We recently caught up with Grant Strobel, head pro at Woods Valley Golf Club, to chat about the Valley Center golf course, his introduction to the game, and how he keeps his competitive game alive.

How did you get introduced to the game?
I played basketball, baseball and golf in high school (Helix High). I’ve always been real competitive but in basketball everyone started jumping over me and in baseball I couldn’t hit. So I started picking the range at Balboa Golf Course when I was a kid. Then I went to college and got my business degree from San Jose State and from there jumped right into the PGA program. My goal is always the same every year. Become the best golf professional I can be on the business side and be a better professional as a player.

Because of the demand on the business side, some golf professionals don’t find a lot of time to actually play as much as they’d like. How do you balance the two?
It’s a lot of work, but I love playing. When I became a head pro last year I figured I would back off on playing but it’s been a blessing in disguise because it’s really taught me to focus my time. I may only have 10 minutes to practice, but that 10 minutes is so focused and concentrated and I want to make the most of it. And it’s really helped out a lot. There’s more meaning now to practice, which means more to your game.

You are considered one of the top players among your golf pro peers, having won the PGA San Diego Chapter Player of the Year in 2014 and qualifying for the National Club Professional Championship and the PGA Assistant Professional Championship. But you never played college golf. How did that happen?
I tried to walk on at San Jose State when I transferred there from Grossmont College, but the coach had just recruited five freshmen and committed to having them play all the matches. I always had a bit of chip on my shoulder from that experience and it’s motivated me over the years. I know I’m not going to join the PGA Tour now but there are still areas where I can compete.

How long have you been the head pro at Woods Valley?
I came to Woods Valley in January of last year from Fairbanks Ranch.

What stands out to you most about Woods Valley?
The JC Golf course has been through such a transformation in the last year. I remember when I first played it back in February with my wife and her family. My father-in-law took a bunch of photos and then comparing those photos to what the course has become is unbelievable. And I’m real proud of the customer service we provide. Valley Center is kind of a “mom and pop” town. Everybody knows everybody. Annelise Frederiksen is our tournament director and she knows everyone that comes in from Valley Center by first name. She gives them a hug and that’s awesome to see. We want to create that atmosphere where everybody knows your name.

How does it play?
Woods Valley is really a story of two nines. The front nine is more links style, more open, while the back nine is spectacular as it winds through the wooded valley, which is where the name comes from. It’s not one of those courses where you hit driver on every hole. If you want to you can, but you don’t have to. It’s so unique.

What is it about this game that is special to you?
There are so many things. Today is my day off and I’m going to play golf with some buddies. And to me playing socially is just as fun as playing on a competitive level. It’s just a great game. It’s competitive, it’s fun, it’s social, it’s so many things and that’s the beauty of it.

Marc Figueroa is a freelance writer who has been covering golf in San Diego for more than 20 years.