Jeff Chleboun just had to end up with a career in the game of golf.
What else could his parents have expected, considering that when he was 12 years old the Bennett Valley Golf Course was constructed in a field right behind his Santa Rosa home?
It wasn’t long after, that he started playing – and working within – the game of golf.
“I started as a range boy, then a cart boy and then as an assistant pro,” said Chleboun, Alta Sierra Country Club’s head PGA professional for the past 18 years. “Basically, I knew all along that I wasn’t going to put an emphasis on playing as a professional, but I kept working on golf courses through my career.
“I enjoyed the working aspect more than the tedious practicing that it takes for a player on the tour. I just never had that kind of commitment.”
He was, though, committed to keeping himself around the game. He played golf in high school and for two years at CSU-Chico, typically as a one or two handicapper, before taking jobs at courses in the Bay Area for several years and later found a 9-hole course for his first head professional job in the Calaveras County foothills town of Arnold.
Though he enjoyed the job, once his current position at Alta Sierra opened, he couldn’t resist.
“It was a bigger 18-hole course and it was still in the foothills and mountain environment,” he said. “Alta Sierra was actually struggling at that time and I looked at it as an opportunity to help them out to make it a better place. And I think we’ve been growing quite a bit.”
At the time of his hiring, Chleboun said, Alta Sierra had 142 members, well below its nearly 400 current membership count.
Those who enjoy the game, and who are eating their hearts out in reading about someone who has made a career out of hitting the course, might believe the job to be a 40-hour work week of sunny skies and green fairways. But, Chleboun said, that’s not the reality.
“The biggest shock to them would probably be that you don’t have much time to actually play as they might think you would,” he said. “That’s one of the biggest things that turn people away from the golf business, once they learn that.”
Chleboun learned that lesson quickly, recalling how he found himself typically working between 10-14 hour days, teaching lessons, conducting tournaments and taking care of any other business that ends up on his desk.
“And the last thing you want to do at that point is go out and play some golf,” he said. “When the winter comes, though, you get some time off. But, of course, the winter weather is inclement, so you don’t get to play then either.”
Don’t get him wrong. Chleboun said he still enjoys his career. He remembers a career decision he made years ago that opened his eyes to how much he enjoyed the golf business.
“I took a break from the business at one point and worked a 9-5, Monday through Friday, job (cleaning carpets),” he said. “I remember that I had no idea what to do on the weekends. I was totally lost. I didn’t know what to do with myself.”
Of course he then came back to the game for the long haul, something his family surely enjoyed. He joked that his wife, Sandy – a 16-17 handicap, married him purely for the free greens fees. His two step-sons, Brian and Thomas Pemberton, also enjoyed the game growing up. Brian, a former college standout, owns the course record (61) at Alta Sierra.
“After 30-some odd years, I still look forward to it each morning,” said the 49-year-old Chleboun. “You do it because you love it. The idea of spending most of your days outdoors, walking around and meeting people, talking to them and helping their golf swings. Those are things that make it fun for me.
“I have friends who are in sales or work in an office and are really looking forward to retirement. I’m not retiring for a long time. It’s still nice going to work each day.”
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