Jeff Steen, CGCS, (left) with Pebble Beach director of golf course maintenance Chris Dalhamer, CGCS, during U.S. Open prep on Monday, June 10. Photo by Scott Hollister
Technically, Jeff Steen being at Pebble Beach to volunteer at the 2019 U.S. Open isn’t a homecoming.
Steen is Canadian by birth, after all, and he didn’t step foot on the Monterey Peninsula until he was well into his career in golf course management.
But after spending more than 15 years employed by the Pebble Beach Co. — most of those as the superintendent at The Links at Spanish Bay — this week is most definitely a homecoming of sorts for Steen.
“It’s been emotional, no doubt,” says Steen, a Certified Golf Course Superintendent and 19-year member of GCSAA. “The number of hugs and handshakes and pats on the back has been overwhelming. It’s been a great feeling.
“When you look where we’re standing right now, it’s hard for me to believe that a boy from western Canada grew up in this business right here. Even without all this, I’m humbled and blessed to be where I am in my career. To be able to come back and stand here at Pebble again is a great blessing.”
Steen’s first visit to the area came in 1998 when he was an assistant superintendent at Diablo Country Club, just east of San Francisco. He was invited to play what would be a dream day for any golfer: an 18-hole round in the morning at Pebble Beach, followed by 18 holes at nearby Cypress Point Club in the afternoon. The experience had such an impact on Steen that he asked then-Pebble Beach superintendent Mark Michaud whether he could volunteer at the U.S. Open when it made its stop at the course in 2000.
His offer was accepted, and Steen spent that Open raking bunkers, filling divots, fixing ball marks and learning his way around Pebble Beach. That experience opened doors for Steen, and in 2003, he was offered the job as assistant superintendent at Pebble Beach. Shortly after, Steen took the position as head superintendent at Spanish Bay, a post he held for almost 14 years.
So why isn’t Steen still at what he calls “a real dream of a place to work?” Very simply, it was a family matter. His wife, Crystal, is from the Midwest and had a wonderful job opportunity in northwest Arkansas. It was a gut-wrenching decision for Steen, but last year, he departed the central California coast and is now the director of maintenance at Loch Lloyd Country Club in the Kansas City area. The family resides near Carthage, Mo., about halfway between his job in Kansas City and Crystal’s job in Arkansas.
“Family comes first,” Steen says plainly. “I’m blessed with a great wife and two great kids, and we had an opportunity to get closer to a lot of her family. I had to make a decision and it was very, very difficult, but it was the right one.”
Scott Hollister is GCM’s editor-in-chief.