Circling Raven Director of Golf puts golf to work for Veterans

Circling Raven Director of Golf Chris Runyan is the first card-carrying PGA pro in his family.

He’s also the first U.S. Marine veteran in a long family line of Army, Navy and Air Force vets dating to the Civil War.

Those two details in the Spokane native’s history converge into the guiding narrative of Runyan’s current and future life. He cares deeply about every man and woman who has served their country in whatever capacity. He honors whatever scars they carry forward, alongside his own.

And he brings that care and honor to bear in his job, weaving them tightly with his lifelong love for the game of golf, which led him to where he is today — heading up Circling Raven at Coeur d’Alene Casino Resort Hotel (Idaho’s No. 1 course as rated by Golfweek), and serving as the founder and executive director of one of the Pacific Northwest’s largest fundraising tournaments, the Dan Kleckner Golf Classic, which celebrates its 13th edition this summer.

“It’s really the cherry on top of the golf sundae,” says Runyan of Circling Raven. “My dad was a big golfer and I’ve been playing since I was three. I worked at a golf course before I joined the Marine Corps. I didn’t feel fulfilled, so I needed to do something else. That’s where the Marines got involved.”

During basic training at Camp Pendleton in the late 1990s, Runyan “blew out a knee and my left ankle,” but, adhering to the Marine code of “suffer in silence,” kept it to himself for the better part of two years until he “basically could no longer walk.”

While stationed in Twenty-Nine Palms, Calif., he sought out the advice of a civilian doctor. “I had knee surgery, and during recovery they found out that my lower spine had degraded. I was essentially a 23-year-old with a 60-year-old back. Once that got back to the Marines, they’re feeling was, ‘Well, if you can’t hump six miles with a 60-pound pack on your back, then we don’t really have any use for you.’”

After an honorable discharge, Runyan returned to Spokane. He ran into the head pro at Downriver Golf Course, where he had worked as a kid.

“He asked me if I wanted to work behind the shop counter, so I did. Then I found out that if you turn pro, you get free equipment and free golf. I figured that was a pretty good trade off. I took the PAT, passed it on my second time, then went through the old GPTP (Golf Professional Training Program).”

Runyan saw a hole in his golf resumé – teaching – so he took a gig at the local GolfTEC outlet for six years. That led him to Circling Raven in November 2022, armed with golf industry chops and established bona fides as a champion for veterans’ causes.

Not only did he start the Dan Kleckner Golf Classic in 2011 (agreeing to change its name, which was named after the event’s longtime emcee, a popular local NBC affiliate newscaster), but over the years he also founded “VETS on the Green” and served on the board of directors for Northwest Golfers for Warriors, which is now the tournament’s main beneficiary alongside other grassroots organizations throughout the Palouse region that are awarded $5,000 to $10,000 grants each year. The tournament now raises close to $200,000 annually and has donated more than $1 million overall.

Runyan has already come up with ways to offer Veterans a special welcome, even as he deals with day-to-day operations and helped the course host the Circling Raven Championship, an Epson Tour “Road to the LPGA” event back in August.

“We started a PGA HOPE program where I go out every other Wednesday and teach our Veterans how to use golf as a rehabilitation tool,” he says. “Once we’re done with the Epson this year, my plan is to move some of those sponsors over to that program or to the Dan Kleckner Golf Classic to raise more money for veterans.”

When his event comes to Circling Raven in 2024, Runyan has the entire Coeur d’Alene family behind him. “The tribe has a big heart for veterans. I can see the whole second week of August being Veterans appreciation week here at the resort – they come in and showcase their organizations to the North Idaho community, with golf tournaments all over the area raising money. It’ll help the tribe give back to Veterans. And having the name Circling Raven behind it just will give that extra bit of a boost.”

For more information on the Dan Kleckner Golf classic, visit For more on Circling Raven, visit