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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Breezy Point

Local Golf
August 22, 2017

A Golf Partnership Paving A New Way
Chris Sauer
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Chris Sauer
RJ Smiley

Many business professionals who are involved in today's struggling golf business are trying to find a way to get out. Bucking this trend, two local business partners and family members, Gary Sauer and Chris Sauer, have found themselves in the business of acquiring golf properties! To be a successful course owner/operator today, two important elements are required: management know-how and money. The combination of Chris Sauer (management know-how) and Gary Sauer (business savvy and capital) has placed them in the position of becoming a rapidly growing force on the Minnesota golf scene.

Chris Sauer is a Minnesota native who has loved the game of golf from the first time he swung a club. After graduating from New Mexico State University with a degree in Professional Golf Management and Marketing, Chris moved to Florida to pursue his professional career. In October 1999, Chris completed his training with the PGA to become a "Class A" member.

Chris enjoyed four years of employment at Bonita Bay- East in beautiful Naples, FL where his knowledge of the business side of golf deepened. As his family grew, getting back to his home state of Minnesota became a priority, and Chris took a job as an assistant golf professional at Windsong Farm Golf Club in Maple Plain, MN. Here, his professional experience broadened even further as he played an integral role in the start-up of this high end golf club.

After two successful seasons working at Windsong, Chris and Gary discovered that Cedar Creek Golf Course, a popular daily fee course in Albertville, was going on the auction block. Being located very near to Chris' residence, the opportunity seemed a good fit. Gary, a golf enthusiast and the owner of Tiller Corporation was equally interested in the venture.

After the sale of the winning bid fell through, the Sauer's were able to purchase Cedar Creek for less than their original bid. "The day we bought Cedar Creek in 2006 is the day my real education started," Chris recounted. He went on to explain that he worked from open to close for the first two years at his new business. Unlike the golfers at the high end facilities with which he had developed much of his professional expertise, golfers at a public facility will travel where they feel they are most welcome and where they are getting the most bang for their buck. Sauer says, "Developing relationships and having customer service that goes above and beyond is the key to repeat players, which is the key to success at a public golf facility."

Running the golf shop, developing programs and marketing, all while managing the golf course's finances taught Chris to run a lean and mean facility. "Every employee understands his or her job and does it well." Through sound management practices, golf rounds at Cedar Creek increased during the down turn in golf, and Chris, who was always there, became a customer favorite.

In 2010 Gary Sauer bought out the remaining interest in Troy Burne, where Chris currently operates as the General Manager. With a sound financial foundation and local golf legend, Dave Tentis, running the day to day operation, the golf club is in good hands. Customers at this high-end facility in Hudson, WI feel comfortable making the short trip from the Twin Cities to play one of Tom Lehman's best designs. Golf Digest recently rated Troy Burne among the top ten in their " Best in State Rankings" for Wisconsin. In the summer of 2014, Troy Burne added over 2,000 sq. ft. to their already beautiful clubhouse to better service large corporate golf tournaments and weddings.

In March of 2014, the Sauer's bought Riverwood National Golf Course in Otsego, and its little sister course the Vintage, an 18-hole executive course across the street. Riverwood is appreciated for being an exciting challenge for the average golfer, and Vintage an ideal course for seniors, ladies and beginning golfers. When combined with Cedar Creek, Riverwood National and Vintage present a one-of-a-kind three-course membership opportunity for golfers who buy an Unlimited season pass. With experienced professionals Steve Fessler (current President of the MN section of the PGA) and Dave Leyse at the helm, the courses are in great hands.
With nearly ten years of golf course ownership under their belt, Chris and Gary have truly come to appreciate how much the support of the local golfing community has meant to their success. They continually aim to provide the best overall experience for their golfers, and are committed to responding to the feedback they receive from the customers, members, and homeowners of the golf courses they run. With the combined professional experience and uncompromised work ethic of Gary, Chris, and their staff, the future for the golf courses they run looks bright.
In light of the success they've achieved within a struggling golf environment, the Sauer's feel they are now well positioned to move forward with additional acquisitions if the right opportunity presents itself.

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