A huge loss for golf . . .

  I met Dean James shortly after I moved to Santa Rosa in the late ‘70s.

 He was one of the first “golf people” I dealt with after leaving Klamath Falls, Ore. I had moved from Palo Alto to Oregon as Sports Editor of the Herald and News, moving on to City Editor there.

   With the birth of our second and third children, it became apparent my meager salary wasn’t sufficient. Plus, winters were downright brutal at times . . . first year there, the temperature dropped under zero degrees and stayed that way all week, even in the middle of the day !!!

   I had some interest from newspapers in Monterey, Reno,
Sonora, Grass Valley and others, including Santa Rosa.  All in all, it was a good decision for me and my family to come here.

   And that includes a lot of the people I met – and continue to meet.

   Count Dean James in that group.  I first came into contact with him when he was already a legend at Oakmont GC. I recall driving out to Oakmont to talk to him about his pro shop being burglarized..

Dean James

   He was quite willing to talk to a guy who was a stranger to him, and was quick to welcome me to Sonoma County. I met his wife, Wendy, and she was equally gracious. At that time, they lived across the street from  Oakmont GC.

   Over the years, as Dean “retired,” moved on to Fountaingrove and other spots where his attitude and experience proved invaluable, he was always available to a nosy reporter, always willing to give me a straight answer.

   As a newspaper guy, this somewhat uncommon behavior was greatly appreciated.

   Dean, a graduate of BYU, where he excelled in golf, moved to Santa Rosa in 1967 and he and Wendy were married in 1968. He became Director of Golf at Santa Rosa G&CC in 1972.

  He later moved to Oakmont, where he held court for 29 yards. Dean retired, but not really . . . he was recruited by Fountaingrove CC to manage golf operations there.

    Dean, born in San Francisco in August, 1936, ran the Woodstock Open, sponsored by his longtime friend Charles Schulz, the event running for 14 years and raising $300,000 for Home Hospice.

A Celebration of Life will be held at Santa Rosa CC Feb. 11, from 4:30-7 p.m. Donations are welcomed to, where a scholarship has been established in Dean’s memory.

   I hadn’t talked to Dean lately, the last time was when we ran into him and Wendy at Mary’s Pizza in on Summerfield Road.

    SSU golf coach Val Verhunce recently let me know that Dean was having a tough time.


   I reached out to members of the golf community to get some thoughts from them on Dean. If I missed you or didn’t hear back and you still want to make a comment, email me at

  Here are some of the responses I received:

Dan Ross

    Dean James was a great golf pro and an even better person. In 1976 Dean was my sponsor as I received my PGA class A credential. Through all the years he was always there for me with perspective. 

   I will miss not seeing Dean on my walks around Spring Lake where I would frequently run into Dean and his wife Wendy.

   One of Dean’s legacies will be all of the people he brought into the golf business and benefiting from working for him . . .it’s a long list believe me.

He will be missed . . RIP Dean . . .

Jess Stimack

  I loved my early morning shifts with Dean & Jeff Pace at Fountaingrove. He was a true “Pro’s Pro”. He was extremely welcoming and helpful when I first got into the golf business. He could talk golf all day long, and I mean ALL day!  

  I will miss his extremely engaging conversations. One of my favorite interactions with Dean is when Zack Christ and I while coaching (Maria Carrillo & Montgomery) ran into him at Oakmont during a high school tournament. We walked into the grill to grab a soda mid-round and there was Dean absolutely holding court during March Madness watching his BYU Cougars. 

   We talked high school golf for the quickest 15 minutes, that could have turned into an entire game if we didn’t have to get back on the course.

   We lost a great man.

Rod Metzler

Thank you for letting me know . . . Dean was a great guy.


Emmy Moore Minister

NCPGA Honorary Member

I am so, so sorry to hear this news. He was the ultimate professional.

 God bless his kind soul,


Doug James, Dean’s son

  Thank you again for the opportunity to give you some thoughts about my dad.  I can’t put into words how important my dad was in my life.  While writing these thoughts I put it in a context which will make it easier for you to transition to your article.


  Dean (my dad) taught me the value of hard work.  When my dad was young, he delivered newspapers and later shoes throughout San Francisco while helping his dad at SH Frank and Company. These early years formed the foundation for his business acumen, but more importantly his love of people.  Dean was introduced to golf after walking to his local golf course in South San Francisco (Millbrae). 

   Dean learned that even at his young age, he could work as a caddy and get paid more than what he was receiving for delivering shoes. Dean worked hard to learn the course and the players’ personalities so he could earn their trust and extra tips for his familiarity with the course. This was when he learned, if you work hard and deliver excellent customer service, you can earn more. This lesson served him well throughout his life.


