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Dominic Atlan

Everyone has an ED/story - an educational experience. What was learning like for you? Was it hard? Did you get help from a teacher or family member? Or did you figure it out on your own? Were there lessons both inside and outside the classroom?
Though this ED/Story winds through a couple of decades, several states and at least two continents, it began near London, England. This is where Dominic Atlan, manager of Castle Oakes Golf Course, and a dedicated public servant, was born, spent the first 27 years of his life, and was educated.
Dominic came up through the British trades program, and here’s a little background. Early in the last century, England developed a TRIPARTITE SYSTEM of education. Students were placed in one of three tracks; either GRAMMAR (language, literature), MODERN (doctors, lawyers) or TECHNICAL, for those who would work with their hands - welders, plumbers, and in the case of Dominic, a mechanic.
Dominic’s eventual pursuit of auto mechanics was the result of seemingly unrelated events. First, he had no interest in mechanics, next he got a motorcycle and finally, he took a shop/metal-working class in his last year of high school. The teacher, a gentleman named Rob Pryor (with whom Dominic is still in touch and who he says had a great influence on him) saw early on that Dominic was not great at metal work. However, after high school he was instrumental in getting Dominic into motorcycle racing and working on his motorcycle, and before he knew it, Dominic was in technical college studying diesel mechanics and had an apprenticeship with the British arm of Ford motors. He worked as a diesel mechanic for 10 years.
By that time Dominic’s father (who had worked in the restaurant industry all over the world) was working in Reno and Dominic left England to join him. He did some mechanic work and played golf, and it was there he decided to take golf on as a career — not playing — but running a professional golf course. Once again, Dominic gained acumen and skills through apprenticeship, as qualifying to run a professional golf course at that time was done so by about 6 years of hands - on training.
It should come as no surprise that golf, according to Dominic, is not like having a job…he loves what he does and he credits himself with an ability to be open to new things and believes he is fair and is able to get on with people (certainly contributing to his success in public service).
…and I thought, there it is! THAT’S the story…! But is wasn’t the whole story…wasn’t the ED/Story.
A few days after the interview I ran into a parent of a former student of mine (now in high school) who told me what success his son was having in the youth golf program at Castle Oakes and of course, what an enormous and positive role Dominic has in the mentoring of the young golfers (both boys and girls) who participate. So I figured I better go back to the interview…back to my notes…and there it was.
First, I listened again to how Dominic speaks with such high regard for the British technical/trade program. He describes how they were affordable and manageable and once students passed their exams they were placed in a pool of trained workers. These workers could go on to be employed, secure a future, even perhaps further it.
He bristles at the thought of these programs being pulled back, the result of funding and changing needs and bemoans how this country doesn’t even seem to prioritize the training of these skills.
It was then he talked about the youth golf program and how proud he is of the interaction the program has with young people. He actually wondered out loud, if it doesn’t somehow give participants practice in skills they just might not be getting anywhere else. From gaining confidence to following directions to the actual hands - on practice of the sport - these are all lessons in not giving up, staying with something. He then seemed to speak directly to junior high and high schoolers saying, “if you’re not sure what you want, or you’re worried about grades, don’t lose hope - give it time - everyone has something they can do”. He jokingly added — “if you want to work with your hands, we all have knowledge now LITERALLY at our fingertips! Use it to find what you want and go after it…!”
…and there it was - Dominic Atlan, who was once influenced, is now doing the influencing…
After scouring my notes I also remembered something else about the day I interviewed Dominic. The interview was over we headed out of his office into the golf shop and one of the staff had a question. Dominic gave him an answer and also, a quick pat on the arm…and as I was leaving, a new customer wanted to talk about the golf course and Dominic extended is arm and there politely ensued a friendly, professional grip between the two men — and it occurred to me — in a lot of ways…
…Dominic Atlan STILL works with his hands…
…and that’s an ED/Story.

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