EVANSTON — Time flies when you’re having fun. In the sun. Believe it or not, Scott Ehlers has been a part of the Purple Sage Golf Course for 38 years, dating back to 1980.
That will remain the same, even though Ehlers has been named the new director of the Evanston Parks and Recreation department.
“I started working for Bud Thomason in 1981. That’s when guys like Dave Madia, Al Graban and Jerry Parker were just youngsters out there, quite honestly,” Ehlers said with a laugh.
The Ehlers family, much smaller then than now, moved to Lyman in 1980. In fact, it was just Scott and his wife, Vickie, at that point, predating Red Devil standout student-athletes Brendon, Brady, Beau, Abbey and Brock Ehlers.
“Bud liked to promote his assistants, I think, so he didn’t have to work too much,” Ehlers told the Herald.
He recalled joining the PGA program a few years after his employment with the Purple Sage began, back when the course and club were privately owned.
Ehlers became the club’s non-member head professional back in 1996, resigning from teaching shop classes at Evanston High School, to assume his full-time duties with the golf club.
“Things began to happen,” Ehlers recalls, referring to the planned expansion of the Purple Sage Golf Course from its original nine holes to 18. He continued upping his credentials to become a Class A or certified golf professional through the Professional Golf Association in 2000, a year prior to the completion of the course expansion, with the City of Evanston taking the reins of ownership and management of the formerly privately-owned and operated golf course, which originated in the 1960s, being designed and built by golf-enthusiast private citizens of Evanston.
For Ehlers and his staff, the golf season began in March and extended through early November, despite how weather conditions factored in on either side of the calendar. There was still planning to be done for the opening and closing of the golf season, whether or nor the Evanston area weather brought about an early spring and/or an Indian summer.
In November and December of each year, the club and pro shop focused on holiday sales of golf equipment and accessories, not to mention membership sales, on behalf of the club, so January through early March was the only downtime for the course and club, which also began to offer cross-country skiing and the associated equipment rentals, through the parks and recreation district in the winter months.
“We worked extremely hard to get the golf course operation to where it is,” Ehlers said, with “we” referencing the pro shop and golf course staff and management through many years
“Things run pretty smooth and very effectively,” Ehlers related, noting parrallels between the golf course staff he has managed for decades and the staff he will now oversee through the parks and recreation district.
“I’ve met with everybody, all the key players and virtually all the employees,” Ehlers said.
“Everyone is very capable and they know their responsibilities very well. I’m going to be busy with quite a bit of back and forth between the rec center and the golf course, but having the luxury of individuals who are professionals in all they do will make everything possible,” he added.
That was a caveat in the negotiations when Ehlers was offered the position — that he would maintain management of the golf course with a modified title as the director of golf.
“They were fine with that, it turns out, but if that wasn’t going to be the case, I was out. I wasn’t going to be interested in the position if I wasn’t going to be able to run the golf course,” Ehlers said, referring to the Evanston Parks and Recreation board of directors to whom Ehlers will report.
Ehlers doesn’t anticipate any shake-ups with the staffs at either the recreation center or the golf course, as the long-time former basketball coach considers his managers at both venues in a similar fashion to his former profession.
“”I consider them my assistant coaches. We have a wonderful staff at both the golf course and the rec center,” Ehlers affirmed.
“I look for good things to happen. I’m excited for the challenges in everything recreation-related, from the rec center to the golf course, the parks to Sulphur Creek Reservoir, to make everything tied into recreation in Evanston top-notch.”