High Cliff Golf Course owners reflect on their time at St. Mary Catholic while preparing to host 2021 Greater Zephyrs Open

By Abriela Thiel (’19)

As High Cliff Golf Course owners Dan Rippl (‘77) and Jeff Luniak (‘76) prepare to host this year’s Greater Zephyrs Open event, the two reflected on what their time at SMCS meant to them, taught them and what they hope current students will take away from their time at SMCS.

Both Luniak and Rippl became interested in golf at about 12 years old. Rippl says for a youth to play golf then, it was only a dollar, so he remembers hauling his clubs to High Cliff Golf Course regularly.

When they went to St. Mary Catholic High School, Luniak and Rippl were on the golf team together where their appreciation for the game continued and their friendship began. Since high school, Rippl and Luniak stayed in contact and were on a golf team together at High Cliff for years. With Rippl’s background in insurance and acquisitions and Luniak’s background in customer service and operations, the two paired up to purchase High Cliff Golf Course in 2013. Since then, they have made numerous changes to the course, earning the title of Best of the Valley for seven years in a row.

After golfing in the GZO event for years, Luniak and Rippl look forward to hosting this year’s Greater Zephyrs Open event to see the family-like connections between SMCS community members and to show off the improvements that have been made to the course over the last few years. Rippl explained that High Cliff Golf Course used to be St. Mary Catholic High School’s home golf course and they are excited to once again be able to help their alma mater by hosting this year’s event.

Along with greatly enjoying their experience with SMC golf and other extracurricular activities, Luniak and Rippl say SMC taught them many life lessons that have helped them into their professional careers.

“We used to have nuns as our teachers in the beginning, and we had a very high respect for those people. Having that high regard for your educators does very well in preparing you for the business world,” Rippl said. “You learned a general respect for others, and that really set the position for my life.”

Luniak added that because students at SMC can form such close relationships with teachers and staff, it is easy to respect and appreciate the work they do for their students.

With Luniak, Rippl and each of their siblings having attended St. Mary Catholic High School, the two agreed that in addition to the school providing quality education and opportunities for involvement in extracurriculars, they also feel a strong sense of family in the SMCS community.

Luniak says outside of the classroom, being able to participate in multiple extracurriculars enabled him to build relationships and gain other important life skills like teamwork and communication.

“I think all of those extracurricular activities that went on – that was what was really good for me. People always post on Facebook, ‘Would you go back to high school?’ I’d go back in a heartbeat for all the extracurricular stuff,” Luniak said.

The two are grateful for their time at SMCS and look forward to being able to give back to the school and support current students by hosting the SMCS Booster Club’s single largest fundraiser for co-curricular activities on Friday, July 16.