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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Jim Meehan: Gary Lindeblad a perfect fit for Kalispel Golf and Country Club

Gary Lindeblad, the former pro at Indian Canyon, says moving on to Kalispel Golf and Country Club is “probably the best thing that could have happened to me.” (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Gary Lindeblad and change are becoming fast friends.

After his 31-year tenure at Indian Canyon ended on a sour note, the popular pro was hired earlier this year by the Kalispel Tribe as community relations manager.

Now he’s the head pro at Kalispel Golf and Country Club, the scenic, semi-private course on Spokane’s north side. Longtime pro Les Blakley recently stepped down to take a marketing job with the tribe.

It strikes me that the pairing of Lindeblad and his new position is the equivalent of a two-foot birdie putt.

“An eight-inch tap-in,” Lindeblad corrected. “Even I couldn’t miss it.”

On a serious note, Lindeblad is grateful for the opportunity, essentially the same emotion he felt when he was first hired by the tribe.

“I always told them I’d do whatever they wanted me to do,” he said. “It’s such a noble group of people. No. 1, it would be impossible to say no to them. And No. 2, this is such an unbelievable facility here.”

Lindeblad puts heavy emphasis on the latter. The course, formerly known as the Spokane Country Club, has always been terrific but club leadership left common sense behind and the course was sued for gender discrimination by four female members in 2009. The club lost the lawsuit and a drawn-out legal battle prompted it to file for bankruptcy.

The Kalispels purchased the club for $3 million and it opened this season with a new name.

That’s not all that’s changed.

For the first time, a limited number of tee times are available to the public. The course’s maintenance staff has grown from 10 to 30. Bob Castle is the new general manager and will leave his duties as assistant A.D. and radio voice of Whitworth sports at the end of the month. There are new golf carts and a new restaurant, the 1898 Public House (the course was established in 1898, originally on the South Hill.)

“This is a must-see place,” said Lindeblad, who for years clashed with city administrators over deteriorating course conditions at Indian Canyon. “It’s nice to tell people they can play the course and we’re looking at ways to make access available at a lesser rate (than the current $115). There’s a goal with the people who make decisions in the tribe to make this the best place in the northwest.”

The club is gradually regaining membership. After slipping to 220 it’s currently at 260. There were approximately 350 when the Spokane Country Club filed for bankruptcy in 2013.

“It’s gone very well,” Lindeblad said. “It was kind of hard to sell memberships when you’re in the process or rebuilding everything but once it was up and running and we could show people around the reception has been pretty phenomenal.

“The biggest thing for members is trusting the promises that were made to them are going to be kept and it really will evolve into the place the tribe envisions.”

Lindeblad said he’s fortunate to be surrounded by assistant pros Doug Off, Nick McCaslin and Travis Huskisson.

“When I decided to take the job part of the process was sitting down with them and letting them know the baby-sitting responsibilities. They live in a technological world and I’m more of a dinosaur,” he said. “The mix is I can spend more time doing PR and membership work.

“They’re an unbelievable asset. It’s really neat to work in this environment with three people that are totally self-motivated and committed to the success of this place.”

Lindeblad, too, is fully stocked with those same traits and goals. It’s been an interesting professional journey, to say the least, for Lindeblad to arrive at his current position.

“This is probably the best thing that could have happened to me,” he said. “I wish I would have left my situation five years ago but the reality is this (opportunity) wasn’t here five years ago. They say things happen for a reason.”