The Golf Dogs of Southern California: Can’t Live Without ‘Em. And Who’d Want To?
Turns out dogs are not only man’s best friend, but they can be a golf course superintendent’s best friend too … literally. And the feelings are clearly mutual.\
In an area like Southern California, where you’re not really doing it right if you don’t own a dog and a classic car, it’s not surprising to stack your clubs at a bag drop and be immediately greeted by a four-legged friend. Not only is the dog a key member of the greeting committee, it can act as course mascot, pest eradicator, coyote deterrent and good-times ambassador.
Often, dogs are also under the distinct impression they own the course; the humans all work for them. And 100 percent of the time, they are the constant companion of the course super. Once on the course, they revel in the absolute freedom and unrestrained joy that comes with having the run of a dog wonderland.
As a special snacky treat for its’ members, the SCGA recently combed the region for four-legged golf executives, and encountered these examples.
Breed: English Mastiff
Measurements: 30 in./150 lbs.
Golf Course: River Ridge Golf Club, Oxnard
Turn Ons: Food, attention, rocks
Turn Offs: Loud noises, aggressive dogs, dogs/others who mess with partner dog, Olive
Favorite activities: Eating, sleeping, chasing coots
Guilty pleasures: Bacon
Doesn’t run away because: He knows who feeds him
Human: Kyle Kanny, 68, superintendent at River Ridge for 34 years, co-owner and president of High Tides & Green Grass, the management company that manages the golf course for the City of Oxnard
Foods he craves: Watermelon. But will eat anything, all the time
First thing in the morning: Walks the golf course
Before he was a regular at the golf course: Has always been a golf course dog. First trip to the golf course was made at nine weeks old
A typical day includes: Works five days a week. Upon arrival, walks or rides the course; then hangs out at the clubhouse to collect snacks
Baxter’s human says: “Based on personality, he gets along better than I do with the players. I’ll hear someone yell, “Hey Baxter!” and I’ll turn around and won’t have any idea who the person is, but they know Baxter. We were going to offer him to the (Dallas) Cowboys (who hold training camp nearby) for speed training. We were going to tape bacon to the wide receiver’s butts and see if they could out-run him. Baxter was sitting out on the cart one day and all the (Cowboys) defensive backs and safeties came over near him, but they gave him a wide berth. Finally, one of them petted him a little, and within seconds they were all petting him and scratching him and saying “Oh man, this dog is really cool!””
With kids, he’s incredible. He’ll let kids do just about anything. What he’ll end up doing is licking them. There was a three-year-old out here one day that had him by the ears and was pretty much yanking on them as hard as he could. So Baxter started licking the kid. And the harder the kid yanked, the more Baxter licked him. Pretty soon, the kid quit because he was just covered in slobber.”
Breed: Schnauzer/Scottish Terrier mix (“Schnottie”)
Measurements: 13 in./22 lbs.
Golf Course: River Ridge Golf Club, Oxnard
Turn Ons: Running, playing, action
Turn Offs: Any other dog (other than Baxter)
Favorite activities: Chasing anything that moves — coots, lizards, geese
Guilty pleasures: Bacon
Ambitions: To catch something
Doesn’t run away because: She knows she’s got it made
Human: Kyle Kanny
Foods she craves: Watermelon, bacon, carrots
First thing in the morning: Gets her morning cookies and sees Kyle and Baxter off to work
Before she was a regular at the golf course: Was a resident at the Humane Society of Ventura County in Ojai
A typical day at the golf course includes: Comes to the course around noon, then cruises the course with Kyle and Baxter. When the cart is in motion, she’ll run until she gets tired, and will then jump in the cart
Olive’s human says: “When she was little, she abused the hell out of Baxter. She bit through his ear, she bit through his tongue with those sharp little teeth, and he’d put up with it for so long before he just pinned her down with a paw. She’d get angry at that point, and try to get out, but he’d just totally pin her. A few years ago, I found another dog out here, it was sort of a reddish-brown poodle. When we took him home he was all matted, and the kids decided to call him Bob Marley. I thought I was going to be in deep trouble, but my wife (Patricia) absolutely fell in love with the dog, and when he died at 17 or 18, she was broken-hearted, and she kept on looking in rescues until she spotted Olive. And when she saw Olive for the first time, she was only around six pounds. When we rescued her and brought her home, I went to put food in her dish, and she just pinned my hand on the wall. She was coming from a rescue situation where she was the smallest, and she was having to fight for her food.
