In mid-October, the longtime head golf course superintendent at famed Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, will leave to scale the 22,349-foot Ama Dablam peak in Nepal. Ama Dablam is part of Southeast Asia’s Himalaya mountain chain that also includes Mt. Everest. A woman from Russia and another man from Singapore will join Steve Cook in his climb. They will meet in Kathmandu, the capital of Napal, where a professional guide team will lead them on the 17-day climb.
Cook is also climbing to raise funds for the Michigan chapter of Make-A-Wish, an organization where his wife Robin has been a volunteer for more than 10 years. For more information on his upcoming climb or to donate, visit his blog.
“It’s a very advanced climb,” said Cook, a 33-year member of the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. “It’s going to be tough, but the mountain I am climbing isn’t as big as some of the mountains those in Make-A-Wish climb every day.”
“I wanted to make my climb about something more than myself,” he says. Cook’s goal is to raise $30,000 through individual pledges-per-foot and general donations. “The support I have received from Oakland Hills and those in my profession has been fantastic. It just reaffirms why I got into this business.”
Cook, who has earned the profession’s highest distinction as a certified golf course superintendent, got “into the business” after graduation from the University of Illinois. He worked at Medinah Country Club near Chicago and at the Wakonda Club in Des Moines, Iowa, before joining the staff at Oakland Hills, a 36-hole facility that has hosted six U.S. Opens, three PGA Championships, a Ryder Cup and a U.S. Amateur. The South Course will take center stage again for the 2016 Amateur.
“We are all very proud of Steve and supportive of his expedition,” said Chris Berlin, Oakland Hills general manager. “We know climbing is his passion and this is important to him. And we’ll be waiting for him to come back to us in great shape and tell us all about it.”
He admits that he was never much of an athlete in his youth, but his love for hiking and climbing kept growing as he aged. His first major climb was 14,400-foot Mt. Rainier in Washington, in 2009. He has also tackled the 13,770-foot Grand Teton in Wyoming and Mt. Shuksan in Washington.
But this will be his tallest challenge by more than 8,000 feet. It’s only 6,000 feet shorter than Mt. Everest. Unlike at Everest however, Cook’s group will not need an oxygen supply since the climb is not higher than 24,000 feet. But temperatures could reach 15 below zero and high winds could add to the danger.
“I have been looking at doing something like this for two or three years, and this is the right time,” said Cook, age 56 and a fit 190 pounds. “At my age I can still handle it. I have been training for a year, and training intensely for six months. I am not scared, but I’m a little anxious to get going. I’ve never climbed near this high before and you don’t know how you’re going to do until you get up there.”