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Area Golf: Sadlowsky at home at Ruttger's

Tom Murphy (left) listens as PGA golf professional Dave Sadlowsky explains the contour of the putting green at Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge this week. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls Tom

Dave Sadlowsky

Who: PGA club professional at Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge

Family: Wife Jill and two children

Prior: Thumper Pond Golf Course, Ottertail

DEERWOOD -- Dave Sadlowsky sought stability.

He longed for longevity.

Sadlowsky wanted a home for his family.

What better place to find it than a 116-year-old family resort.

After years of career changes and different facilities, the PGA club professional hopes to call Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge in Deerwood his home course for many years. The husband and father of two wanted a community to settle his young family that reminded him of home.

"I view this as the next chapter of my familly's life. I have young kids, 12 and 6, and Jill, my wife, and I are from the same small town and we kind of wanted to get back to our roots with the kids. Hopefully we'll be here for a very long time."

Sadlowsky moves into the spot vacated by Jamie Alderman, who moved to Greystone Golf Club in Sauk Centre. He's also familiar with former Ruttger's pros Greg Snow, who is at Olivia Golf Club, and Bill Laimer, who is at Stillwater Oaks Golf Course.

"I asked when I was in the interview process, I said, 'I've known your last three pros and they are all very different. I'm neither of those, but probably a combination of all three to some degree,'" said Sadlowsky. "But the golf business isn't so much about golf as it is about people. Whether it's my staff, or our customers, the members, or the resorters, it's about being nice to people.

"Ruttger's was always the place I wanted to be because my wife's family is from the Crosby and Aitkin area. My father-in-law, Bill, has been a ranger here for about a dozen years. We've been playing here off and on for a number of years. I've known all the pros. It was just kind of a comfortable move."

Going to Ruttger's has been one of many moves for Sadlowsky in the past 15 years. While he doesn't like the term vagabond pro, he realizes he was living the life. That added to the urgency to make this final move a lasting one. A final move in a journey that didn't begin anywhere near a golf club.

"I didn't come from a golfing family at all," Sadlowsky said. "I started playing when I was about 13 when a couple of buddies asked me to come play with them. After that, I just went through the normal thing. I played high school golf and I was OK. I was the No. 1 or 2 player, but I was never fantastic. Prior to going to college, I felt like I might want to get into the golf business, but at the time, and this was in the mid 80s, golf wasn't cool. I thought, 'Who the heck goes to college to become a golf pro?' It just didn't seem like a path anyone would take. So I went mainstream and boring and got a business and construction management degree. I stayed in that path for 15 years until I had enough of it."

Sadlowsky's foray into the golf business started with making golf clubs. He was in the market for a new set and as luck would have it a small shop in a strip mall in St. Louis Park was in the market for students to learn how to make them.

"In that class, we made a club from scratch," Sadlowsky said. "We had a shaft, a head and a grip and they taught us how to cut the shaft and epoxy it to the head and then how to put the grip on. I started with a $50 tool and turned that into a $10,000 shop over the years.

"The first set of clubs I made was for my wife. She was the guinea pig. Then I made my own set. Then I started making them for relatives and friends and stuff like that. Then I started regripping clubs. All the while I'm still in the construction business. I was doing this on the side from my house."

Sadlowsky began making synthetic turf greens before jumping head first into the golf business. A family friend and golf professional was named the head pro of a new course in Ramsey County called the Ponds at Battle Creek. He asked Sadlowsky to be his assistant.

"So I just said heck with the world and let's jump into this thing with both feet. January of 2004 was when I jumped into that and really I started with just my club business and I worked for him at the counter," said Sadlowsky. "I wasn't an assistant per say, but I ran the leagues and junior programs and stuff like that; really not intending to get fully into the PGA program. After a couple of years of it i decided I was in this so let's make it real. I got into the PGA program and worked my way through as an apprentice - an older-than-average apprentice with two young kids. I worked 14 hour days and did school work at night and flew to Florida during the process. I worked with Brad at the Ponds at Battle Creek for four seasons. Then I got a call from Olympic Hills, a private club in Eden Prairie, to be their assistant pro. I worked there for four and-a-half seasons. I got my first head pro break at Thumper Pond over in Ottertail for the last two seasons."

Having experienced the small public, the high-end private and the resort, Sadlowsky enjoys the mix of people a resort course offers. His biggest thrill comes from asking people where they are from. On his own Ruttger's nametag he has the word Avon to let people know he's from the small town near St. Cloud.

"People will tell me they went to St. John's (University) or they know the area," Sadlowsky said. "It's a talking point."

Connecting with customers and coworkers is important to Sadowsky. He calls golf a people business. He plans to make his first year at Ruttger's a discovery year to see what works and what may need changing. But he's also going to take the year to make relationships that he hopes last a long time.

"As far as Ruttger's specifically, the big draw for me was longevity," Sadlowsky said. "The family has owned this place, well, forever. Jack Ruttger is a third generation and Chris Ruttger is the fourth generation. They are just so humble and welcoming. I could see the fit for me here could sustain me for years to come."

Jeremy Millsop
My career at the Brainerd Dispatch began May 11, 1999 after graduating from North Dakota State University. My areas of emphasis includes local high school sports, Central Lakes College, the lakes area golf mecca and once a year I dabble in the NHRA when the Lucas Oil Nationals come to Brainerd International Raceway.
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