Tony Snoey is the head pro at a posh, Jack Nicklaus-designed club in central Nebraska.
By Rich Myhre
Courtesy of The Daily Herald
(9/01/06)–Life is often a little bit like golf. We take our swing and sometimes the ball ends up in the trees or in the rough or in the sand or in some other place we really don’t want to be.
And sometimes we swing and find the sweet spot.
That’s how it happened for Mukilteo native Tony Snoey, whose career in golf has taken off like a booming drive down the middle.
Snoey, who is 31, graduated from college in his early 20s, was a head golf pro within a few years, and today is the director of golf at the Dismal River Club, a Jack Nicklaus Signature Design private golf course in the central Nebraska community of Mullen. The posh new club had its formal opening in early August and there was Snoey – in his own words, “a little kid from Mukilteo” – hobnobbing with Nicklaus, one of the genuine legends of the game.
It had to be one of those pinch-me-I’m-dreaming moments.
“For somebody like me, it was a dream come true,” acknowledged Snoey, who remembers watching in 1986 when Nicklaus, at age 46, won a historic Masters championship.
Nicklaus came to Mullen for the Dismal River opening and was in his hotel room the morning Snoey showed up to get acquainted.
“He was like any other guy,” Snoey said. “He was watching ‘SportsCenter’ and eating his breakfast. He was very kind, very cordial, very outgoing.”
During their 90-minute visit, the two men chatted mostly about the golf course and the opening. “I would have loved to sit down and talk with him more,” Snoey said. “But his schedule that day was so busy and, to be honest, my schedule that day was very busy as well.”
These days life is pretty much back to normal for Snoey. That is, if life as the head pro at an elite private golf club can ever be considered normal.
From May to October, the job is “pretty much sunup to sundown,” he said. “I get to work about 6:30 or 7 in the morning, and I oversee the golf department to make sure everything is running smoothly and that we’re ready for the day’s play. Then it’s just a matter of being there to meet the members and their guests.”
Not a bad gig for someone who once wanted nothing to do with a golf career.
After graduating from Edmonds-Woodway High School (where his father, Art, was a longtime teacher and coach), Snoey played two years of golf at Edmonds Community College and another two years at the University of San Diego, where he earned a business degree in 1998.
After working outside of golf for a time – “I didn’t want any part of the long hours and the (relatively low) pay,” he recalled – he eventually drifted back to the game. He was hired first at The Plateau Club in Sammamish and later at The Golf Club at Newcastle, rising to assistant pro and tournament director at Newcastle. From there it was on to The Crosby Club in San Diego as an assistant pro and later head pro, and then to Anthem Country Club outside of Las Vegas where he was the director of golf.
This spring, Snoey elected to leave Anthem CC for the job at Dismal River, though he and his wife, Carrie (formerly of Federal Way), have kept their Las Vegas home.
Though the town of Mullen has just 500 residents, the golf course attracts members from around the country. The club, owned by four onetime fraternity brothers from the University of Colorado, has a current membership of 145, with about two-thirds living in the region between Denver and Omaha, Neb., a distance of some 700 miles (Dismal River is almost equidistant between the two).
The remaining members represent about 30 other states and even Mexico. Many have other memberships, including such prestigious clubs as Augusta National Golf Club (Augusta, Ga.), Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (Southampton, N.Y.), Merion Golf Club (Ardmore, Pa.), Cypress Point Golf Club (Pebble Beach, Calif.,) and Winged Foot Golf Club (Mamaroneck, N.Y.).
Given the high expectations of his membership, Snoey said, “we can’t just be a ‘Ma and Pa’ golf course. Our service levels have to be equal to or better than those other clubs just to get people to make a trip out here.”
The appeal, he went on, is “getting away from everyday life and enjoying a two- or three-day stretch (of golf).” Dismal River “is very desolate, but very beautiful with nice rolling hills. It’s not the flat Nebraska that I thought about and that most people think about. It’s very undulating, very hilly out here, and the sand and native grasses make for some great links-looking golf courses.
“And this golf course, with the design and the conditioning of it right now, is just incredible,” he said.
Dismal River is a seasonal club, meaning it shuts down in late fall due to the harsh winds and sub-freezing temperatures of a typical Nebraska winter. Snoey and his wife expect to return to Las Vegas, where he will use the offseason to do marketing and membership sales for Dismal River.
As he looks into the future, he envisions “moving up through the ranks” of corporate golf, and perhaps being part of a golf course development team someday.
“To take a raw piece of land, put houses on it, put a golf course on it, and to see the whole project through from start to finish, I think that would be my ultimate goal,” he said. “Whether public, private or a residential development, I’m not sure, but I’d like to be a major player in that someday.”
For now, though, he admits to feeling “very blessed” to be where he is.
“I feel incredibly lucky,” he said. “I’m very happy right now to be doing what I’m doing.”