Former golf pro Mark Swift plans to make the most of Persimmon Country Club on Butler Road.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: SHANNON O. WELLS - New Persimmon Country Club owner Mark Swift worked as a golf pro on the Oregon Coast for 17 years before purchasing the Gresham-area landmark in late 2017. For a man who recently traded life on the breathtaking Oregon Coast to run a golf club in the hills outside Gresham, Mark Swift exhibits no obvious signs of withdrawal.

In fact, despite the lack of oceanfront, the new owner of Persimmon Country Club, is finding inspiration everywhere he looks.

"For starters, there's the amazing beauty of the place," he said of the popular golf club and conference center at 500 S.E. Butler Road. "You have Mount Hood looming overtop of everything, Mt. Saint Helens in the background, and the architecture here with the lodge-like feeling. It has a lot going for it."

Swift, who served as golf professional at Salishan Spa & Golf Resort in Gleneden Beach for 17 years, purchased Persimmon from American Golf Corp. late last year and took over in early January.

Although he doesn't want to be too specific, he plans some improvements to the two-story clubhouse, 18-hole golf course and restaurant facilities that he hopes will add to Persimmon's current membership roster of 316.

"We need to process the architectural drawings and get construction bids before we say what we're going to do," he explained. "We're in the process of getting a new golf cart fleet for the membership here. We want to pay a lot more attention to membership programming and things going on at the club.

"Our goal," he emphasized, "is to improve the membership experience."

He also wants to bring more events to the club and share its rural-suburban atmosphere with a wider audience.

"We hope to do more outside events, golf tournaments and banquet functions. There's a 5,000-square-foot event center. It really feels like you're getting away from the city. Once you wind your way out here, it seems far, far away," he said. "We want to capitalize on that feeling."

Swift brings his wealth of experience at Salishan to working with his full-time staff of 17, which can balloon to 70 including seasonal employees. So far, he's risen to the challenge that comes with a changing of the guard.

"It's mostly more exciting than scary," he said. "I've been training (for this) pretty much my whole life. It's super exciting and fun to turn this around, create a better experience for members and embrace new people who come out and enjoy us."

Swift is still commuting from the coast but plans to settle in closer to Persimmon with his wife, Heather, and their youngest children, daughters Stephanie, 13, and Reagan, 4.

"The coast has been wonderful to me. I'm very proud to have been there as long as I have," he said.

Regardless how the club evolves, Swift is sure of one thing: He will be the face — and hands-on manager — of Persimmon.

"I'm here all the time interacting with members," he said. "The members here are excited, and people I know are ... willing to help give ideas. It's kind of a perfect little storm to make this place even more special than it is."

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