COOS BAY — Since buying Watson Ranch golf course last summer, Andre Liloc has been trying to figure out the best way to embrace the history of the course south of Coos Bay.
He decided one of the best ways to do that was to give the 95-year-old course a new name that touches on its rich history.
A grand opening is scheduled for the newly branded Coos Golf Club on Saturday as Liloc and the staff celebrate the new name with the public in a day that will include free golf clinics and food.
“I’m hoping that people can come out and have a good time and see that there are changes going on,” Liloc said. “There’s a lot of people that know about this place (but) a lot of people that don’t.”
As part of the rebranding of the course, Coos Golf Club is flipping the order of the two nines, with the original nine holes, the original routing when the course opened in 1923, with a few changes, now serving as the back nine. On the new scorecards, they are called the new nine and the original nine.
That change puts the 18th hole right next to the clubhouse/restaurant and pro shop.
“My thought is if we can get more tournaments out here, this should be the finishing hole,” Liloc said Wednesday, looking out over the green from the dining room, which has been updated with new carpet and paint.
Eventually, he plans to expand a deck outside the dining area that will give people a chance to sit outside and watch people coming up the closing hole after finishing their own rounds.
Liloc is new to golf course ownership, but has embraced it and the public.
“He has this knack of remembering everyone’s name,” said Alden Peterson, who was hired as head pro last fall. “He’s put his all into this. I know it’s going to work out.
“He’s in it 100 percent. The family is in it. The community is in it.”
Liloc is from Seattle and had a technology and advertising background, most recently working for ESPN.
But his future plans changed after the U.S. Open came to Chambers Bay in Tacoma three years ago.
Liloc took his kids, Margeaux and Brady (then 8 and 5 years old), out to the tournament — they got in free with his paid admission — and they fell in love with the sport.
He hadn’t played much since becoming a dad, but suddenly, he found himself taking the kids to the driving range, and then out to regular courses.
And then he decided to take the plunge into ownership, taking an instant liking to his new course.
“The two sides are so different,” he said. “That adds to the uniqueness.
“The greens are kind of fun. The picturesque view is really neat. It’s really challenging, but it’s fair.”
Liloc said he has “a laundry list” of improvements to the course, including improving the driving range and tee boxes, but that he is enjoying the process.
“I’m having a blast,” he said. “It’s so much fun.
“It’s a whole different beast (from working for ESPN).”
He still lives in Seattle — he and his wife, Karissa, had already paid the annual private school tuition for their children — but comes down a couple of times a month.
“I love being around people and meeting people and seeing people happy,” he said. “It makes me happy when I see everyone excited about what is happening. The support from the community has been amazing.”
Liloc has a brother and two sisters and the entire family got involved with the course.
“For us, it’s a family affair,” Liloc said.
His younger sister, Lara, is learning graphic design and came up with the new logo. The older of his two sisters, Maia Rice, has worked in merchandising and helped with the apparel.
His brother Paolo is managing the restaurant.
“It’s been fun for them to help out,” Liloc said.
Liloc made two hires that he considers very important for the facility, bringing in Peterson as a pro, something the facility hadn’t had for several years, and back in March hiring Kyle Moses to be the superintendent.
Peterson has a history with the golf course from his days playing for North Bend High School.
“Going back to my last job, I was always looking for people that are passionate,” Liloc said. “Alden came to us. He wanted to be a part of this. He wants to see it succeed.”
Peterson said he learned how to play tournament golf and how to be a better golfer during his youth days at the course.
“I knew I need to be out here,” he said, adding “I love teaching.”
Peterson has started offering lessons, something the community has embraced.
Moses, meanwhile, was a good enough golfer he was playing on mini tours and then fell in love with helping maintain courses. He most recently worked at Tres Rios, a course in Goodyear, Arizona.
“It’s great to have him here,” Liloc said.
Ironically, Liloc hasn’t been playing much golf in recent months, instead planning for Saturday’s big event and overseeing improvements to the dining room when he’s been in town.
The exception is Muni Madness, an 18-hole game played on Tuesdays that has proved to be hugely popular.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said of the event, which includes all the holes set up as par-3s with a prize fund and a growing fund for anyone who makes a hole-in-one during the event (which hasn’t happened yet).
Liloc also has embraced youth golf, one of his passions.
In addition to hosting the high school teams from Marshfield, North Bend and Coquille, he also is offering special junior rates.
And Coos Golf Club is joining the PGA Junior Golf League this year, teaming with Bandon Crossings, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and Sunset Bay Golf Club, another new facility for the program. A free clinic for golfers ages 13 and under is being offered Saturday at the course as part of the grand opening.
“Building that youth is huge for us,” Liloc said.
Saturday’s schedule includes a ribbon cutting at 9 a.m., followed by a nine-hole two-man scramble tournament at 9:30.
Peterson will be offering free clinics at 9:45 a.m. and 1:15 p.m., along with the PGA Junior Golf League clinic at 11 a.m.
A free lunch and awards are planned for noon and a special edition of Muni Madness starts at 3.
To sign up for the tournament or the clinics, call the pro shop at 541-267-7257.