Ernie Vossler Talks China and Lot More in This Exclusive Interview

By admin December 30, 2014 01:02

Ernie Vossler Talks China and Lot More in This Exclusive Interview

China • You Can Teach Anyone to Putt • Bad Movies… and a Whole Lot More 

Ernie Vossler has been intricately involved with golf for 60 years. He is Chairman of the Board of Landmark Golf Company, headquartered in Indian Wells, California. Landmark Golf Company is an internationally recognized golf, real estate development and full-service management firm that specializes in creating, designing, constructing and managing prestigious master planned residential and resort golf communities.

In 1967, Vossler was nationally honored by being named PGA Professional of the Year and in 2005 joined greats Walter Hagan, Gene Sarazan, Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson, Sam Snead, Paul Runyan, Johnny Revolta, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and other legends by being inducted into the PGA of America Golf Professional Hall of Fame.

Vossler has had the support of some of the greatest names in golf. Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson wrote letters of recommendation for Vossler’s admittance to the PGA Tour, and Vossler went on to win five PGA Tour tournaments between 1955-1962.
For all that Ernie Vossler has done for the game of golf, GolfNews Magazine with pride and respect presents this exclusive multi-part interview by Dan Poppers, Golf Writers Association of America national award winner.

Golf News Magazine (GNM): I’ve just returned from China and it was a very exciting experience. You’ve done some golf projects in China; share some of your experiences there both personally and in your business relationships.
Ernie Vossler (Vossler): Everything was very positive. We met David Chu who was doing a project, of all names, named Mission Hills [not to be confused with the Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage]. That’s how we got started over there. He was a wonderful man; nice family; first class and he took care of us. The Mission Hills projects we participated in for Mr. Chu were the Nick Faldo Course and Jumbo Osaki Course in the mid-1990s.

GNM: It’s amazing what he has done at Mission Hills. There are 10 courses there at Mission Hills and more are being built. Do you have any intentions to do any more golf projects in China?
Vossler: We don’t have any plans at this time, however, if the right opportunity came with the caliber of someone like Mr. Chu, we would be interested. Doing business in China was nothing but a good experience.

GNM: Do you have any thoughts about any misconceptions some Americans might have about China? Do you feel as a culture that we have a full understanding on what’s going on in China?
Vossler: I can only speak for myself. I don’t think I have a full understanding of what’s going on in China.

GNM: I’m not sure if anybody does.
Vossler: Did I like it over there? Yes. Did I like the people I dealt with? Yah. I was never treated better in my life. We received gifts. They put us up in the best hotels. Excellent food. They cared about us.

GNM: You are in a unique position to be in a leadership role in golf for many decades. How many years have you been connected with golf, and in how many different capacities?
Vossler: I started in golf in 1941. They were playing the U.S. Open at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, and I didn’t know a golf ball from a tennis ball.
My father was in the plumbing business. I worked with him. We were building houses right across the street from the first hole at Colonial Country Club.

One day it looked like a million people were walking down the fairway, and that’s when I didn’t even know what a fairway was. So, I said, ‘Dad, can I go over there and see what’s going on?’

I came back about four hours later and my dad said, ‘Son, either you’ve got to go to work or I’m going to fire your fanny and you can go over there and find out what they’re doing.’

So, that’s when I was introduced to golf.

GNM: So, did he fire you?
Vossler: No, the weekend came, and I went over to the club and introduced myself. I was 13 or 14 years old. I asked what was going on and they explained. Included in the explanation was ‘one thing you can do over here is caddy.’ So, I started caddying over at Colonial, and pretty soon I met a man named Ben Hogan. I was sitting on the ground watching him all the time rather than working.

GNM: Then what?
Vossler: Dan, as you know from our previous conversations, I don’t know who my mother and father is.

GNM: I have some questions regarding that on, particularly how your early upbringing affected the rest of your life.
Vossler: Did you want to get into that now or later?

GNM: Whatever you’re comfortable doing?
Vossler: Let’s continue with Colonial for now.