   Eventually, Dean went from being a caddy to having the opportunity to play the game too. He used the skills he acquired from years of observing to help improve his own game. Dean assumed he would eventually go back to work for his father, but golf changed the trajectory of his life.


   Dean was not the most scholarly student in high school, so naturally college was not on his radar. But Dean continued to work hard not only for his father, but as a caddy, and improving his game when he could. Dean’s close friend John Geertsen had gone off to college and called Dean to ask if he would be interested in playing for the college team. This was something Dean never thought possible!  

   He jumped at the chance, an opportunity provided by golf and hard work. Dean’s BYU college opportunity completely changed the trajectory of his life and that of his whole family. He was the first member of his family to attend college! And like concentric circles when a stone is thrown into a pond, those opportunities continued throughout his life through the game he loved and appreciated so very much.


I hope these thoughts can help.  Please let me know if you have any questions or need more information.  Again, thank you very much for honoring my dad with the article!!!


Sparky Schulz, Dean James and Dean’s brother, Larry


Val Verhunce

    I was probably the only one in the area that didn’t work for Dean, but gained so much from our friendship.

    Our connection wasn’t always golf but was more with Sparky’s Gang.  A group of local businessmen, pros and friends would share time each year for Sparky’s birthday.  We would have lunch, tell stories and play 9 holes for bragging rights.

  The reason this became so special was once Sparky passed away, Dean and I made sure to keep the gang together.  I realized soon after how important that would be for all of us.  His efforts were something he had always done throughout his professional and personal career.

   Dean was a master at bringing people together for the right reasons — Joy, laughter, camaraderie and a true love of friendship.

John Theilade

  Like Val I never had the opportunity to work alongside Dean, but I have known him since 1997 when I came to the Santa Rosa area to work at the Fountaingrove Club.

      Dean  kindly introduced this area to me and gave   great advice regarding Sonoma County golf.  When I took the job at Oakmont in 2012, Dean was there to fill me in on the great history of the club. 


   Dean was very instrumental in making Oakmont, now called Valley of the Moon, a wonderful venue for the many residents who live here.  

   For the past 12 years Dean would always come into my office and tell stories.  One of my favorites:  Four ladies came into the golf shop and asked Dean “where are all the people?”  Dean said, “well we have over 270 golfers playing today, and that’s a good day for us.  One of the ladies said, ” I’m talking about all the spectators for the U.S. Open that is being held here.”

  Dean’s response was: “Sorry ladies, you are at the wrong Oakmont Club.  You need to go East about 3,500 miles for the other Oakmont Club.”

  Dean was the true PGA Golf Professional.  He mentored those who went on to become  Head Golf Professionals in their own right.  He was a great promoter of the game of golf and he will be truly missed.

Click here to find out more about our great courses!

Jessica Reese Quayle

    I have wonderful memories of Dean James at Oakmont. As you know, I grew up practicing and taking lessons from Dave Johnson at Oakmont. 

    Dean James had a direct view from the old pro shop to the driving range. When I was around 14, I was hitting golf balls and going through a major swing change. Which meant I was trying to feel out the unfamiliar positions and get a new understanding of my swing.

   I was frustrated, tired, and not trusting the process, which left me on the brink of tears. At that point in my game I had already been ranked #1 in the World with my win at Junior World and an AJGA All American, so making a change was difficult mentally and physically. 

   Dean walked down from the pro shop after I had been beating balls for hours and told me something that has stuck with me all of these years. He said, “I have never seen you hit the ball so poorly, but your swing looks better than it ever has.”

    This gave me the reassurance that I was doing the correct thing and to continue making the change that very much needed to happen. Needless to say, I made the swing change and had a fantastic year. 

   Dean always supported me from a young age to where I am now. In later years, I was honored that he took golf lessons from me. He was always trying to get better and learn, a true golf professional in every aspect.

Derek Felciano

North Bay Golfing community,

Chuck Bartley, Dean James, Larry James, Mike Jonas, Sparky Schulz

Sonoma County Legacy FIVESOME . . . . These gentlemen showed true friendship. ⛳️Dean Frederick James, you will be missed.

Note: These are just the first responses I received . . .  if you would like to contribute your own, email me at

Let’s hear from you . . .  



  Thanks for your comments, questions and suggestions. I appreciate them and would like to get as many as possible. If you have information about anything golf-related, including upcoming clinics, activities, tournaments or sales, let me know.

   And if you have questions, complaints or compliments about golf in our area, let me know and I’ll make some inquiries. Email me at