Dunkason is a good fit at Eagle Point

Jeremy Dunkason can pick 'em up and put 'em down.

He proved that in his youth when he set the world record for speed golf.

These days, however, he's only interested in putting down roots as Eagle Point Golf Club's new general manager and director of golf.

Dunkason, 50, has been on the job since September, filling a void at a course rated among the state's best public venues since it opened in 1996 but that has been without a PGA head professional for the past couple years.

His goal, and that of owners Chris and Sue Galpin, is that he'll be around for a while and lend stability as Eagle Point moves dramatically forward: It's gone semi-private, signing on 95 members since the start of the year, and grading has begun on a hotel-condo-bungalow set-up along the ninth hole that will turn it into a destination course.

The timing could not have been better for Dunkason, who spent the previous seven years at Mount Shasta Resort and worked for 15 years before that at Mission Viejo, Calif., Country Club.

Dunkason, who was born in England and moved to America at age 9 as his father followed an aerospace career, was familiar with Eagle Point during his tenure at Mount Shasta.

"I saw it as a facility that had so much potential but was just lacking in a few areas with a membership," he says. "You drive into the facility, and it reminds you of a private club, but it had no membership. The two fell hand in hand."

His expertise in structuring such programs was just what the Galpins were looking for. Dunkason applied to be the head professional, but when the Galpins' daughter-in-law, Shannon Galpin, stepped down as general manager, Dunkason was hired in a dual capacity.

Sue Galpin is relieved to have a PGA pro on board.

"Every golf course needs one," she says. "We just hadn't met the one that was right for us yet."

She says Dunkason's engaging personality, his history of staying put in a profession that is sometimes vagabond in nature and his experience with memberships and resort packages all indicate he's the right fit.

"I've had some excellent feedback," says Sue Galpin. "People have stopped me in the parking lot and stopped me at other places in town just to say how pleased they are with him. They really like the direction things are going out here with the membership and everything."

Eagle Point homeowners who play golf have been receptive to the membership program, which costs them an initiation fee of $2,500 versus $3,500 for the public. The program will be re-evaluated at 150 members and capped at 200 members, says Dunkason.

Between that, stay-and-play resort packages and public play, the course will have a variety of golfing options.

Through meetings to formulate the membership plan and interaction in the pro shop, Dunkason has sensed a camaraderie.

"There's definitely a pride of membership," he says. "They're going, 'Hey, I'm a member at Eagle Point.' If this club was in San Francisco or down in Los Angeles, it would be a $50,000-to-$75,000 club."

Dunkason admits he was fortunate to be in contact with Eagle Point at the right time. Not only is the facility top-notch, he says, but he inherited a staff — Kris Isackson, Patrick Oropallo and Terry Marks — that is the best he's worked with, and he rates course superintendent Dave Stevens No. 1 in the Pacific Northwest section.

Dunkason grew up favoring a soccer ball over a golf ball. An athletic, accomplished striker, he played at the junior college level and entertained thoughts of playing beyond college.

In the meantime, golf was ever-present. He learned the game from his dad and landed work as a caddie on weekends at El Caballero Country Club in Tarzana. He'd be at the course at 6 in the morning for regular loops that often meant 36 holes in a day.

"It gave me a good start to interacting with the club members," says Dunkason. "I knew right then that that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to grow in the golf business."

Because his high school didn't offer soccer — he played club ball — Dunkason competed on the school golf team, usually as the No. 2 player carrying a 6 or 7 handicap. The stars of his Los Angeles-area section were future tour pros Mark O'Meara and John Cook.

"I was never as good as they were," he says.

Dunkason came to know O'Meara during his work at Mission Viejo, where O'Meara is from. They collaborated on an open junior tournament that continues to this day.

Dunkason became a PGA apprentice at La Cumbre Country Club in Santa Barbara in 1979, then became an assistant pro at Mission Viejo in 1982 and the head pro there five years later.

It was at La Cumbre that Dunkason took on the challenge of playing the fastest 18-hole round in history. Al Geiberger, "Mr. 59" for shooting that score in a 1977 PGA event, was a member there, and Dunkason thought he'd try to join his friend in the record book.

He succeeded, playing the 6,083-yard University Golf Course in Santa Barbara in 29 minutes, 49.9 seconds, in August 1980. The rules were simple: play at least 6,000 yards and stay on your feet. Dunkason swapped out a 5-iron and sand wedge all the way around.

"I was in soccer form," says Dunkason, who ran about a 5-minute mile and carried a 3 handicap. "I think I shot 96, but speed was the thing."

His achievement was chronicled in the 1981 Golf Digest Annual. It featured a full-page photo of Dunkason in action and a short write-up. His record was broken a year later in Anaheim, Calif., by Steve Scott, then the American record-holder in the 1,500 meters. Scott's time was 29:33.05.

These days, Dunkason plays at a much more leisurely pace and is active in PGA section events, having won eight times in his career. He and assistant pro Patrick Oropallo teamed up for victory in a two-man pro tournament at Centennial Golf Club earlier this year.

Clearly, Dunkason feels at home.

"I came into a great situation," he says.

Have a local golf story idea? Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com


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