River Oaks Golf Club in Nicolaus having a comeback

Susan Briske, head golf pro at River Oaks.
Susan Briske, head golf pro at River Oaks.

When she saw River Oaks Golf Club for the first time, Susan Briske thought what many before her thought over the past 16 years.

“Honestly, I wasn’t that impressed,” she said.

That visit was in late February, a few days before she accepted an offer to become the course’s head pro.

Four months later, Briske and her revitalized staff have brought life back to the Nicolaus course. Early Tuesday afternoon, every table in the clubhouse was filled and Briske couldn’t complete two sentences without being interrupted to schedule a lesson.

I kept most of the staff, but I let go a couple of people who were grumpy. They didn’t have the vision.

Susan Briske, River Oaks’ head pro

There have been more valleys than peaks since the Peter Jacobsen-designed course, initially called Rio La Paz and intended to be private, opened in 2000. Muddled ownership and financial issues plagued the course, which appeared rudderless for years.

The serene River Oaks setting is on former dairyland along the Feather River and surrounded by undeveloped farmland, and it’s also a long way from a population base.

Briske took over only days after being let go after eight years as the director of instruction at Peach Tree Country Club in Marysville. After stints at Lake Wildwood in Penn Valley and Indian Wells, she had not worked at a public facility in the 18 years since getting her LPGA Class A credential.

At 67, Briske was ready for a new challenge. The physical improvements include tree removal, spiffing up the massive all-grass practice range/area, professional signage and a new website. The reset in attitude may be more significant.

“I kept most of the staff, but I let go a couple of people who were grumpy,” she said. “They didn’t have the vision.”

River Oaks’ greens still are a little spongy and slow, and its fairways are a mishmash of grasses. But the value remains, particularly via Golf Moose, which essentially offers 2-for-1 deals.

Business is up 35 percent, Briske said, largely because more women are playing. A ladies group was created where there wasn’t one, and many students and others followed her from Peach Tree, where she was the only LPGA member in the area for years.

“If you can get mama to like the golf course, you can get papa to write the check,” she said.

Dramatic win for Chargins

It’s not just that Glenn Campbell and Patti Motmans, representing Chargins Golf Club from Chargins Bar & Grill in East Sacramento, won the Northern California Golf Association Associate Club Four-Ball Net Championship at Del Monte and Poppy Hills in Monterey. It’s how the left-handers did it.

Tied for 24th after a 6-under-par 66 in the first round at Del Monte, Campbell and Motmans shot a 12-under 59 in the second round at Poppy Hills to rally from six shots behind and tie a team from San Jose.

With their clubs in the car after an early start dictated by their standing, they waited for two hours before learning they were in a playoff. They won on the first playoff hole.

Their 59, which included an eagle 2 (for a net 1) on the par-4 third hole by Motmans, was the best round of the day by four shots. Campbell got 19 strokes and Motmans 14 at Poppy.

“We’re very happy for them and very proud of them,” said Chargins tournament director Jimmy Sanchez.

Farewell to Bing

Valley Hi fittingly sent longtime head pro Dave Bingham into retirement Sunday with a roast.

Bingham’s penchant for fishing on his off days, playing golf on his work days and his less than touchy-feely ways were recurring themes.

“As hard as he played, he worked equally as hard,” Valley Hi general manager Jim Davis said. “He was the face of Valley Hi.”

Bingham was Valley Hi’s head pro for 20 years. His replacement is Todd Smith, who was the director of golf with the First Tee of San Diego. Smith, formerly a resident of Elk Grove, did his PGA apprenticeship at Haggin Oaks.

Et cetera

▪ Tom Morton, director of instruction at Haggin Oaks, has achieved PGA Master Professional status in player development, the highest educational designation within the PGA of America.

▪ Caryn Khoo (Reno) won the Sacramento City Women’s Championship at Bing Maloney.

▪ Drake Mendenhall (Granite Bay) and Lexi Perry (El Dorado Hills) won divisions of the Sacramento County Junior at Cherry Island.

As hard as he played, he worked equally as hard. He was the face of Valley Hi.

Valley Hi general manager Jim Davis, on retiring head pro Dave Bingham

▪ A spot in the British Open will be offered to the leading top-five finisher not otherwise qualified at this week’s Barracuda Championship in Reno. Barracuda gets the qualifying spot that was intended for next week’s Greenbrier Classic, which was canceled because of flooding in West Virginia.

Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526, @Steve_Pajak