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Sunday, May 31, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Blanchette: Gary Lindeblad provides perfect fit for Kalispel Golf and Country Club

The pairing falls somewhere between accident and destiny. But timing alone made it no surprise that Gary Lindeblad and the course formerly known as the Spokane Country Club found each other.

Two local golf institutions in need of a reboot, for very different reasons.

Hey, this could work out.

We’ll begin to find out this week when the Kalispel Golf and Country Club announces the longtime – and regrettably discarded – Indian Canyon head pro as its new community relations manager, a hiring both so safe and so inspired it’s like laying up and going for the green in the same shot.

And for Lindeblad? Well, choose your own golf analogy. Could be he feels like he just shot a 59, striped a 300-yard drive or made a hole-in-one.

“I don’t want to use ‘resurrection’ – too many religious overtones,” he said. “But the last five or six years, I’ve felt like a big 4-wheel drive truck that’s high centered. It doesn’t matter how much effort, you just don’t get any traction.

“Now my wheels are on the ground and I’m moving forward.”

On a rig he did all he could to help set in gear.

The gender discrimination lawsuit – and the club leadership’s clueless counterpunching – that would eventually lead to a bankruptcy filing and a $3 million sale was a break of timing for the Kalispels in otherwise lamentable circumstances. The tribe had been looking for an avenue into golf, and some of those discussions involved Lindeblad.

“Starting about four years ago, I tried to convince the casino specifically – which would have benefited the tribe – to invest in Indian Canyon and make a commitment there,” Lindeblad said. “It never seemed to gain any traction anywhere but on their side. But they did want to be involved in golf.

“When the bankruptcy came up, with the demographics and what you could buy the facility for, it was a no brainer – I told them they really had no choice,” he said. “And I was always hoping that at some level, I could be associated with it.”

That level is not his familiar one. Les Blakley, for 25 years the head pro at SCC, remains as the course’s director of golf operations.

“I’m the Wal-Mart greeter,” Lindeblad cracked.

Not exactly. But community relations is just that – maintaining relationships the tribe already has, developing new ones, interacting with organizations interested in events both at the club and Northern Quest Casino.

“It’s a more formal version of what a good public (course) professional does anyway,” he said. “You’re involved with the community and golf.”

His deftness in the goodwill department quite likely helped keep traffic at the Canyon from slowing to a trickle even as the city allowed the course to fall into deplorable condition – not just in the past few years but over decades of either indifference or bad judgment. He did not seem to have the same touch with his city bosses, however, in fighting for the survival of the course, and things frayed. When a state audit concluded Lindeblad owed the city about $25,000, the city got out its own pencil and upped the figure to $88,000.

At which point Lindeblad submitted an invoice for $190,000 in lost revenue due to neglect of the course. He pocketed the difference – and months later was told his contract would not be renewed and he’d have to reapply for his job, a rather creative reading of an obscure codicil.

But probably inevitable. Making the boss look foolish is not a survivalist’s strategy.

It’s the city’s loss. And don’t be surprised if it keeps losing. Lindeblad wouldn’t address the future of the popular Rosauer’s tournament he launched at the Canyon, but it’s likely to find a new address this week, too.

And speaking of foolish, while that was going on, there was the country club membership letting itself be hijacked by some retrograde clods who not only couldn’t deal with women on the tee box but couldn’t follow a court order.

Whatever the tribe might invest in course development, its biggest challenge will be marrying the holdover members to a new standard.

“Absolutely, that part needs to be rebuilt,” Lindeblad said. “It’s been strange – Les and I have commiserated with each other for the last several years, neither of us sure which direction things were going and that was great for us. It created a bond – two guys drowning together.

“But I think this is going to be a resurrection for the membership, too.”

Lindeblad acknowledged he will find it odd, being a point man for a course where the greens fees run $115 and public play will be limited to a few tee times a day. He’s always been a public course guy “where you see tanktops to tuxedos and everything in between.

“But now I’m working for a place where everything’s a 10. And maybe I’ll get to play a little more golf, too.”

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