I didn’t have any golf clubs, but I had a tennis racket. They had tennis courts at Colonial, so I talked to the guy at the club about caddying on weekends, and maybe I could play tennis. That didn’t happen.

I hung around and made a friend of the tennis pro. I told him I played tennis and wanted to learn more about it. He invited me out in the evenings and hit tennis balls with me. So, my first real interest in athletics was tennis.

GNM: In the years you’ve been involved in golf, how much has changed with the game itself?
Vossler: The most significant thing is the quality of the grass has changed substantially. The grass has continued to become more refined. The grasses are so much better today, it’s not even close. We used to play on clumps of grass three or four inches high and the blades were spread out in every direction. And, virtually no water was used.

GNM: What has that done to the game?
Vossler: It’s made it more enjoyable to play. On putting greens, there is much more predictability, so putting has become a lot better. On the greens, there was luck in my day [laughter], now there’s no luck, it’s all skill.

I’m going to make a statement that might not be accurate but I’ll make it anyway. I think you can teach anybody to putt. You can’t teach anybody to hit the ball properly. I think there is less skill in putting than in striking the ball.

GNM: But how important is putting?
Vossler: It’s absolutely important. The mental part comes into putting more so than when hitting the ball.

GNM: If there’s less skill to putting than to hitting the ball, and yet putting is so important, is that why some amateurs still don’t spend enough time practicing putting because they are still trying to master striking the ball?
Vossler: I guess that’s a pretty good assumption. I had never thought of it that way. Let me try to explain it another way: you’re never going to lose a ball on the putting green. [laughter]

GNM: Continuing with the evolution of golf over the years. How about the venues? The courses themselves?
Vossler: They’re all better. They’re manicured. They’re designed better. For example, wind factors and so many other factors are taken under consideration. We apply a variety of techniques in building golf courses to accommodate all the variables.

GNM: Tell us more about your business of building golf courses.
Vossler: We’re trying to do things better than the next guy. Wherever they are, we take a look at what they’re doing, we analyze it, and see if we can do better. Or we decide if he is crazy doing what he did. We’ve seen a lot of bad golf courses; we’ve seen very few good golf courses.

GNM: How do you explain bad golf courses being built? Because it’s a major capital outlay and major investment for the owners. To me, it’s analogous to movies these days. I see many, many more bad movies than good movies. I have a heck of a time finding a good movie anymore. So, how do these courses get built that aren’t really…
Vossler: I understand what you mean. I haven’t been to a movie in 20 years.
There are a lot of reasons for building golf courses. Years ago, golf courses were built by cities for recreational purposes. They weren’t built to make a profit. Then wealthy people got tired of playing on city courses, and private courses were built. The main reason to build a golf course now is to make money, either by building homes around it or by generating revenues through green fees.

GNM: Back to how the game is changed, what about the issue of technology? Should we hold technology back?
Vossler: We shouldn’t hold anything back. People should have the freedom to use what they want.

GNM: What needs to happen for the game to thrive more?
Vossler: Better participation by the decision makers in a community and the golf professional to do more things for the citizens. Somebody has got to build some golf courses that people without a lot of money can play, courses that are built for those that can’t afford to pay the big greens fees or to join a club. Such as city-sponsored golf courses. There are not enough of those.

GNM: With what happened to your company—Landmark Land Company—considered the finest in its field in America at the time, then in a relatively short period, your company was taken away from you by agencies of the U.S. government who confiscated the company and auctioned off your assets, and since their actions has been determined to be illegal; many would say you have a right to be bitter or angry or disillusioned at the system in this country, do you feel any of those things?

Vossler: Sure. Sometimes I’m vocal about it. I’ve been a horse’s ass about it. One thing, my partner, Joe Walser [Ernie points to Joe who is sitting in on the interview] he’s never vocal about it and never expressed it to me and I don’t know if he’s upset with anybody, he has always been a gentleman about it. But I’ve been a horse’s ass.
And if George Bush Sr. walked in here, I would tell him that right to his face. He knew better [than what he allowed to happen].

Note: Both Ernie Vossler and Joe Walser have passed away since this interview.

by Interview Dan Poppers

By admin December 30, 2014 01:02