Roughly 25 years ago, almost to the day, two friends from The Ohio State University set out on a journey that started at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. I had just graduated from school and Eric von Hofen accompanied me to help with my big move down to Florida to work at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens. The events of that trip are so clearly etched in my mind that it feels like it was just last week that the oil sending unit in my truck blew out as we were passing through Wytheville, Virginia. One loud air compressor and some dialect issues made for a comical repair that shortly got us back on our way. Once we made it to Florida, my housing arrangements fell through so we spent the first couple of nights sleeping in my truck and U-haul trailer. The transition from Ohio to Florida was not quite what I anticipated, but thanks to Eric and his support, I was able to find residence and get started in the right direction.
Upon his own graduation, Eric would return to Florida and join me as an assistant superintendent at PGA National. It was great to be reunited with him and have the opportunity to work together. Eric was clearly determined to achieve success and you could see that he had come to work with a clear goal of where he wanted his career to take him. That determination would see him excel as he moved up the ranks at PGA National. Eric would soon move on to take on roles as head superintendent at such prestigious facilities as John’s Island West Course, Doral, PGA West, Sailfish Point, Naples National, Calusa Pines, and his final role as Director of Agronomy at Riviera Country Club in Coral Gables, Florida. In each of these positions, Eric was able to establish a high-quality maintenance operation that elevated the conditions of the club. Eric is currently putting on the finishing touches of a total renovation at Riviera. The scope of this project was unprecedented, and through all that Mother Nature and the limestone rock could throw at Eric, he maintained his professionalism and persevered through the challenges. The new golf course at Riviera will have Eric’s fingerprints all over it and will be yet another spectacular achievement in his career.
Eric’s abilities as a superintendent are well-documented as he has hosted numerous PGA events with style and composure throughout his career. What has elevated Eric in his pursuits is his incredible business acumen. He has been able to transcend traditional roles and been asked to provide input on a wide array of matters both at his clubs and within the golf industry.
It is the combination of his personality, drive, and business savvy that has allowed Eric to hang up his paint gun and soil probe at such an early stage in his life. I am proud to be able to consider Eric a close friend and it has been an amazing 25 years in the industry. I will miss him in my travels but know that if I ever needed anything he would be right there with me, just as it was on that trip from Ohio to Florida so many years ago. I wish him the best of luck in his next chapters. I am confident he will find success!