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Amherst College > News & Events > Amherst Magazine > Archives > Winter 2002 > A Brisk Walk Among the Dunes
Grassy dunes.

A Brisk Walk Among the Dunes

By Stacey Schmeidel

High atop 100-foot cliffs that hug the ocean shoreline in southwestern Oregon are 2,000 acres of picturesque dunes, rustling sea grass and emerald madrone trees. Overlooking miles of crashing surf, the site is subject to the unrelenting vagaries of weather; the wind is strong, the fog frequent and the rain, when it comes, is cold. But the temperatures are comparatively moderate: 45 degrees in the winter, 75 in the summer, and a clement 60-something most days in between. And when the fog relents and rolls back from the seaside bluffs, the lofty perch provides an endless and heart-stopping view of the Pacific.

I know what you're thinking: What a great place to play golf.

But read on. Because this is not a story about manicured greens. There'll be no talk about the precision required to hit a one-ounce ball 300 yards into a four-and-a-quarter-inch round cup. The name of Tiger Woods will not be invoked; Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Nancy Lopez will not be discussed.

Instead, this is a story about Mike Keiser '67, a businessman who builds golf courses "for fun" and whose three courses—including the two public links on the cliffs at Bandon, Oregon—are among the most highly ranked, the most classic, the most beautiful in the world.

Keiser's workaday surroundings are far more prosaic than the outdoor environments he creates as a hobby. We met on a clear, pleasant September 10 morning at the North Side Chicago offices of Recycled Paper Greetings, a company Keiser established in 1971 with his wife, Lindy, and Amherst friend and roommate Phil Friedmann '67. Founded on the first anniversary of Earth Day, the company has grown from a eco-friendly card company (remember "Hippo birdie, two ewes"?) to a privately held business that produces 100 million cards a year, employs 850 people and registers $80 million in annual sales.

Housed in a nondescript, squat warehouse four blocks from Wrigley Field, the RPG offices can charitably be described as an afterthought. Fluorescent lights do nothing to soften the harsh white walls or the worn yellow shag carpet that seems to crumble dryly underfoot. "Watch your step," Keiser's assistant advises, indicating a small but treacherous unevenness between the floor in her cubby-hole reception area and the firm's "conference room," a low-ceilinged windowless space housing a fiberboard folding table and mismatched canvas director's chairs. The focal point of the room is clearly the "money wall," an organized array of RPG's cards, post-its and notepads, segmented by type ("GW" for get-well cards, "NB" for "new baby") and rearranged each week according to sales popularity.

We meet on a Monday, but Keiser is dressed informally, in khakis and a faded polo shirt that make Casual Friday-wear look dressy. A tall, tan man with an open face and a flat, Midwestern inflection, he speaks directly and authoritatively. He makes constant, probing eye contact, but his head-on speaking style and watchfulness somehow make him seem guarded—until he starts to talk about golf.

Keiser's been playing since he was nine, when his parents began taking him to the East Aurora Country Club outside Buffalo, New York—a club they'd joined so his mother could develop her game. Keiser fell in love with the sport—and with the club's big, juicy hamburgers—and that summer spent every day "playing golf, practicing golf and caddying," working the greens from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. "What a day," he recalls, dreamily.

Continued >>

Photo: Wood Sabold

 
 

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RELATED STORIES

Golf at Amherst
Amherst's golf facilities are among the finest in New England, with a nine-hole course, an 18-hole track and indoor facilities including driving nets, pitch and putt pads, mirrors and video equipment. The Women's and Men's teams played well last fall, winning the Lady Eph Invitational and placing second in the NESCAC Tournament respectively.

RELATED LINKS

Bandon Dunes Website

Designer Tom Doak on Pacific Dunes

 
     
     
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