“I can’t bring Olive out here in the mornings because we have too many coyotes. We’re right by the river bottom, and she’s already gotten after one. She chased it over a hill. I’m in a cart chasing her; Baxter is between me and her; and as we got over the hill, I saw the coyote turn around. Then the coyote saw Baxter coming after him, so he turned around and took off. That’s why I usually don’t bring her out here until the afternoons.”
Breed: Australian Shepherd
Measurements: 24 in./52 lbs.
Golf Course: North Ranch Country Club, Westlake Village
Turn Ons: Doggie treats, stuffed animals with a squeaky core, sitting in the front seat of the cart, swimming
Turn Offs: Long runs, Brady stealing her toys
Favorite activities: Swimming, chasing geese and coots
Guilty pleasures: Eating!
Ambitions: Wants to be a better frisbee dog
Doesn’t run away because: Daddy feeds her
Human: Ryan Bentley, 41, golf course superintendent
Foods she craves: Ground turkey, brown rice
First thing in the morning: Jumps on the bed and licks Ryan’s face
Before she was a regular at the golf course: Took long walks and played with the children of her original owner
A typical day at the golf course includes: Morning check of ponds; afternoon office work; late afternoon run/pond check
Bow’s human says: “About the third time she was on the golf course, we’re out at No. 8, and there in front of the green there’s about a five-foot drop off. And she was used to these other ponds, and launching into them. On this particular day, it’s rainy. I let her out and she runs down and does kind of the same thing. She launches, but she doesn’t realize there’s a five-foot drop there. So she went directly underwater and popped back up as muddy as she could be, looking like, “What just happened?” Then she turned around and tried to go up the embankment, but she couldn’t. And she looked a little startled. So I had to reach down and kind of grab her and get her out. She’s never launched off that spot again.
“With the club’s blessing, I started looking into golf-course specific dogs that would help us eradicate coots, widgeon and geese. During that search, I reached out to a breeder who said, “There’s a family nearby that bought these two dogs that are well-trained. But they are getting ready to move, and the dogs were living with a small yard, you ought to reach out to them because I’m not sure they’re going to keep the dogs forever.” They lived literally five miles from here, and they were sweet people, and I explained to them if they would ever considering selling the dogs or making a transition, that North Ranch was interested.
“They set up a visit, and the first time I saw them I thought, “Oh my gosh, these dogs are beautiful.” And they were extremely responsive. It took three visits before we were convinced. I took them out on the golf course with the owners and showed them that they’d be running, and be taken care of. That triggered it. A little later, the folks were going out of town for weekend, and they suggested I take them home and see how it works out. They dropped them off on a Friday, and I wrote a check about a week later.”
Breed: Australian Shepherd (Bow’s half-brother)
Measurements: 22 in./45 lbs.
Golf Course: North Ranch Country Club
Turn Ons: Frisbee, ball
Turn Offs: Plastic shopping bags
Favorite activities: Running, chasing anything
Guilty pleasures: Sleeps with frisbee. Always brings toy when called
Ambitions: To be a better swimmer
Doesn’t run away because: He gets to come to the golf course
Human: Ryan Bentley
Food he craves: Elk antler bone
First thing in the morning: Rings a specially-rigged bell to alert family he is awake
Before he was a regular at the golf course: Took long walks and played with the children of the original owner
A typical day at the golf course includes: Running as many miles as possible
Brady’s human says: “On Oaks No. 9 we have a pond that we work the most, because it’s close to a green, it’s right in front of the clubhouse, and we used to have a lot of coots there. In another direction, we have a driving range fence, and it’s a net. He’s learning the property, he’s out there for one of his first times, he’s running and a group of coots takes off and starts heading toward the net. And Brady is just running and in a full sprint, as fast as he could run. And when those coots ran into the net, so did Brady. He ran directly into the net and bounced back. He’s never made that bad choice again. That’s that obsession we were talking about. He was not going to stop for anything.”
