Heppler right at home at Squaw Valley GC
GLEN ROSE — When 16-year-old Steve Heppler started working at Squaw Valley Golf Course in 1995 it was just to earn a little extra cash while in high school.
Little did he know he’d still be there nearly three decades later — and counting.
“I didn't at first, but I figured why not do what makes you happy,” Heppler said.
He parlayed that early cart-cleaning gig into head professional, but he learned every facet of the operations side of the golf course in the shadow of head professional Duff Cunningham.
“Duff was a great mentor to me and taught me all about the golf business and customer service industry,” said Heppler, who was promoted to head professional in March of 2020 when Cunningham moved on to be the head professional at neighboring Pecan Plantation.
Understanding the role the golf course played in fueling the economy in Somervell County was one thing he learned very quickly early on in his stint at Squaw Valley. Not only do visitors play the golf courses, but they also spend a night or two, eat at the restaurants, shop at the local retailers and visit the many other tourist attractions.
Many people have moved here and will continue to move here because we have such great golf courses and facilities, Heppler said.
“That will just add more tax money to our county,” he said. “We consider all of these factors with all of our decisions we make at Squaw Valley.”
During his short tenure as the head professional, the courses at Squaw Valley, which have always been a favorite of locals and golfers around the state, are now operating for the first time without the subsidy from the county, and that, in part, is due to the cooperation and focus of the county administration.
“We had a plan to get in the black and be self sufficient,” Heppler said. “We did that last year for the first time ever with record numbers and have blown those numbers out of the water this year.”
Last year, close to 50,000 rounds were played at The Lakes and The Links courses, despite the pandemic, and this year, the numbers for rounds played are soaring as well. With that, also comes a bump in food and beverage sales at The Rooster as well as equipment and apparel sales at the pro shop.
“COVID has been terrible in so many ways, but golf has seen a huge rise in play in the last 16 months,” he said. “You couldn't go to movies or concerts or mush of anything indoors, so people chose golf.”
The courses are always in great shape and the friendly staff, Heppler said, are just two of the reasons duffers flock to Somervell County’s two 18-hole courses. In addition, two years ago, Squaw Valley opened its restaurant, The Rooster, where they have been able to have such events as live music, weddings, casino nights and all kinds of other private parties in the banquet room.
Building a new clubhouse is a goal they now have, he said.
Heppler, who moved to Glen Rose from Philadelphia in 1990, earned his degree in business at Tarleton State University, and all the while he worked at the course to help pay his tuition. And while in college, he married his wife Jaki, who had two children, and they put down roots in Glen Rose.
“We love Glen Rose and didn't really want to move or commute, and this was what I wanted to be doing in Glen Rose,” Heppler said.
Despite multiple offers to leave, the love of the course and the community has kept him here.
“I have created relationships with so many of our members and customers and just couldn't see myself leaving just to make some more money,” he said.