Posted on November 9th, 2016 No comments
Mike Wells’ roots run deep in his native hometown of Redding.
It was around the age of 13 that Wells picked up golf there, joining his mother, Jean, and father, Jim, who were both ardent golfers.
“They just started taking me out with them. I really enjoyed it,” said Wells, who became a family member at Riverview G&CC starting in 1949 and has continued as a member since then.
Wells got so hooked by the golf bug that he played on his high school team. In college, he was part of the Stanford men’s team as a reserve player.
“I was good enough to be among the top 15 players, but I wasn’t good enough to be one of the Top 8 so I didn’t see a lot of action,” Wells said with a chuckle.
After graduating from Stanford with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics (with a Minor in Political Science), Wells took his career a step further—earning a law degree at Hastings College of Law in San Francisco.
He’d return to Redding, where he became just the 35th lawyer in town. “The county clerk kept a book where all new lawyers who came to practice in Redding signed. I remember when I signed the book, I was the 35th one,” Wells said.
When not practicing law, golf was still one of Wells’ great passions. As an active member at Riverview, he began serving on the club’s Board of Directors, eventually moving up to President in 1977.
It was in the late 1970’s that one of his Redding golfing friends, Dr. George Swendiman, who was serving on the NCGA Board, furthered Wells’ service to the game by asking him to be an NCGA Tournament Committeeman. In 1979, Dr. Swendiman, who also lived in Redding, became President of the NCGA. A year later, Dr. Swendiman nominated Wells to be elected to the NCGA Board of Directors.
“Back then, most NCGA Board members were from the Bay Area. They were trying to get more Board members from across the entire region. George thought of me to replace him,” recalled Wells.
Wells would serve on the NCGA Board of Directors from 1980-1985. At the time, one of the biggest topics was the development of Poppy Hills GC, which would open in 1986.
“I was around for the Poppy Hills planning. At the time, they’d already negotiated for the land, had hired Robert Trent Jones II and were starting construction” Wells said. “It was exciting times.”
During the time period, the NCGA also saw huge growth in its membership, most notably as a result of a bigger tournament schedule. As Wells remembers, it was then that the NCGA made the decision to have more staff involvement in running the tournaments and administration. Previously, the Board of Directors primarily ran NCGA events.
“In the days before GHIN, the NCGA was even providing all the handicapping services for Northern California,” Wells said.
While Wells stepped away from the Board in 1986, he didn’t stop serving. He returned to what he had been doing before—being an NCGA tournament committee person.
“I was kind of the north part of the state guy,” Wells said.
All the while, Wells was also still busy at Riverview, including being a long standing member of the club’s finance committee. The 75-year-old is still very active at Riverview and in Redding, where he resides with his wife, Nueme.
“It’s all been a great experience,” he said. “Now I’m looking forward to my service as President of the SGANC.”
The incoming 2017 President recently took a timeout for a quick Q&A session.
What are you looking forward to as SGANC President?
What I’m looking forward to is providing quality, good value and fun competitions for our members. The whole reason for our organization is for the camaraderie and to have fun golfing with friends.
How did you first get started with golf?
I started as a junior. There was a pretty good junior program at Riverview. Ed Loustalot of the Loustalot golf family was the head pro. Ed taught me a lot about golf. I wasn’t big enough for football and couldn’t dribble a basketball, so I ended up with golf.
What is your greatest golf memory or moment?
Playing Augusta National a couple years ago. It’s a unique place like no other. I played in December and stayed in a cabin, got to have dinner in the clubhouse and got a tour of the Crow’s Nest, the locker room and a lot of other places. I also broke 90 my first round there. The next day, it was freezing. I looked like the Michelin man I was so bundled up. The whole experience there, however, is fantastic.
Anything you would change with the game?
If anything that I think would be good for golf it would be limiting the distance how far a ball goes. That way great courses don’t have to be lengthened. The classic courses can stay classic courses. I think distance has become too important now.
What is your favorite course and why?
I’ve played Riverview forever. I could say Augusta, or Cypress or some of the overseas courses I’ve played. Where do you stop? In truth I enjoy playing Riverview on a daily basis. I’m a hometown boy.
What courses are still on your wish list?
Pinehurst, Pine Valley. I had the opportunity to play Pine Valley one time but I couldn’t make it work. I’ve been fortunate, I’ve done a lot of traveling. New Zealand is still on the “bucket list”, where there is a new Nicklaus course, the Kinloch Golf Club. Also The Hills near Queenstown, New Zealand, where there are fantastic sculptures all over the golf course.
Who was your biggest golf influence?
For me, I think Arnold Palmer. Also Dr. George Swendiman. I also had my first ace playing with Dr. Swendiman. With Arnold, I think he’s been the most important guy in golf because of his charisma, his personality and ethics. I met Arnold while on the NCGA Board. It was at a dinner at the Beach Club. I got to meet ‘The King.’ He was such a nice, gracious guy.
Does your business career intertwine with your golf game?
Sure. Playing golf gives you the opportunity to learn more about a person than dealing with them in business or any other venue. You really get to know someone when you play golf with them.