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Swartzel driving force at Bedford Springs

Since reopening in 2007, the Old Course at Bedford Springs has consistently ranked among the finest resort courses in the country.

One reason behind this distinction is the meticulous renovation project completed by the renowned Forse Golf Design group. Another major factor is the ongoing work of director of grounds Dave Swartzel.

Swartzel, 46, came to Bedford Springs in 2006 at a time when the golf course was just beginning its major reconstruction project, and he’s been at the helm ever since.

Any golfer fortunate to play this stunningly pristine layout can thank Swartzel and his staff for the near-perfect conditions they’ll encounter. Swartzel, a native of Ohio, grew up on an 800-acre, family farm in Waynesville that milked about 75 Jersey cows daily.

“I started driving tractors and operating equipment at the age of 11 or 12,” Swartzel said. “One of the great things about growing up on a farm is learning the value of hard work.”

After high school, Swartzel enrolled at Ohio State and gravitated toward the school’s agriculture curriculum. Though he didn’t play much golf as a youngster, Swartzel eventually focused his studies on agronomy with a specialty in turf grass science.

He finished his schooling with an internship at the prestigious Tom Fazio-designed Sand Ridge Golf Club in Chardon, Ohio in 1997.

Upon graduation, Swartzel took his first job as the second-assistant superintendent at the Philadelphia Cricket Club’s Wissahickon course, and by 2000, he was promoted to oversee construction of the club’s newly-commissioned Militia Hill course, which opened in 2002.

When Bedford Springs was looking for a superintendent for its new course in 2006, Swartzel got the call.

“Growing up in a small town, the Bedford community really appealed to me,” Swartzel said. “And everything about the resort was first class. When I was offered the position, the decision was a no-brainer.”

Over the past 14 years, Swartzel has been the man responsible for the high-level conditions that Bedford Springs lives up to every day.

“A resort course is a good bit different than a country club course,” Swartzel said. “Golfers that typically play our course plan a whole trip around the experience. They might only play here once or twice a year, but they expect the course to be perfect each and every time.”

In order to satisfy those lofty expectations, Swartzel employs a maintenance crew of 14 to 15 people during peak season. Some are part-timers who work just during the summer months, but he relies even more-heavily on his full-time staff which works year-round.

They include first-assistant Tim Davies, second-assistant Charlie Main, head mechanic Bryan Bridges and resort grounds manager Lester Wallack III.

Swartzel is also quick to recognize the support he receives from the ownership group, Omni Resorts.

“They provide us with whatever’s necessary to maintain this course,” Swartzel said. “From maintenance equipment to technical advice, they’re always there to help us with whatever we need.”

Swartzel and his staff can be proud of their accomplishments. According to customer surveys, the Old Course at Bedford Springs has been the top-ranked Omni Resort, nationwide, for each of the past 10 years.

With Swartzel at the helm, expect that winning streak to continue.

Ken Love is a Blair County resident who covers golf for the Mirror.

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