Breed: Labrador Retriever
Measurements: 24”/53 lbs.
Golf Course: Bonita Golf Course, Bonita
Turn Ons: Coots, water, gophers
Turn Offs: Coyotes, not going to work, leashes
Favorite activities: Swimming, digging for gophers, chasing birds
Guilty pleasures: Hot dogs out of the trash
Ambitions: Live mistake-free lifestyle, ensuring future course visits
Doesn’t run away because: Why would you?
Human: Brendon Reaksecker, 43, superintendent
Foods she craves: Bacon
First thing in the morning: Lays outside the bedroom door waiting for breakfast. If she gets breakfast, she’s probably going to the golf course
Before she was a regular at the golf course: Didn’t have a life
A typical day at the golf course includes: Bathroom break in specific planter. Sprint. Stakes out golf car for morning ride. Rides in cart until hearing the command: “Ready to run?” Chases, birds, swims, runs, roots out gophers
Daisy’s human says: “I felt bad leaving her at home. So I started bringing her out here. She’s the ambassador of fun. She’s a bit of a mascot, the customers enjoy seeing her, and she also provides companionship for me. She’s a distraction for golfers who might have had a bad day on the links. When we’re doing our morning routine, I’ll come into the pro shop to get a cup of coffee, and she’ll sit out by the first tee and wait there, staring at the pro shop, knowing I’m in there. Now, she’ll sit there pretty much indefinitely, and let customers come and scratch her head. They get a kick out of it. When I come out of the pro shop, she waits for me, and then away we go again on our next golf course adventure. She gets to run some more, swim some more, and I’m lucky that I live so close, I can take her home for lunch if I have some sort of meeting, and that’s it. But if she’s with me all day, she has the stamina to hang out the entire day.
“Out on the golf course, I give her the opportunity to run, dig, and explore, within reason. She’s always keeping an eye on where I am. The dog is smarter than me. I have no experience in training dogs. I just think she understands the privilege of begin out here. She knows that if she makes a mistake, or jumps on someone, I’m taking her home. I can almost threaten her and say, “Daisy do you want to go home?” And she’ll give me that sad look. It’s the same face she gives me when I tell her you’re not coming to work today. And I feel fortunate my employer allows me to bring her out here. It’s truly a privilege.”
Breed: German Shepherd mix
Measurements: 24 in./75 lbs.
Golf Course: The Farms Golf Club, Rancho Santa Fe
Turn Ons: Cooper, golden retriever/boyfriend; chasing coots
Turn Offs: Baths
Favorite activities: Going to designated dog beaches; running through bunkers when course is closed
Guilty pleasures: Salami
Ambitions: Aspires to be a police dog
Doesn’t run away because: Loves her daddy too much
Human: Troy Mullane, 47, director of golf maintenance
Foods she craves: Chicken, steak
First thing in the morning: Gets roused from slumber by Troy
Before she was a regular at the golf course: Was dropped off in a box at the Chula Vista Animal Shelter at three months old, adopted through Coastal German Shepherd Rescue of San Diego
A typical day at the golf course includes: Stands by for crew assignments, then goes out on the course to assist in whatever needs to be done, side-by-side with Troy. Evicts coots and other pests, usually rabbits, when necessary
Lola’s human says: “She sort of hit the lottery. I had a Lab before her for 14 years, his name was Koho. He was the love of my life, he was a big, 90-pound Shepherd mix, and he passed away at 14 from cancer. After that, I was obviously depressed, sad, and felt lonely. I’m married but we don’t have kids, so dogs are my kids. After Koho passed, it took me about three months to mourn. Coming to work wasn’t the same. I started going to adoption events, went a couple of times, and then I saw Lola. She reminded me of my first dog. So right away I fell in love with her. It’s therapeutic for me. On a long, hot, summer day, and you’ve been at it for a long time, it’s nice to look over and see your buddy there.
