If one were to ask the hundreds of golf professionals and outside service staff who have worked for Stuart Bruening, PGA, General Manager at The Golf Club at Bear Dance, to respond to the news that he is the recipient of the 2018 Colorado PGA Bill Strausbaugh Award, you would undoubtedly hear them say things like he is a man of exceptional integrity, a great mentor and someone devoted to the golf industry. Appropriately, these statements are all listed as qualities to consider when selecting someone to receive this esteemed award.
With a current population of less than 2,000, Superior, Nebraska, is where Bruening calls home. His dad, a retired school teacher and golf-mentor to many, was big into golf at their little nine-hole course so it made sense that his son would also be involved in the sport. After high school, Bruening moved to Arizona to begin his golf career.
“Coming from a small town in Nebraska, I had the perception that I could play golf,” laughs Bruening. “I realized pretty quickly upon arriving in Arizona, that wasn’t the case. But, I loved the game and wanted to stay in it so I figured out a way to get into the business side.”
Bruening got into the golf business probably for the same reasons everyone else does – for the love of the game. He spent his first 18 years in the Arizona golf industry where he began as an assistant but quickly achieved his PGA Membership. It was here that he got involved in the design and construction aspect of golf course properties. In 1999, Bruening and three other PGA Members grabbed-on to an opportunity in Colorado and they broke ground on the Bear Dance property. It was also at this time that the idea of headquartering the Colorado PGA at Bear Dance was conceived and the Section offices relocated in April of 2002.
While Bruening has called Bear Dance home for the last 18 years, his diverse career has allowed him the opportunity to work as a Head Professional, Director of Golf, General Manager and build golf courses. A true testament to his mentoring and loyalty to his employees and staff is the number of people who return to work at Bear Dance year-after-year, as, according to Bruening, these are the people that make the operation tick.
“I have led a blessed life. I am blessed to be a golf professional and to have a career that I enjoy coming to every day,” concludes Bruening. “But beyond that, I am so proud of everyone who is and has been a part of my journey. It has been so rewarding to have my immediate and extended family with me from the beginning and fortunate for the commitment, dedication and longevity of many of my employees.”
What does it mean to you to receive the Bill Strausbaugh Award?
A couple years ago, my dad was honored for the role he played in mentoring golfers in our small town in Nebraska. My receiving this award makes it possible for me to follow in my father’s footsteps and that is big to me. In addition, I am humbled to be associated with the other professionals who have won this prestigious award before me.
Receiving this award gave me the chance to remember the hundreds of great professionals who have come through the “turn-style,” if you will, in the 30 years I have been in this business. I am privileged to have had the opportunity to work beside so many great individuals and to possibly have had a chance to make a positive impact in their career choices.
What do you believe are the qualities you possess that support your nomination for this award?
I believe that understanding my own strengths and weaknesses has enhanced my success. I can then hire people with the qualities to fill-in my voids. Everyone has some holes to fill and there are always people out there who have the skill-sets to fill them. I would also say that you can’t be afraid to hire really great people. Hiring, promoting and giving talented people the opportunity to step-up and prove themselves gives them the proficiencies they need to succeed now and in the future while making the business and me better at the same time.
What are some tools you use in your profession that you wish you had known when you were beginning your career?
Patience is the biggest one for me. To be able to sit and absorb what is really happening before reacting is a valuable tool when managing people. I work hard to be that person who is able to react calmly in the midst of an urgent situation.
As it relates to golf, what is the best piece of advice you have received and what advice would you give to others?
The first golf professional I ever worked for told me to make sure you hire people who are strong in the areas where you are weak. Everyone has deficiencies and if you can find people who can fill those voids, you have your best chance at success.
This is the same advice I would pass along to someone else.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
Giving my 18-year-old-self advice is much like talking with my son Brock who has recently gotten into the golf business. I would say, “Do what you love.” Be passionate about what you do. Being able to get up, go to work and love what you do every day is what drives your quality of life. I think society tries to teach us that money drives happiness and, if we are lucky, we may be blessed to have both happiness and money. But having a love and a passion for what we choose to do are the attributes that get us through the more difficult times.
I might also tell myself to be present. When I am home and don’t have to be someplace else, I love coming to Bear Dance and being with the people here, mingling with our members, our patrons and our staff. It’s a good life and I am at peace with where I am and what I am doing.
What is your proudest moment as a golf professional?
For me, it’s seeing our various team members from all of our golf properties be role models in their industry. Seeing them set up and show their desire to succeed is extremely rewarding to me.
Although many of my personal family members are involved in the operations on a daily basis, we strive to make the entire group that works for us feel like family, as well. Having my son, Brock, get into the golf business is heart-warming and working alongside my brother, Steve, gives me great pride.
On a wider scale, however, I would say that being able to give our employees the ability to provide for their families while enjoying what they do is very special.
Tell us something about yourself that others may not know.
I love to cook. It is probably my favorite past time. Now, with that said, even though I love to cook, I don’t clean-up very well.