The late Hall of Fame NBA coach Jack Ramsay taught that basketball teams reflect the personalities of their coaches. Jack’s teams were well-prepared, determined and relentless. Companies, too, mirror their leaders’ values and outlooks, and at Columbia Sportswear, compassion and generosity rule. That’s because the man at the top, Tim Boyle, who shepherded the transition of his family’s Oregon-based company from a small vendor of hats to a global sports apparel powerhouse, is a kind and thoughtful boss.
As soon as the economic effects of COVID-19 arose, Boyle unhesitatingly committed his company to keeping its employees financially well for as long as possible by reducing his salary to $10,000 annually. As reported by The Oregonian/Oregon Live, Columbia Sportswear’s CEO has essentially eliminated his own salary so that regular paychecks could go out to 3,500 employees, including those who work at the company’s temporarily shuttered retail stores, under a “catastrophic pay” program.
Boyle “has cut his own pay to $10,000 a year,” according to the story, “and at least 10 top executives took a voluntary 15% pay reduction.”
But Boyle is not only the CEO of an innovative publicly-traded company, he is also the owner of Oregon’s oldest golf course, Gearhart Golf Links (GGL) on the north coast. I’ve had the good fortune to consult with Tim and his Gearhart team, led by GM Jason Bangild and Superintendent Forrest Goodling, in the years-long process Boyle calls the “polishing of the gem.”
GGL’s revival was enhanced by the construction of several new tees and the creation of a remarkable public putting green, hard by a mini-McMenamins’ serving drinks and snacks, that’s nestled between the first and ninth holes. There is no fee to pay, no checking-in required—just come on over and enjoy. There is even a big bag of loaner putters. It’s GGL’s gift to the town’s citizens and the thousands of visitors who come to enjoy the coast’s beauty and tranquility.
But with the pandemic underway, all of Gearhart Golf’s facilities are closed for the time being, and GM Bangild was “a little surprised that the order didn’t call for all our state’s courses to close, as the governors of our neighbors to the north and south did. ”
Bangild witnessed the rapid appearance of thousands of visitors to Oregon’s beaches even after Governor Kate Brown had recommended that people stay home and practice social distancing. “Knowing what was going on in Washington state, seeing all those people together seemed a bit dangerous,” Bangild said. He wanted to protect his staff, too, so he closed the course, with the blessing of owner Boyle.
Recent weather at the coast has been mostly nice, so some golfers tried to get Bangild to change his mind, but most people he spoke with accepted that the risks were unacceptably high. Bangild talked to a fellow GM in Washington state, whose vehemence regarding the moral imperative to close reinforced his decision.
Gearhart’s maintenance staff, who can stay safely apart as they edge bunkers and mow, are still working, putting the course in what Bangild calls “perfect shape. We’ll be at peak form when we do open, which I hope comes sooner than later, and most likely will reflect the official Stay at Home order timeline. ”
While uncertainty still prevails across much of the country, the data coming in from Washington state suggests that the aggressive response to the virus from Governor Jay Inslee’s office worked. The NY Times reported that Seattle’s infection rate had plateaued around the end of March, with fewer than one person per 1000 catching the virus, while in New York City the infection rate was still going up from 3 people per 1000 to 4. In metro New Orleans, the rate was at almost 5 people per 1000 by the last week of March. That relatively small percentage translates into thousands of cases. If unchecked, the growth curve is exponential until it is brought under control. The current projection is that America’s ascending death curve will peak about the middle of April, and then, we all pray, will begin to decline.
Nicolas Kristof, the Yamhill native columnist for the NY Times, wrote a bracing column in early April warning against complacency as the death rate starts to decrease. He also believes that “a great majority of the deaths in the United States will have been avoidable. South Korea and the United States had their first coronavirus cases on the same day, but Seoul did a far better job managing the response. The upshot: It has suffered only 174 coronavirus deaths, equivalent to 1,100 for a population the size of America’s.”
Golf courses will be among the places where healing can begin once the pandemic has been contained. Golf courses are among our society’s healthiest gathering spots, especially if you walk and carry your clubs. It’s a place where we like to spend time with friends and family. We should hold tightly to our hope of getting back on our courses soon, but first making sure we are not risking another “wave of infections,” in Kristof’s phrase.
Leaders like Tim Boyle, and in his own arena, GGL’s Jason Bangild, are precious resources to us all as we contend with this daunting, terrifying and bewildering crisis.
Show your appreciation for Tom Boyle and Columbia by shopping at www.columbia.com
Jason Bangild will provide updates on Gearhart Golf Links’s re-opening at https://www.gearhartgolflinks.com/
Gearhart Golf Links reopened on April 23, with pandemic protocols in place.