Ha-Sho-Be Golf helps tribes develop a presence in the golf industry

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DULUTH, Minn. - A group of professionals linked to golf became very excited by what they were seeing in Indian country - a second wave of entertainment investment that was going to create ''destinations'' for visitors with activities beyond lodging and gaming. Many of those destinations would include golf courses.

For the nine people who would make up the management team of Ha-Sho-Be Golf - all members of various tribal nations - this expansion of a recreation and lifestyle that they loved would make opportunities for both their individual communities or for Indian country at large.

But with the opportunities might come a danger.

''I think that there are non-Native management companies that are aware of the resources that casino gaming has given to tribes and they know that tribes do not have a lot of expertise or knowledge of golf. The opportunity is there to inflate prices and fees,'' said Steve McDonald, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation member and company president.

The professionals behind Ha-Sho-Be Golf saw a way to help tribes develop golf without that danger. In October 2006, they launched their 100 percent Indian-owned comprehensive golf management company.

''We want to give tribes the fair prices,'' McDonald said. ''Ha-Sho-Be Golf serves as a watchdog.''

''There are a couple of things that excite me about being a part of an all-Native golf management team and the concept of Ha-Sho-Be Golf,'' said Paul Hooser of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and director of golf course management for the western division of the company.

''The first and foremost is the opportunity to work with tribes to provide golf to be played and a career path possibility for tribal members. The second is the development of other business to build on the gaming industry. ... Golf is a perfect add-on and moves the tribes into the resort and vacation destination industry.''

The fledgling company, named for ''sun'' in the Seminole language, is just initiating discussions with its first potential major client. But the experience of the managers in the golf business is extensive and the territory covered by the management team's home affiliations is vast. This is why the company has two home bases: one in Hollywood, Fla., and one in Walpole Island, Ontario.

Tribal affiliations of the team members include the Seminole Tribe of Florida; the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; the Eastern Band of Cherokee; Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation; Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians; Ojibwa; Delaware of Walpole Island First Nation; and Klamath-Modoc.

Golf experience among the team has an equally large span - from professional players to those with experience in course design and management with a total of eight decades in the golf business.

The lone woman on the team, Cheryl Mitchell is director of tribal and corporate relations for Ha-Sho-Be Golf and is North America's first Native woman golf professional. She is Potawatomi, Ojibwa and Delaware of Walpole Island First Nation. Mitchell sees a positive future for the company and the communities.

''Ha-Sho-Be Golf will foster the growth of our Native people by training them in the golf industry and instilling in them the belief that they can achieve by doing.''

The wide range of experience gives this new company confidence in offering all-encompassing services from golf course concept to assessment, creation, final management and, ultimately, the goal of Ha-Sho-Be Golf.

''We want to, as a management group, after three years step away and hand the facility over to the tribe so that they can truly be a sovereign nation,'' McDonald said. ''The key that Ha-Sho-Be Golf is all about is the training of those particular members of that tribe, four to five tribal members who show a passion for golf and are interested in the management.''

Some of what the golf management company will offer is an honest assessment of whether a course is a good investment for a tribe, assessing both the financial and environmental possibilities and problems.

''One of the main factors [for golf courses] is the compatibility to the land and the environment,'' McDonald said. ''We're not only environmentally sensitive, we're tradition-sensitive as well.''

The team

Ha-Sho-Be Golf's management team, taken from the Web site, are shown alphabetically. Full biographies and company contacts are available at www.hashobegolf.com.

*Paul Hooser, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, director of golf course management, western division.

*Donavon Maney, Eastern Band of Cherokee, director of construction and design.

*Steve McDonald, Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, company president and president of acquisitions and sales.

*Demando Mingo, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, director of golf course management, eastern division.

*Cheryl Mitchell, Potawatomi, Ojibwa and Delaware of Walpole Island First Nation, director of tribal and corporate relations.

*Marcellus Osceola, Seminole Tribe of Florida, company treasurer and director

of finance.

*Mitch Osceola, Seminole Tribe of Florida, company vice president and president of golf course management.

*Jayson Ray, Klamath-Modoc, company secretary and president of construction and design.

*Steve Tooshkenig, Potawatomi, Ojibwa and Delaware of Walpole Island First Nation, director of tribal and public relations, Chippewa Delaware.