Eric J von Hofen, agronomist, writer and entrepreneur, is originally from Lorain, Ohio, about 30 miles west of downtown Cleveland. He began his career in golf at Emerald Valley Golf Course at the age of 13. He worked the areas around the nine-hole course collecting and selling used golf balls, making $20 to $30 dollars a day until the owner of the course caught him and shut him down. Because Eric’s booming used golf ball business was hindering new golf ball sales at the pro shop, the owner of the course was finally happy he got his man. The owner, Joe Kucirek, was smart and saw the drive in Eric and offered him a job on the golf course maintenance staff. The rest is history and 26 years later, Eric has produced an unbelievable resume working at and managing some of the world’s most recognized golf properties.
Eric’s first big stop was at Jack Nicklaus’s Muirfield Village Golf Club in Dublin, Ohio, where he conducted his internship while attending The Ohio State University. Two years later he earned his degree from Ohio State and hit the road south to the 90-hole PGA National Golf Club in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Eric’s first job at PGA was as Foreman, and he quickly worked his way up the ladder to become a Superintendent of the Champion Course hosting the PGA Seniors’ Championship.
Shortly thereafter, Eric was recruited to the famed 90-hole Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami, Florida. As Superintendent of three courses, including the infamous Blue Monster, Eric was responsible for daily operations that included a staff of 107 members, design and reconstruction projects and several major PGA Tournaments. The tournaments included the 1995 and 1996 Doral Ryder Opens that attracted players and audiences from around the world.
In the winter of 1995, Eric expanded his expertise on the international front by designing and managing the construction of a golf range and practice putting green complex for the San Jose Marriott in Costa Rica, Central America. Working at the Doral and in Costa Rica earned Eric national recognition and Superintendent positions at exclusive private courses like John’s Island West in Vero Beach, Florida, and Naples National Golf Club in Naples, Florida. In the summer of 1998, he was introduced to new challenges as Director of Golf Course Maintenance for the private courses at PGA WEST in the desert of LaQuinta, California. At PGA WEST, Eric was responsible for daily course operations and management for PGA TOUR events including the Bob Hope Classic and the PGA TOUR final Q School. Eric appeared on the Golf Channel for the first time during the 1998 Q School tournament and was interviewed by Craig Kann.
The east coast beckoned again, and Eric was lured back to the Sunshine State to become Director of Golf Operations at Sailfish Point Golf Club in Stuart, Florida. Over the next two years at Sailfish Point, Eric created a long-range course plan with Jack Nicklaus’s design team that included bunker additions, maintenance building redesign and new landscape. During this same period of time he also served as a consultant to the Greek Government. As a consultant, Eric provided invaluable education on climate-appropriate grasses, irrigation systems, equipment purchases and bunker construction for their four golf courses located primarily on the island of Rhodes near Turkey. Eric wrote his first piece on this experience called “Golf is Greek to Them”, which was published in the May 2003 issue of Golf Course Management.
One project leads to another. In 2001, Eric was recruited back to Naples, Florida, to head up the construction and grow-in of Calusa Pines Golf Club. The $15 million project was very successful and the course won #6 Best New Private Club in America for 2003, awarded by Golf Digest. Today the course is ranked in the top 100 in America. Calusa Pines and Eric were featured in the February 2002 issue of Golf Course News.
With the success of Calusa Pines under his belt, and the plans to build another 18 holes next to Calusa Pines on hold due to the slow down after 9/11, Eric was on the move again. Returning to Miami, Florida, and to the 90-hole Doral as Director of Agronomy, he was ready to bring Doral back from the ashes. Over the next three years Eric hosted three PGA TOUR Ford Championships, rebuilt the practice range, added five new tee boxes on the Blue Course, cleaned up after two hurricanes and rebuilt the White Course with Greg Norman. Tiger Woods won two of the three events Eric hosted at Doral. Eric appeared again on the Golf Channel during the 2006 Ford Championship.
Also while at Doral, he was invited to Bogota, by the Colombian Federation of Golf, under the direction of the R&A, to participate in a three-day seminar as the key-note speaker. Attended by a vast international crowd comprised of course owners, superintendents, golf professionals and general managers, Eric educated the group of 63 on several topics including greens construction, tournament preparation and hosting, new products and technology. Not bad for only three years of work.
Currently Eric is the Director of Agronomy and Building Maintenance at the prestigious Riviera Country Club located in Coral Gables, Florida, where he and his wife Amy reside. He is proud and honored to be a part of the Riviera family that is steeped in tradition and history. The course was designed by Donald Ross in 1924 and was originally a part of the master planned resort called the Biltmore Hotel. Riviera was spun off in 1948 to become the Club that it is today; a very well-established and successful operation located just outside the city of Miami.
This web site was created to promote the von Hofen Turfgrass Scholarship located at The Ohio State University and to provide insight into the success stories happening in and around the golf world.
Eric promises to deliver the dirt and keep you informed on what is going behind the scenes.
Thank you for reading and for checking out Turfunderground.com. See you soon.