First it was former LPGA pro AJ Eathorne coming to Vernon’s Predator Ridge to teach, and now Richard Zokol, the former PGA Tour winner, is coming on as the club’s executive director of golf. Zokol, who was behind Sagebrush Golf and Sporting Club in BC, split with the club he developed in January over differences about its direction. That’s when Brad Pelletier, Zokol’s former agent at IMG who is now running Predator Ridge, swooped in with an offer.
“The Sagebrush experience was so different with Richard there than when he wasn’t,” Pelletier said. “I saw how much of a difference he made to the place. I want him to be the face of our facility the way he was at Sagebrush. He’ll bring his experience and passion and is perfectly suited for Predator.”
It is an interesting move by Pelletier, who I worked with on Weir Golf Design, when he was at IMG. Pelletier, a graduate of the London School of Economics, is one of the smartest men in golf. And since taking on Predator last year, he’s been refashioning the resort to try to elevate it in a difficult market. He’s not afraid to try different tactics.
Zokol won’t be working as a traditional head pro — the operations are already being well run by Rod Cochrane, another of BC’s smart professionals. Instead Pelletier envisions him as an ambassador, looking at all aspects of the golf operation, as well as instruction.
“I’ve assembled an all-star team,” Pelletier says. “And now we’re going to deploy them.”
I spoke last week with Zokol about the move — which is officially announced tomorrow. He had been asked to apply for the vacant job at Shaughnessy Golf and CC in Vancouver, and did so. But news that he’d applied leaked out to members, and he was uncomfortable with the situation, including the departure of longtime GM Dave Woods. When Pelletier suggested an alternative, Zokol jumped at it.
“It is such a great opportunity and I have such a history with Brad,” Zokol said.
Zokol’s always had big plans. He continues to search for design projects with Armen Suny, who contributed to Sagebrush, and told The Globe’s Lorne Rubenstein that there’s the possibility of a third course at Predator. Doug Carrick reworked nine holes and added another nine with the Ridge course, while Les Furber’s original design sits on some of the most dramatic property in Canada. Plans have been in place for some time to freshen it up, but the market continues to be challenging for real estate in BC, likely putting plans on hold for the time being. In the meantime, I’d argue that Predator is the most luxurious golf resort in Canada, and the Ridge Course is some of Carrick’s best work.
Nonetheless, Pelletier — who helped launch Nicklaus North in Whistler — clearly has ambitious plans, and Zokol is now part of that. It’ll be interesting to see where he heads from here.
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Dick I was in vernon last week on holidays and stopped in to see you at predator, but unfortunately you were out on the course. I was talking to Arden Knoll in Yorkton and told him that I was going to be in vernon. He said to make sure that I said hello from him…… Jim