Interview with Bob “Shoe” Gaspar by Marie Brinegar – Images by Jeff Marsh
“You can’t keep them away, they’re just drawn” said Shoe after another packed day, in the middle of winter, at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. Set on the wildly rugged Southern Oregon Coast, Bandon Dunes, the first course, opened in September 1999. Over twenty years later, the Resort now boasts four world-class golf courses (Bandon Dunes, Pacific Dunes, Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald) and is set to open their fifth and final, Sheep Ranch, in June 2020. Shoe has been along for the ride with a front row seat, since Day 1.
Officially, he is the “Director of Outside Happiness” at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, a unique and fitting title, deemed by the resort Owner and Founder, Mike Keiser. Unofficially, he is “Bandon Dunes’ Weather Man”
Bob aka “Shoe” Gaspar is likely the first face you’ll see when you pull up to the Lodge at Bandon Dunes. Always sporting a smile and clipboard, don’t be surprised if he knows who you are, even if it’s your first visit.
We recently got a chance to sit down with this local legend, and pick his brain about what has become to be the most important golf destination, ever.
Marie: How did you make it to Bandon?
Shoe: “I had played golf, but never worked in golf.” I grew up in California. My parents decided to retire in the Bandon area. My girlfriend (now wife of 40 years) Faith and I visited and we fell in love with the area, so we moved to Bandon in 1980 and have enjoyed it ever since. I worked for UPS for 20 years (in California), and drove a Freight Truck in Coos Bay, Ore. for 16 years, retiring from the Teamsters in 1997 with a combined service of 36 years. I was also in the U.S. Coast Guard reserves for 18 years, and that, plus my 6 years in the U.S. Army allowed me to retire with 24 years of service in 2001 — but I had never worked in golf before Bandon Dunes.
M: When did you first step foot on Bandon property? What was it like?
S: In March 1998, Shorty Dow, a local resident who lived on the resort property, was offering tours of the property. “I didn’t know Shorty, but I gave him a call. So we went down there and were up on the (now) 10th tee. I stepped off the tee, down into the fairway and thought, wow, it was amazing – there wasn’t a blade of grass out of place. I turned and told my friend ‘ somehow, I have to be a part of this.”
Through the summer, Shoe caddied for preview groups and in September of 1998 he was hired to be the first employee after the General Manager, he was the #2 and took care of tours, caddies or anything that needed to be done. There were only 9 holes completed, no lodge, no buildings….
M: You are often the first staffer that Bandon guests see when arriving at the property. Why do you do what you do?
S: In the early days, when it was just Bandon Dunes, the 9 hole course, the staff was lean and” I noticed an opportunity to really take care of the guest”. My goal is to make sure that guest’s expectations are met, if not exceeded.”
At that time in Summer 1999, Shoe had officially been the first (and only) Caddie Master, and that summer, he established and was the first Manager of Outside Services.
M: We, of course, are a shoe brand, so we are especially partial to your nickname. You go by the name Shoe. Where did the name come from?
S: Before we opened the golf course, we had some GolfWeek staff come visit. The group had just arrived and when coming out of the van, Dave Seanor, the editor at that time, said wow, you really look like the jockey, Bill Shoemaker. From that day on, the name just stuck, mostly as the GM, Josh Lesnik picked it up and never let it go. I was really happy as Bill Shoemaker was a personal hero of mine and watched him as a kid.
M: You are the unofficially official Bandon Weather Man on Twitter. How did that start?
S: Honestly, when we first opened the golf course, the tee sheet was packed. People were teeing off every 10 minutes so you would think there would be a steady stream, but they would all come at once. From the first car that would pull up, the door would open up even before their feet hit the ground, from inside the car it was “What’s the weather going to do today?” It didn’t take me long to figure out, I need to find out about the weather.
As the internet was in its infancy, I had a few websites I checked for weather, satellite and radar. Then one day, about 4 years ago, the brilliant person that is Mr. Keiser said, “Shoe, what do you think about tweeting the weather in the mornings?” and I didn’t even know what tweeting was. My IT guys set me up with an account and now everyday the weather plus the feel, I give a feel number for the day and then a rating for the day. It’s a playability number from 1-10, nothing to do with the sunshine.
M: The Sheep Ranch hype is loud. Have you had a chance to walk the course? If so, what makes it special?
S: It’s always been a great piece of property – the mystique around it. I had the honor to play 13 holes and walk the other 5 with Mike Keiser and Phil Friedman. I’ve never been to Scotland or played The Old Course, but judging from pictures and what people say, I think it’s the closest to playing in Scotland. The hole locations are amazing. The opening hole is one of the most spectacular opening holes I’ve ever seen – it’ll knock people’s socks off. And of course you will have 8 other holes on the ocean.
I agree with Bill Coore when he said “I think it will fit in nicely with the other courses.”
M: Do you have a favorite hole on property?
S: I’ve always got to go back to the 4th at Bandon – the first time I walked the front nine, the turf was so new, I had to walk flat footed, as instructed by the first superintendent. So I walked down #1, and thought “This is cool”, then # 2, “Great!”, #3, “Amazing view” — I walked down #3 and there was no sign to tell me where #4 was. I stood there for what seemed like hours, but probably just 4-5 minutes just trying to visualize where #4 could possibly be. Anyway, I finally found it, walked down the fairway and when I made that turn – oh my gosh – that green was sitting in the ocean! It was amazing — it – was – amazing.
So I have to say No. 4 at Bandon is still my favorite hole.
M: If someone hasn’t been to Bandon yet, why should they visit?
S: I think you should come visit Bandon, if you’re a golfer, as it’s probably the most amazing experience you’ll have on one piece of property, with our soon to be five and a half courses.
M: What should someone know before coming to Bandon Dunes?
S: If you are coming to Bandon, you are coming to the pacific Northwest, so you really have to be prepared for the elements. Don’t get caught without your rainsuit.
M: Finally, do you have a favorite pair of TRUEs?
S: True Knit is my favorite, so comfortable.
“It’s been one heck of a ride. God has blessed me greatly by putting me at Bandon Dunes.” – “Shoe”