“There’s so much more to Lola than chasing coots. I think she lends to the family atmosphere we have among our crew. I’ve had her since she was a puppy, so they’ve basically helped raise her. I love my crew, we work together side by side, we’ll go out after work for food or drinks, or go a Padres game, or the Del Mar race track. But I really think Lola helps bring us together. We’re all here at lunchtime wrestling with her, she’s playing with us, and they really like her. She also contributes to the personality of The Farms. The members love her. I have some members tell me they don’t have a dog, but they’ll go to the store and get dog biscuits just for her.”
Measurements: 24 in./65 lbs.
Golf Course: Saticoy Regional Golf Course, Ventura
Turn Ons: Squirrels, rabbits, greeting guests, guests with treats
Turn Offs: Birds
Favorite activities: Going to and being at the golf course; going home
Guilty pleasures: Sneaking in the kid’s rooms to act as vacuum cleaner, sweeping up any unclaimed food
Ambitions: Getting treats
Doesn’t run away because: Always needs to know where Jason is
Human: Jason Lapworth, 34, superintendent
Foods she craves: She likes it all. Has trouble with hot Hot Pockets
First thing in the morning: Whines and cries because she’s ready to go to the golf course
Before she was a regular at the golf course: Was home companion to another family dog
A typical day at the golf course includes: Serves as bodyguard while walking with Jason to open the gates, then vanishes for about an hour and a half. Returns to check on Jason, and begins to greet players, particularly ones she knows will have treats. Catches a nap. Continues to meet and greet.
Piper’s human says: “She is the welcomer in the parking lot. Saticoy is a nine-hole, fenced-in, non-executive course, and she has the whole run of the place — it’s about 40 acres. She’ll get there in the morning and I won’t see her for an hour and a half because she’s out investigating and looking for treats. Then she’ll go out with me for a little bit, then she’ll go back to the parking lot where she basically greets everyone, not so much to say hi, but to see if they have a treat. She knows who will definitely have treats, but she’ll check with everyone just in case.
“As for birds, she’s not scared of birds, she’s just not interested in them, and they don’t worry about her. Ducks don’t even run away from her. Another of her claims to fame is, whenever she stands, she crosses her back legs. She’ll stand like that with her back legs crossed and everyone says they’ve never seen a dog do that before. The other thing that cracks everyone up in the golf shop is, she’ll actually fall asleep while she’s sitting. She’ll be sitting by my side in a meeting, and she’ll stand there and halfway fall asleep. Every once in a while, you’ll her a thump or a thud because she’s fallen over.”
Breed: English Shepherd
Measurements: 23 in./68 lbs.
Golf Course: Newport Beach Country Club
Turn Ons: Squirrels, Canada geese
Turn Offs: Getting in the car
Favorite activities: Going to work, being at the golf course
Guilty pleasures: Stealing blueberry muffins out of a Mercedes-Benz
Ambitions: To have a waterfowl-free golf course
Doesn’t run away because: He’s knows he’s got it made
Human: Ron Benedict, 60, superintendent
Foods he craves: Hot dogs
First thing in the morning: Goes outside
Before he was a regular at the golf course: Has been a golf course dog since four months old
A typical day at the golf course includes: All-out lap around the course, tour the course, knock off coots where necessary, nap time, back out for course tour mid-day, visit with members in the afternoon. Running whenever possible
Riley’s human says: “He’s jumping into ceiling fans if I don’t take him to work. His purpose is to chase waterfowl, that’s why he’s here. But he also loves to chase rabbits and squirrels because it’s fun. He’s run off a couple of coyotes, he’s chased off a bobcat, he doesn’t like anybody on his golf course. We have a couple of dozen Canada honkers and he’s really good with them. He chased a group of nine, six of them were born here, he chased them from the lake on 17, and chased them a good 1,000 yards to get them off the property. He went from the lake on 17, to the tee on 16, and back to the lake on 17, and was right underneath them. The members were applauding. He won’t chase them in the water though, he’s not a swimmer. He’ll chase them right up to the water, but he won’t go in.”
“The members love him. He’s a rock star. The ladies had a tournament the first year I had him, and I went backwards and introduced him to all the groups of ladies. Six months later, they had a tournament called the Dog Days of Summer and one of the ladies did a painting of him, and they logoed that on the golf balls. He’s been in the newsletter five or six times, and I’ve been here 26 years and I’ve been in it once. He’s pretty popular.”