinker. “It’s a choice that you make, but to have a career in the golf business, you have to understand your limitations.”
Dean Brinker is the president of Brinker’s Jewelers, a well-known fine jewelry and luxury watch provider for three generations in Evansville.
Golf always has been more than an avocation; it has been intertwined in the fabric of the Brinker family for generations as well.
“There are four brothers; there are nine Brinker grand boys and one girl; they are the third generation from my father — everybody in my family plays golf,” says Dean. “We have great friends, memories, and moments with golf. The business I have today wouldn’t be the same without golf.”
Dean and Dirk, vice president of Brinker’s Jewelers, took over ownership of Eagle Valley, located at 10350 Petersburg Road, earlier this year. Their father, Roland Brinker, who founded the jewelry business, bought land in McCutchanville, Indiana, in 1994 and construction on the golf course started in 1996. The first round of golf was played there in September 1998. Sons Darren and Darrett helped Roland, who owned and managed the course for the last 18 years.
Two of the Brinker brothers Dirk and Darrett played NCAA Division I golf. Dirk played at Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky, and Darrett played at Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana. Dean’s son Kyle Brinker played at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Darrett competed in Web.com tour events from 1994 to 2000 and the 1996 U.S. Open.
“It’s been a family project that our father started. As time evolved, it was time to make more of a family transition,” says Dean.
The family project needed some work and care to bring it back to the standards the Brinkers always have had for the course.
The 18-hole layout features 6,692 yards from the longest tees at par 70. The course rating is 71.7 and the slope is rated 129. Robert M. Lohmann, a member of the American Society of Golf Course Architects, designed Eagle Valley. Five sets of tees increase playability for all levels of golfers.
One of the primary goals for Dean with Eagle Valley now is to increase the number of overall golfers in the area.
“The whole golf industry has been down,” says Dean. “We hope to revitalize it by growing the game in the women and youth sectors. We’ve traveled the world playing golf. We have a lot of personal relationships with professional players, collegiate players and coaches, and elite instructors in the game of golf. With our network of people in the golf industry, we have got a good foundation supporting Eagle Valley.”
Eagle Valley has brought a few new people on board to enhance the golfers’ experience as well as make improvements on the course.
“We reached out and hired PGA professional Shawn Spears, former assistant at Evansville Country Club, as our head golf professional and Mandi Ashby, former University of Southern Indiana golfer, as assistant director of golf.”
Chris Halvorson has been hired as the new golf course superintendent at Eagle Valley. His former experiences include Apple Creek Country Club in Bismark, North Dakota; Wingsong Farm Golf Club in Maple Plain, Minnesota; and Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota, this year’s host to the 2016 Ryder Cup.
“We want to teach people how to play golf. That is why we have put such an emphasis on improving our practice facility. Eagle Valley’s practice facility is the only one in the area that features top of the line Titleist NXT Tour S range balls,” says Dean.
There are three junior golf camps planned at Eagle Valley. The camps are $295 and run through May, June, and July.
Teaching and showing adults and juniors how to improve their games while having fun is a major cornerstone of trying to grow the game, and the Brinkers are working toward making Eagle Valley a destination for all levels of golfers.
“The outing business is an important revenue stream for any golf course, and it is a great way to raise money for many local nonprofit organizations and the causes they represent,” says Dean. “If you are a beginning golfer, outings are a great way to get introduced to the game because it’s a scramble format where you have a team score versus having to count your own score. Every outing held at Eagle Valley Golf Course will feature golf professional instruction or tips before the start of each event.
“We know the course has been rough over the past couple of years,” says Dean. “Some of it was out of our control due to the effects of mother nature. We had several severe winters in a row that really affected the summer Bermuda turf in our fairways and on our tee boxes. Due to the decline in the local golf business, we did not have the capital or manpower to stay on top of the ever growing list of projects that a golf course has. It’s going to take some time, but we are committed to improving our product everyday.”
Since the fall of 2015, bridges and several tee boxes have been reconstructed. The clubhouse has been repainted and has a new roof. The bar, restaurant, and pro shop have all been updated. This is all a part of the process of bringing Eagle Valley Golf Course back to a strong life.
“All courses have ups and downs. We are not being subsidized by membership fees, like a private club, but by the daily rate customer. We are blue collar golf,” says Dean. “Just the other morning we had two gentlemen get off a third shift job at a local company and tee off at seven in the morning. They wanted to relax and have fun for a couple hours before going back to their daily routine.”
Dean and several of his family members live on the course. He walks the grounds daily to see where improvements can be made and has an active role in the overall vision of improving Eagle Valley. “I make notes everyday and talk with my staff to help prioritize our list,” says Dean.
The Brinkers are applying the principles that made the family successful in the jewelry business to their caretaking of Eagle Valley.
“You have to have infrastructure, communication, accountability, teamwork, and innovative thinking,” says Dean. “My son (Kyle) has helped me with each one of these principles. He and his team have upgraded our website and Facebook page.”
“We always wanted to own a public course, and who knows where it can go from there. We want to revitalize the game of golf in the Evansville area with teaching, friendship, and fun.”
Owning a golf course and keeping it thriving are major challenges throughout the country, but Dean and his family are trying to keep a good thing going strong with Eagle Valley.
“Evansville has a unique and rich history in the game of golf. I can’t tell you the number of kids who have received golf scholarships over the years and continue to play on the men’s and women’s professional golf tours,” says Dean.
Helping enhance the game of golf in the Evansville region has been in the DNA of the Brinker family.
“There are three reasons why I did this,” Dean says of his commitment to Eagle Valley. “I wanted to secure my parents, secure our family legacy, and show my love for the game of golf.”
For more information about Eagle Valley Golf Course, call 812-867-7888 or visit eaglevalleygolfcoursein.com.