Leading an agronomy team of 100 adults is not that much different than coaching a high school basketball team of 15 teenagers. At least that’s what Ken Nice thinks. He’s done both.
Currently the director of agronomy at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, site of this week’s 5th U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, Nice coached junior varsity and varsity basketball at Bandon High School between 2002 and 2017.
“Within a basketball team you want to be fair with everybody, but at the same time you also have to realize what makes one player tick doesn’t make another player tick,” said Nice.
“Within the big scope of a group, you have to forge those individual relationships that are different among everybody. That’s one of the things that I liked about coaching and what I like about my current job. Ultimately, it’s making it a positive environment where people want to work together and be on the same page.”
Hoops came before golf for the Oregon native, who grew up in Corvallis, where he met the first of three coaching role models. His father was a professor at Oregon State University, and Nice often sat in on practices led by that school’s head coach, Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Ralph Miller.
In high school, Nice played for Mike Doherty, the winningest coach in Oregon history.
He then played under another Oregon coaching legend, John Roche, while earning a degree in psychology at Willamette University in Salem.
“I was a pretty versatile player, good shooter, a ballhandler who could defend, and very athletic,” said the 6-foot-1 Nice. “After college, I played in city leagues while working in Seattle. But I recognized that golf is a game you can get better at. I wasn’t going to get better at basketball.”
The golf bug bit while Nice was a foreman for a commercial landscape company. His growing interest in the game, especially in coastal links courses, led him to study under Tom Cook, a professor in the turf management program at Oregon State. That led to an assistant superintendent position at Astoria Golf and Country Club in Warrenton, Ore., from 1997 to 1999. He arrived at Bandon Dunes in March 1999, two months before the resort’s first course, Bandon Dunes, opened for play.
“I worked as an assistant superintendent first at Bandon Dunes and then became construction superintendent at Pacific Dunes,” said Nice. “I did the same for Bandon Trails and Old Macdonald before being elevated to director of agronomy overseeing all courses. Right now, I’m also working on construction of the Bally Bandon Sheep Ranch Course (scheduled to open in 2020).”
Pacific Dunes and Old Macdonald will be used for the stroke-play portion of the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball; the latter being the match-play venue.