(Multi)taskmaster: Geoff Schiffelbein at Cimarron Valley Golf Club, located in southwest Kansas. Photo by Bethany Wood
Specialization doesn’t exist in the world where Geoff Schiffelbein lives.
Oh, those who specialize and focus on one main task haven’t vanished. Take, for instance, a baseball relief pitcher, or, perhaps, a doctor who only works on knees. The art of specialization may work for others. For Schiffelbein, however, a three-year GCSAA member stationed at nine-hole public Cimarron Valley Golf Club in Satanta, Kan., it isn’t a consideration. Even a dual-threat quarterback has nothing on Schiffelbein.
Besides being Cimarron Valley’s superintendent, Schiffelbein is the club professional, mechanic, tournament director, club fitter, merchandise salesman and irrigation technician.
Workhorse? You bet.
“It’s a lot of work and a lot of time, but if you like what you do, it makes it a lot more enjoyable,” says Schiffelbein, 32, whose first name is pronounced “Jahff.” “Some days are not as fun as the others, but it’s still extremely rewarding.”
Schiffelbein followed in his father’s footsteps in golf. Tim Schiffelbein was a club professional in the Texas Panhandle town of Perryton. His son started young in the business. “I was 5 when I picked the driving range. Later, I worked in the snack bar. Pro shop. Hung out with dad on Sundays,” Geoff says.
The family moved to Garden City, Kan., and Geoff launched his own golf career playing on the team at Fort Hays State University in Hays, Kan. He had thoughts of becoming a club professional and even played in some tournaments, including the High Plains Amateur Championship at The Golf Club at Southwind in Garden City. The same year Schiffelbein participated in the event as a collegian, so did Gary Woodland — yes, that Gary Woodland, 2019 U.S. Open champion.
“I’ve always been a good ball striker — could always hit long, straight off the tee,” Schiffelbein says. But ... “I couldn’t putt it into the Atlantic Ocean.”
Schiffelbein worked as an assistant club professional at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course in Garden City for seven years before coming to Cimarron Valley, where he was initially in charge of tournament operations (plus did some mowing). When superintendent Sam Marlin departed, Schiffelbein was promoted in 2016 to superintendent — and so much more. “I tried to make it as good of a facility as I could,” he says.
His superiors allowed him the freedom to do just that. “I have a board of directors I answer to. Anything I want to try, I kind of have free rein, which is nice. I have the ability to make the course as fun as I’d like to, which as a superintendent is really fun. I get to hire who I want. I’ve had the same people the last three years (Kim Jacques and Jaren Giesick), people I trust, which makes my job easier,” he says.
Schiffelbein thanks Marlin for his leadership and mentorship, both of which eased the transition. “He gave me some good advice. He’d say, ‘You’re going to have irrigation leaks, the mower’s going to go down, and you have a tournament the next day. Take a deep breath and set priorities. Once you get the first thing done, you keep going. You can either freak out or keep going.’ I paid attention,” Schiffelbein says.
Marlin, currently the superintendent at Heart of America Golf Course in Kansas City, Mo., knew Schiffelbein would be successful. “I did what I could. He’s made it even better,” says Marlin, a three-year GCSAA member. “Plenty of days there, he’d be there before sunrise and stay until 11:30 at night. He’s one of the hardest workers I know, I can tell you that.”
Opened in 1993, Cimarron Valley Golf Club sits amid plenty of native rough and wide-open prairie views. Photo courtesy of Geoff Schiffelbein
Danelle Schiffelbein provided motivation as well as joy and love. Geoff married Danelle in 2014. Her grandfather, Russell Winter, had funded the building of Cimarron Valley, which opened in 1993. “I was a young twerp in Texas at that time,” Geoff says.
Danelle made him laugh. She got a big kick out of him because he would watch the Kevin Costner movie “Tin Cup” every chance he got. A high school art teacher who was good enough at woodworking that she crafted the couple’s oak kitchen cabinets, Danelle — who graduated magna cum laude from Washburn University in Topeka, Kan. — later owned her own photography studio. Danelle knew her way around a golf course too. “She was naturally talented at it, so I just helped her along,” Geoff says. “She got pretty good at it.”
Sadly, Danelle passed away on Nov. 23, 2019, following a bout with cancer. She was 35.
As 2020 unfolds, Geoff marches on, holding Danelle near to his heart. He has plans.
Later this year, the annual memorial tournament that honors Danelle’s grandfather will be held. A project on Schiffelbein’s wish list is to make Cimarron Valley’s smallish No. 3 green two-tiered. The facility — where Schiffelbein has built a garden and battles the occasional rattlesnake — features ample native rough, bentgrass greens, and a bluegrass-bentgrass mix on the tees, fairways and rough. No need to build a practice green — he did that by himself a few years ago. “I planted it, did everything,” Schiffelbein says. “It cost about $250, plant seed and all. It’s probably what I’m most proud of there.”
If it’s at least 45 degrees, the course is open, he says. The prevailing south wind is there whatever the thermometer reads, and so is Schiffelbein, who estimates he totals 100 hours a week at Cimarron Valley.
Golfer Craig Giesick is convinced Schiffelbein has created a haven where the good times roll. “He spends an enormous amount of time to make the place better,” says Giesick, who has played Cimarron Valley for several years and notes how well the greens roll. “He does it for the course, for the members. Really, for the whole community.”
Howard Richman is GCM’s associate editor.