Colbert Hills Golf Course
General manager brings Scottish heritage to Colbert Hills
By Kristan Stein
Dave Gourlay grew up in Canada, attended college in Pennsylvania and Texas and served as superintendent at several Canadian golf courses before being named the Colbert Hills director of golf course operations and general manager. But what prepared him the most for his current position at Kansas State University's new golf course may be his Scottish heritage.
Golf, which was founded in Scotland, has always been a part of Gourlay's life.
"Many of my ancestors were ball and club makers," said Gourlay. "My great great grandfather made a leather ball, 'Feathery Gourlay,' which is now a valuable antique.
"I grew up on a golf course in Toronto; my dad was the superintendent of the golf course and we lived about one mile into the course. I remember coming home and finding golf balls in our beds -- the balls had come right through the window. We lived on the 14th hole, so golf balls broke our windows often."
Growing up on a golf course naturally led him to a career in golf. After graduating from Texas A&M with a bachelor of science in agronomy, he returned to Canada and served as superintendent at an all-ladies golf course.
"I was the only man there because men were only allowed in the maintenance shop parking lot," said Gourlay. "It was the best job I ever had!"
From that position, he went on to work at Beacon Hall golf course in Toronto, Ontario, for three years. Beacon Hall was a very exclusive golf course -- memberships cost $70,000. He later helped grow Eagle Creek golf course in Ottawa, which was designed by golf announcer Ken Venturi. He worked as the director of golf course operations and general manager for Montreal's Summerlea golf course with a membership of 1,500 before hearing about Colbert Hills.
"I came to Kansas for the opportunity to work here at Colbert Hills," said Gourlay. "I was prepared for this position because of my experience in growing golf courses. I grew three of the largest courses in Canada over the last 15 years. I also have experience with the Audubon certifications, and I have won an award for my work to protect the environment."
His efforts to protect the environment and make the course a more natural place to play are linked to his Scottish heritage. His favorite place to play is Saint Andrews in Scotland, which is a more natural course than most courses in the United States. Gourlay said the lawns on Scottish golf courses are less manicured and have more natural grasses, which attract more wildlife.
"The designers of this course, Jim Colbert and Jeff Brauer, have the Scottish concept in their design," said Gourlay. "It is very similar to the native roughs and the natural look in Scotland. We will keep the grass very natural in out-of-play areas, which will allow us to maintain some areas without pesticides or chemicals. The designers had a good vision of what to do to make it look like Scottish golf courses."
Gourlay said Scottish golf hasn't changed since it was first developed and they don't enjoy the luxuries American golfers do. Scottish golfers do not use golf carts, yard marker aides or beverage services.
"We are going to give Colbert Hills much of the same look of Saint Andrews and the feel of Scottish golf courses," said Gourlay. "But we will still provide higher service to the players."