Dave Richards dedicated his career to focusing on Michigan’s vibrant golf industry.
Even after health problems lost his momentum, he continued to promote the sport he loved. Over the course of three decades in marketing, he has earned the trust of the media and course owners across the state, from public and private railways in Metro Detroit to resort courses in the north.
Richards died Tuesday at the age of 63. No cause of death was given, but his health had deteriorated since he suffered a stroke following back surgery in late 2019.
“He loved what he did,” said Denise Fleckenstein, Richards’ 30-year-old wife. “He loved working with the golf community and advancing people in the industry in many different ways.
Richards ran Resort & Golf Marketing in Bloomfield Hills for over 30 years. He began the marketing journey in 1984 by joining PAR Golf as Marketing Director before the company broke up. He went into business for himself in 1989 by starting a marketing company from his home, according to Crain’s Detroit 40 Under 40 profile, which Richards honored in 1994.
He has worked with clients at all levels of the golf industry including course developers, architects, resorts, instructors and schools. Richards has served in communications and marketing on approximately 150 new construction and renovation projects that were abundant prior to the Great Recession and the ensuing industry decline in Michigan.
If a new place opened, Richards would be there for sure. That’s how he met Ron Garbinski, a longtime local writer and editor. The two ended up as a couple in 1985 when the Jack Nicklaus-designed Bear Golf Course in Traverse City opened.
“He basically taught me how to golf,” said Garbinski, who was friends with Richards for 35 years. “He was at my wedding.”
In fact, Richards was the reason for a wedding. He had introduced Garbinski to Megan Swoyer, another veteran of the Metro Detroit media.
“I met Dave at the Money Tree, which is a classic Detroit bar,” said Swoyer. “Dave loved going to the Money Tree because the media used to hang out there. … He said, ‘You have to give this guy a chance.'”
She did, and Garbinski and Swoyer eventually got married.
“Dave really was the stuff of our lives,” said Swoyer. “He was the ultimate connector.”
Garbinski added: “Everyone thought the world of him.”
Richards’ connections and reliable recommendations make his name at the top of the Rolodexes of many local media members. Jeff Lesson, who has hosted Lesson on Golf at 97.1 The Ticket since 1996, credits Richards for helping get the show rolling.
“Dave had the chance to introduce me to all of the movers and shakers in the industry – including resort and course operators,” Lesson said in a message. “That was especially helpful when we were just starting in 1996 … He also brought me together for 18 holes with well-known architect Tom Doak at Crystal Downs!”
The collaboration and friendship with Doak, who built six of the 100 best golf courses in the world, was a career highlight for Richards, Fleckenstein said.
“It meant a lot to Dave to be able to work with him,” she said.
Richards was also an accomplished, self-taught golf photographer, with work in Golf Digest, Golf World, and PGA Magazine. His pictures from the grand opening at the highly rated Bay Harbor Golf Club still adorn the walls of his pro shop today.
“He really was one of the driving forces behind Michigan as the summer golf capital,” said Garbinksi.
On July 15 at 11:00 am, a viewing is available at AJ Desmond & Sons, 32515 Woodward Ave. planned at Royal Oak, followed by a memorial service at 1pm
Commemorative donations go to the Midnight Golf Program, a Bingham Farms-based nonprofit that “is very dear to Dave,” Fleckenstein said.
“We had a great life together and he is very much missed by many, many people,” she said.
Richards leaves behind his wife, mother Milanne Richards and siblings Cindy Richards and Kris Kaminski.