By Grant Lucas

The Bulletin

Brent Moschetti had been a member at Kah-Nee-Ta Golf Course for some 20 years. He had been a business owner and was just settling into retirement at the turn of the new year.

His retirement lasted all of 40 days.

The course on the eastern flank of the Warm Springs Indian Reservation, a course he had grown to love, was on the verge of closing, and it was up for sale by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. Any other year, Moschetti would not have been able to be the facility’s savior. The timing was perfect. And Moschetti took advantage.

“I know golf,” says Moschetti, 60 and manager of golf operations for Rock Solid Golf Management, a company he formed to run Kah-Nee-Ta. “I was raised around golf. … I just decided I didn’t want to wait too long.”

In early December, Kah-Nee-Ta, a 6,352-yard par-72 course originally designed in the 1970s, was on the market after operating in the red for the previous four years, somewhat coinciding with the resort moving its casino to the current U.S. Highway 26 location in Warm Springs. The resort was seeking an outside operator to lease the course. On Jan. 28, Moschetti, who first learned of the course’s availability in mid-January and made a proposal of $90,000 to obtain the property, was running the very course at which he had for years been a member.

“I love being on the golf course,” says Moschetti, who for nearly 30 years was a majority owner of Madras’ Shielding International before selling the company this past winter — presumably to retire. Moschetti notes that he was an assistant superintendent at Rock Creek Country Club in Portland for several years in the 1980s.

“I like the work (in golf). Basically, the money I’m doing it for, I’m paying myself (nothing). I’ve got money coming in for about 14 years after selling the company. I don’t need the money. It was a perfect time for (Kah-Nee-Ta) and me. If it had happened a year ago, I couldn’t have done it.”

Yet as excited as Moschetti is to build Kah-Nee-Ta back into a championship- and resort-style course, he concedes that he is taking some risk.

The risk, Moschetti says, stems from Kah-Nee-Ta’s low revenue numbers over the past few years.

According to Moschetti, there were some years during which the facility was making up to $350,000 per year. But, he says, “it seemed like when they were making money, they were still spending ridiculous money in salaries — $200,000 to $300,000 a year in salaries. For a golf course.”

Moschetti says that last year was one of the lowest revenue totals Kah-Nee-Ta had ever recorded, making about $110,000 in green fees, carts and rental clubs, among other sales. After looking at the facility’s financial records for the past seven years, Moschetti discovered that Kah-Nee-Ta was losing about $300,000 a year. Still, he was eager to take control and try to turn things around.

“Basically,” Moschetti says, his voice rising with excitement, “I’m like a Band-Aid.”

In January, he signed a one-year contract to take over Kah-Nee-Ta. If things go well, Moschetti says, that agreement will extend to five years.

“But,” he adds, “I just want to go for one year and see what happens.”

So far, things have gone well for the course’s new management.

Moschetti has been fortunate to have all of Kah-Nee-Ta’s existing maintenance equipment at his disposal, along with all of the structures on the course, such as the pro shop and concession stands. Kah-Nee-Ta has never operated at less than $400,000 for a year, Moschetti says, though he is confident he could do so at no more than $200,000 as he has allotted up to $70,000 for fertilizer and other course necessities while keeping labor costs manageable by operating with a lean and efficient crew, which includes his oldest son, T.J. Moschetti

Moschetti wasted little time in rebuilding Kah-Nee-Ta. Once the snow melted, staff members re-cut all the sand traps and added new sand to them. The mowers were used to trim the rough, which Moschetti says he would like to keep at 3 inches maximum — a length he describes as “resort-style.”

He and his crew pulled up all 16 ball-washers with attached garbage cans and the stakes marking hazard areas and repainted them all. They put in new pin flags and cut the greens. Kah-Nee-Ta opened on March 10, and Moschetti says there has already been positive feedback.

“The people that play out here, who have played for years, are just amazed at what we’ve done just in a short time here,” Moschetti says. “We had a couple days (in late March) at over $1,200 in greens fees in one day. If I can do that five or six times a month, I’ll be fine.”

Green fees have been lowered, Moschetti notes, and the most expensive days to golf at Kah-Nee-Ta will be $28 (down from $40) during in-season weekends through September. Add in reasonable fees for carts ($25 for 18 holes, down from $30 last year) and yearlong memberships costing $600 for families, a price that includes carts, and Moschetti says, “you can’t golf cheaper than that anywhere that I know.”

Moschetti says that the Kah-Nee-Ta board of directors that accepted Moschetti’s offer to lease the course is actively looking for buyers to take over Kah-Nee-Ta.

After a brief retirement, Moschetti stepped in to help revitalize the course at which he had been a member for two decades. He is doing so with a vision of a championship golf course and without paying himself a dime.

“It wasn’t a big thing about being paid for me,” Moschetti says. “It was trying to make it survive, maybe we can get a corporation to take this thing over. It’d be tough, but there’s people out there that know how to make it run. … I could get this thing up in two years to $200,000 in greens frees and it would pay for itself.

“We’ve got the course in great shape, and we plan on keeping it that way at any cost. I plan on running this thing until next February. After that, I’ll take a look. … Whatever it takes to keep it in good shape, that’s what I’m planning on doing for this year. Hopefully it works out and I’ll sign a five-year deal.”

—Reporter: 541-383-0307, .