The Corner Office With Jeff Keating (Stillwater Oaks Golf Course)

By Rhett Arens




Tee Times introduced this feature back in 2017 to provide our readers with an insightful look into the thinking and personality of people in golf industry leadership roles. They often have inside perspectives and some surprising opinions about the state of golf. This month we feature Jeff Keating, General Manager and Head Pro at Stillwater Oaks Golf Course. Jeff shares his take on the game, a bucket full of humor and enough wisdom to last us another year.

How long have you been in the golf business and how did you get your start? Seems like a long time. I got my start teaching golf to juniors when I was in my 20’s. Kids take to the game so easily. My dad wanted me to play when I was young. I of course chose tennis because at the time I looked good in those little white shorts. I later realized that it’s easier to be an old golf pro than an old tennis pro. OK, dad was right. Took me a long time to admit that. Besides, I love Alpaca sweaters.

Was there an ‘aha moment’ when you realized this is a good gig? I really am blessed. I enjoy the work and the people. I think my moment came when I realized that people are happy when they see the ball fly. That’s a gratifying moment. The leftover hot dogs at the end of the day are a bonus too…

How would you describe your golf game? Somewhere between a man being attacked by a plumbing supply truck and Arnold Palmer.

Is there a pet peeve about the game you would like to get off your chest? The range is out of bounds. Wandering out on it to look for a golf ball and then playing it from there is just silly. Slow play is a real bugaboo for me too. Enjoy your time on the course, but keep pace.

Do you have any hero’s in the game? Wild Bill Mehlhorn and Jimmy Ballard. Both of them have such fascinating takes on the golf swing. Mehlhorn would have 10’ comeback putts after a 4 footer for birdie. You had to admire the fact that he won 22 times. Jimmy Ballard is the king of the swing to me. He’s radical in his swing theory. Me too, ask my students..4

Thinking back what is the most memorable moment in recent PGA history? Have to be a tie between Tiger at the Masters this year and a guy I was with making a single Snickers bar last an entire round. Who does that?

Is there a trend or pattern in the game of golf you would like to see changed? Not a fan of the new rule about the pin being left in. It may speed things up, but it’s not doing the cup a lot of good. Seems to be more wear and tear. I think it changes how you look at the cup too. My eyes see a smaller target. Also, play ready golf

What is your opinion about the health of the state-of-the-game?  I think we need to realize that golf is a game. I see people get upset over a bad shot. I don’t know about you, but I never threw a checkerboard because I didn’t win. Other than that people need to take the time to go play and enjoy the game.

What is the strangest player mishap or misstep to take place at your course? Cows on the course. That happened this year. I didn’t realize that one of the “cows” was a bull. I found out they don’t back down from a golf cart. What can I say, I’m a city kid.

What makes you most happy when considering the customers who play your course? I like it when they have a bad round and still sit down with their friends, have a cold beer and enjoy the company. That’s what golf is about to me. It’s purely social.

Do you consider yourself a golf purist or wide-open to new rules and regulations? Most people would tell you I hate change when it comes to golf. I’m still not sure persimmon isn’t superior to titanium. I mean has anybody ever tried to make a missile out of persimmon?

Who do you consider the greatest golfer of all-time and why? Has to be Mr. Palmer. He ticked all the boxes for me. He could play and his people skills were extraordinary. He always smelled good when I was around him. Like he just walked out of a barbershop. He always remembered me and made me feel like I was a friend. I’m sure someone told him ahead of time who the fat guy was, but I cling to my dreams

Do you have a course in Minnesota or Wisconsin you consider highly underrated? Stillwater Oaks! Not long, but a tough track. If you don’t think so, bring your lunch money and we can tee it up sometime.

The single best reason for spending 4+ hours chasing a little white ball? I really enjoy the social aspect of it. I have never laughed so hard as I do when I go out and play with some people. They really become someone different. I think marriages and job interviews should be based on 18 holes. You see a whole different side of people. Besides, Downton Abbey was cancelled.