BANDON — Anthony Ulloa has big shoes to fill, but he’s thrilled about the opportunity as the new head pro at Bandon Crossings Golf Course.
Ulloa started this week as Jim Wakeman, who has been the head pro for the past decade at the course south of town cut back on his work schedule.
“It was a great transition for me,” Ulloa said. “I’m a first-time head professional and he’s sticking around. He will be a mentor for me.”
Wakeman, who recently celebrated 30 years as a PGA professional, said he is excited about the transition.
“I’m really happy about it,” he said. “I felt I had run my race. I wanted somebody younger, more ambitious, with new ideas.”
That’s something that Rex and Carla Smith, who own Bandon Crossings, are excited about.
“We can always use someone with marketing expertise and he has that in his last occupation,” Carla Smith said.
Rex Smith said Ulloa is filled with potential.
“We are thrilled to have him,” he said. “I have spoken to many people who know Anthony and I have never heard one word of reservation.
“I look forward to him stepping into Jim’s footsteps and becoming everybody’s favorite pro.”
Ulloa comes with experience at a number of golf courses, most recently two in Medford — Centennial Golf Club and Rogue Valley Country Club.
He served as an assistant golf pro for three years among his 10 years at Centennial, where he also was tournament and outings coordinator.
At Rogue Valley Country Club, he was membership and marketing director until the COVID-19 pandemic hit and his position was eliminated.
“That turned out to be a blessing in disguise,” he said.
Ulloa got to spend the past nine months as a stay-at-home dad for his two children, 6-year-old son Hunter and 3-year-old daughter Lily.
As fun as that was, Wakeman’s position became open at a time when Ulloa was ready to return to the golf industry.
“I was itching to get back to work and find something,” he said.
Ulloa’s wife, Laura, works in the health care industry and she and the kids will stay in Medford until the end of the current school year, with the family getting together on his days off.
Wakeman, who will cut back to a few days a week, will focus on golf lessons, something Ulloa also is looking forward to.
“At Centennial, I worked for two or three years as the lead golf instructor,” he said. “I do enjoy it. When I got away from it and focused on tournaments and events, I just wanted to get back to that.”
He particularly enjoys working with youth golfers.
“That’s how I got into the game,” he said.
Ulloa grew up in Medford, but would travel to Grants Pass with his father a couple days a week, and at Grants Pass Golf Club took lessons from Brian Sackett. Ulloa years later worked with Sackett at Centennial, where the latter is general manager.
“If it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t be here having the best job in the world,” Ulloa said.
While he enjoys teaching, it’s his other skill set that should prove particularly valuable at Bandon Crossings.
He’s been in the industry about two decades, working at several private and public courses.
“I am able to pick from each of those experiences and put something together here to increase the rounds and the customer experience,” he said.
Ulloa plans to “think outside the box” to bring new tournaments and events at the course, possibly including some form of night activity or events that use just the driving range. He also hopes to see more use for the events center that is part of the clubhouse at the course.
“I am not going to be afraid to reach out and try new things,” he said. “How can you do anything you can to get people to set foot on the property?”
That’s because once people experience Bandon Crossings, he envisions them coming back for more because of the quality of the golf course.
He’s played the course in several different seasons and said it has always been in fabulous shape, a tribute he said to the Smiths and to head pro Brant Hathorn.
“Rex and Carla have put their soul into it, and I can tell Brant does, too.”
So Ulloa plans to make marketing the course a top priority.
“It really is a gem of a course,” he said, comparing it favorably to famed Bandon Dunes Golf Resort just north of town. “This should be a destination as much as the resort is. It’s just as enjoyable as any of the courses at the resort.”
Ulloa looks forward to getting to know the regulars at Bandon Crossings and also the many supporters of the course in the community.
Wakeman, meanwhile, looks forward to more time on the golf course and less time in the pro shop.
The Smiths are excited both will be around.
“It’s been a great ride with (Jim) and he’s not going anywhere,” Rex said. “It’s great to have him here.”