by Dennis Dalman
Even before the robins appear, the Blackberry Ridge Golf Course staff is chirping happily, eager to invite people to a pre-opening welcome party Friday, March 15.
The staff has a lot to be eager about since Blackberry now has a new golf pro and a new executive chef.
The welcome party, to which everyone is invited will start at 5 p.m. and last until the wee hours. Hors d’oeuvres will be available, and a disc jockey will play music. Visitors will have a chance to find out the new plans for the upcoming golf season. The course will officially open Monday, April 1.
Visitors will also have a chance to meet the new golf pro, Brock Swanson; and the new executive chef, Charles Gibbons. Both have already begun their jobs at Blackberry.
Brock Swanson, who has lived in Sartell since 2005, was born and raised in Moorhead. He earned a double degree in biology and business administration from Concordia College, Moorhead.
“I’m extremely excited about working here,” he said. “It’s a wonderful golf course with great facilities for the banquet side of things and lots of possibilities for growth here.”
Most recently, Swanson was a sales representative for Callaway Golf, a company based in Carlsbad, Calif. His sales territory covered a major part of Minnesota and North and South Dakota. Before that, Swanson worked at the Territory Golf Club near the St. Cloud Airport.
After his college graduation, one of Swanson’s first jobs was as the head golf pro for five years at Pebble Lake Golf Course at Fergus Falls, Minn.
Swanson is an active member in the Professional Gold Association and has earned accreditation through years of ongoing study in PGA courses offered in various cities in various states.
His duties at Blackberry include managing the leagues and tournaments, giving golf lessons for people, individually and in groups; and working at ways to make the golfing experience as enjoyable as possible for all of Blackberry’s guests.
“I’ve golfed here many times,” he said. “It’s a great course for beginners as well as more advanced golfers. It’s good for all abilities.”
In his many years of golfing, Swanson managed to get two of that elusive golfing rarity: a hole-in-one. One happened at the Pebble Lake Golf Course and the other at Reunion Club at Orlando, Fla.
Swanson and his wife, Marnie, have two children: Sydney, 12; and Chloe, 10.
As Blackberry’s new executive chef, Charles Gibbons has been busy planning new menus and dining ideas for the golf course’s customers.
His offerings will be featured on the renamed dining area of the club, now called “Grill 19.”
Although Gibbons is adept at creating virtually every kind of cuisine, when pushed as to his genuine specialty or a particular kind of cooking he loves doing, he tends to say, “Caribbean and Central American.” One of his favorites is “ceviche,” a seafood dish. A lot of the foods of those regions, he said, tend to be spicy and sweet. He plans to have fresh-fish tacos on the menu at Grill 19.
Gibbons was born and raised in East Bethel, Minn. When he was in his junior year at St. Francis High School there, his parents decided to send him to take care of his ailing aunt and uncle as a caretaker on their farm by New Munich. During that year, he attended Albany High School from which he graduated.
Later, he married and decided to move to St. Cloud where he worked at La Casita restaurant in Waite Park. He also took a two-year cooking course at Oakland Vocational School in Anoka, Minn.
“This year (at Blackberry), one of our goals is to target female golfers and offer food that is a bit lighter,” Gibbons said. “Foods that aren’t deep-fried or heavy foods like hot dogs. We’re looking to go a bit healthier on the menu.”
Among the special days customers will soon see, Gibbons said, are these: “South of the Border” Monday nights with margarita and Corona beer specials; Wednesday night specials on martinis and appetizers; Thursday night prime-rib specials; and Sundays will be a family day, with golf and food specials offered in one bundle.
Gibbons and his wife, Kari, have three children – Karisa, a student at St. Cloud State University; Devon, 17; and Michael, 11.