By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Keizer residents Rich and Heather Howard have stayed busy since purchasing the Willow Lake Golf Center and Driving Range on Nov. 1.
But none of those days have really felt like work.
“I’ve worked seven days a week, 13 hours a day since we’ve owned it and I don’t feel like I’ve worked a day,” said Rich, who has played golf for 40-plus years and wanted to own a business like Willow Lake for nearly as long.
“When I lived in Hillsboro there was a driving range and I loved that place and I thought I’d really like to have something like that of my very own,” Rich said. “I didn’t just want to own a business. I wanted to own a business that was in an industry that’s a passion of mine, something I can pour my heart into.”
When the Keizer driving range went on the market, Heather, a McNary graduate, encouraged her husband to follow his dreams.
“I’m all about following your dreams,” Heather said. “It was his dream. He had doubts and I just said make your dreams come true and do it.”
In his early 20s, Rich wanted to be a teaching professional but never followed through with it.
However, he’s now working towards becoming a PGA teaching professional. Willow Lake will also partner with the McNary Golf Club professional teaching staff to provide lessons at the range.
The driving range is a family business. Marlene Parsons, Heather’s mom and a Keizer city councilor, has worked at the front desk answering phone calls.
“It’s amazing just to see everything that’s brought this place together and it’s going to be really great for families in the community,” Heather said. “Keizer is a family.”
While Rich is the golfer in the family, Heather is bringing her career as a massage therapist to the range.
The Howards also expanded business hours and plan to add beer, wine and food options to go along with on-site massage and golf-related stretching and fitness programs.
“We’re maintaining many of the programs that existed here and building on them,” Rich said.
With the weather getting colder, outdoor propane heaters have been added to the range.
The Howard’s also want to enhance their retail space and have discussed building a miniature golf course on the property and adding golf simulators.
“We’re looking at everything, Rich said. “Lots of outside the box thinking is taking place. It’s super exciting to think about where this place is now, where we’re going to take it. We’ve got a great community to be a part of.”
The Willow Lake Golf Center, located at 6020 Windsor Island Rd. N., is hosting a ribbon cutting ceremony and Keizer Chamber Greeters on Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 8:30 a.m.