June 16, 2011 |

Golf pro dislikes cold, but warms to Haines

It started out as a joke around his brother’s office, the suggestion that golfing professional David Canipe go to Haines to work at the brand new Valley of the Eagles Golf Links in the summer of 2006. Everyone knew that Canipe didn’t care for cold weather. He even considered the winters in his native North Carolina to be too harsh. But then Canipe began to consider the notion more seriously. "It’s only five months," he told himself. "You can do five months standing on your head."

That was before he met Beverly Jones. "I was immediately attracted to Beverly. She didn’t wear Carhartt’s and snow boots and that caught my attention. So I finally got up the nerve to ask her out. Her first response was, ‘Well, I am sorry, Dave, but I don’t date men from Haines.’ I said, ‘Well, that don’t matter to me. I’m from Orlando, Florida, so what else you got?’ I asked her to marry me the second year I was here. We’ve basically been soul mates ever since."

Despite her initial resistance, Jones was won over by Canipe’s southern charm. "Because he is from the South he is more polite. He was very kind, very suave, a lot of fun to be around. Up here, the guys are a little rougher around the edges, and this was so different. And he made dinner for me every night after work."

And so, five months has turned into five years and most days you will find Canipe working alongside Jones at her office supply business, King’s Store, on Main Street. They wed in 2007. He still tees up at the Valley of the Eagles on his days off, but only as a customer.

Born in 1953 to a golfing family in High Point, North Carolina, Canipe took up the sport at an early age. His father owned a driving range and Canipe "ate and slept" golf. He credits much of his success to his good early training: his first teacher was PGA Tour legend Raymond Floyd’s father. "Good teachers make good students," Canipe says modestly. He must have been a very good student indeed as he made all-American in golf at the University of Georgia and turned professional in 1974.

He was able to support himself on his tournament winnings until he was forty. "When I needed money, I didn’t go get a job. I went out and played in a tournament." In 1990 he once made $68,000 from a single tour event with a third-place finish.

Canipe reckons that his best year was 1984 when he qualified for the U.S. Open. He played well enough there to be invited to play at the Provident Classic. "Well, hell, I won it. That was a life changing year for me."

When asked how much money he made over his career, "I made about a million dollars," he answers, pauses, winks, "and spent two million."

The stress of competing at high levels agreed with Canipe. "When you are under an enormous amount of pressure, usually that’s a good thing, because you are at the top... That’s what you practice for, to be able to compete under that pressure better than you know how. You get adrenaline going [and] your focus is at a premium."

Canipe also enjoyed the travel, although it eventually became wearying. "I spent 30 weeks of the year in a hotel room. That’s a lot."

Before he arrived in Haines, Canipe had, as he puts it, hit all the bases in the golf industry, from touring to teaching to officiating. It was because he knew the whole golfing business from top to bottom that Stan Jones brought him up from Florida to help get the Valley of the Eagles Links up and running.

These days Canipe has little to draw on in terms of background as he learns the skills required to run a busy office supplies store. "It’s not an easy job," he admits, but he has thrown himself into it with vigor. "King’s Store is my new world now. I’ve kind of reinvented myself as Beverly’s right-hand man. I get all the dirty jobs: vacuum the floors, clean the windows, take out the trash, do the laminating, do the faxing, stuff that anyone who is semi-trained can do. I leave all the brainiac work to the [other employees.]"

Jones adds that Canipe "has come a long, long ways. He is very intuitive about business."

The most difficult thing for a former professional golfer to learn about working in a Main Street store? It’s not working the computer and the photo booths, although these have been challenging for Canipe; it’s the customer service skills. Canipe explains: "When you are playing competitive golf, the people are outside the ropes. But in this store, they are inside the ropes, so that’s a little different. You want to be nice to fans, but that is just in passing; here, these people keep coming back. I am unpolished, cranky, cantankerous, moody...You ask me for an opinion, I’ll tell you what you don’t want to hear."

Jones, however, tells a different story, "He can carry on conversations with the tourists because he has traveled so much. He has a wonderful ability to talk with people. Underneath he has got a soft heart."

More importantly, Canipe provides her the support that she needs to run a business in a tough economic environment. "When I become frustrated, he’ll give me a hug. When I have a bad moment, he’ll wink at me. He loves me. It makes me step back and take a deep breath and know that it’s going to be okay. He lets me be who I am, and I don’t try to change him."

Canipe is also still getting used to trading the relatively urban lifestyle of Orlando, Florida for rural Alaska. "It’s like moving from a Maserati to a Volkswagon." And he doesn’t think he will ever get used to the cold. "I don’t like it much," he says tersely. "I don’t like shoveling snow. I don’t like dealing with ice."

Jones says that she looks forward to eventually selling her business and traveling with Canipe. "He says, ‘I’ll stay here for as long as it takes.’ David has stepped out of his world to be with me, here."

Living in Haines is not all bad though. Canipe was pleasantly surprised to find that he enjoys the vigorous political debates that echo up and down Main Street in Haines. "Politics in small towns is dirty," he concludes, "which makes it kind of fun." Canipe applied to fill the vacated Haines Borough Assembly seat.

In Canipe’s opinion, Haines should focus on population growth rather than tourism. "The population of Haines hasn’t wavered in decades," Canipe points out. "What would Haines look like with 3,000 people? They are going to play golf. They are going to eat. They are going to need office supplies. [The town] might even have to put in a stoplight. You never know."

Another thing Canipe enjoys about living in Haines? "When you wake up to those mountains every morning, it’s not too bad."