The good life on the green links

Carl Robinette

Thu October 30, 2014 9:09pm

Marco Ochoa did not leave college with a deep love for golf club administration, but after landing the gig as golf operations manager at Salt Creek Golf Club in Chula Vista, he learned to love it. If you do what you love, the old saying goes, you never work a day in your life; and it seems to be true in Marco’s case. 
The game, the golf course and the people who play golf make Marco’s job a labor of love, he said.
“It’s not hard to get up and come to a golf course every morning,” Marco said.  “And it’s the people. You know, we have a great group of golfers that comes and plays here.”
Marco, 25, was raised in Tijuana but attended school at Midway Baptist High School in San Diego, and officially became a California resident when he was ready to go to college. He attended Southwestern College and then moved on to graduate from SDSU in 2010.
Before college Marco worked for the club when it was The Auld Course, but took his time finding his way back, even putting in a stint with The Star-News in Chula Vista. 
When he did find his way back it was in the club’s pro shop. Marco quickly took on more responsibility until an ownership change in 2012 when the new owners promoted him to his current position. Now he goes to work just about every day with a smile on his face.
If you are wondering, Marco does play golf.
“The golf game is OK. I wish it were better,” Marco said. It’s a typical golfer line, but it is clear he means it with a pang of frustration. “Especially the short game.” Like the 15th hole, an “easy par 4,” that seems to do him in every time. 
“It’s actually rated one of our easiest holes,” Marco laughed, like a good sport. “But I disagree personally. It’s our easiest hole, but it frustrates me to no end.”
But overall, he said, it’s a great course. Salt Creek is a links-style course which means it is drier, firmer and has fewer trees than most courses. 
While the open spaces and lack of trees mean a lot of wind play on the ball, the links-style course is more drought friendly than traditional courses.
The dought presents a major challenge for municipal golf clubs like Salt Creek, especially as it is neighbors with San Diego National Wild Life Refuge. The course has also reduced its landscaping efforts to allow more natural environment to grow, which means less watering.
“It’s definitely a unique golf course. Everything’s firm, everything’s fast.” Marco said. “Not a lot of ruff, no trees so the wind comes into play a lot. We do offer some of the best covered greens in San Diego overall.”
Despite the course’s many purported virtues, business is not as strong as it was just a few years ago.  With the recession cutting golf from family budgets and lack of interest from younger generations, the club is not seeing enough new faces, Marco said.
“We’ve got our group of loyal members, and they aren’t going anywhere,” Marco said. But without new faces coming in, the club’s future may be challenging, he added.
“It’s a beautiful golf course. If you come here to play golf, I know you will come back,” Marco said.
So for now the club is faring well enough and Marco is getting ready to host tournaments for the Chula Vista Fire Department and Chula Vista Highway Patrol in November and enjoying every minute of it.