SMALL TOWNS: Man’s journey from producing hit TV shows to owning a golf course in Door County

The executive producer of "Fear Factor" never imagined owning a golf course and restaurant
Updated: Sep. 29, 2022 at 6:10 PM CDT
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EGG HARBOR, Wis. (WBAY) - Sometimes life can bring about an unexpected career change. But what about going from the bright lights of Hollywood producing hit TV shows to owning a golf course in Door County?

Now that’s quite the change.

This week in Small Towns, we travel to Egg Harbor to detail one man’s journey back to his home state.

Kevin Wehrenberg never, ever imagined he would be selling tee times on a golf course he owns.

“It’s been an interesting journey to owning this place,” says Kevin.

After growing up in Eau Claire, Kevin graduated from University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in 1992. His degree was in Radio, TV, Film.

“And I actually worked within the industry of which I went to school for,” says Kevin with a smile.

The following summer, Kevin moved to Los Angeles, accepting an internship with the Television Academy.

He was just getting his feet wet in the TV business.

“It started just like anything when you go to L.A., you start at the bottom and work your way up, or actually anywhere, right? I started as a production assistant, worked on multiple different shows, worked on a made-for-TV movie with Patty Duke, worked on ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ as a grip/P.A., and eventually my big break came when I started working on ‘Fear Factor’ for NBC back in the day when ‘Fear Factor’ was the thing,” explains Kevin.

Kevin eventually ascended to the role of executive director, not only for “Fear Factor” but later another popular show, “Wipeout.”

“There’s nothing better than working on a show that you plan and organize, like when three helicopters come flying in and land and you do stunts with them. Like, you miss the adrenaline, you miss that. I miss the people, but the other crap I probably don’t miss that much,” says Kevin.

In the late ‘90′s, Kevin met his future wife Erin, an L.A. native, who at the time was involved in the production of the hit TV show “Friends.”

Today, she’s the head of comedy for ABC.

In 2001, the couple married with plans to start a family.

Now, despite a highly successful career out west, home really started to tug at Kevin.

“I wanted to get a house back in Wisconsin so that my kids, once we had kids, they could have some of what I had when I was growing up,” says Kevin.

Kevin’s wish came true when he brought his wife and two sons to Door County over Christmas in 2009.

“She’s like, ‘Alright, I like it here,’ and that’s all I needed. It was sort of the green light to try to find some place to purchase up here so we could have that touch of Wisconsin in our life,” recalls Kevin.

The following year, the Wehrenbergs bought a home in Juddville, leading to annual Midwest vacations.

Then, when the pandemic hit and both Kevin and Erin worked remotely, the family spent nearly a year in Door County.

That’s when Kevin started toying with the idea of buying a business.

Last fall, when Kevin was back in L.A., his Realtor called.

Stone Hedge Golf Course was for sale.

Time for a serious leap of faith.

“I had actually never been on the golf course and never been in the building. We bought it actually sort of sight unseen. I didn’t know anything about a golf course, never ran a golf course, bar or restaurant ever in my life, but what I did on my shows, TV shows and stuff like that, there’s a lot of similarities: I’m the nuts and bolts guy, the insurance, the money, the budgeting, all that kind of stuff falls to me,” says Kevin.

In April, with his family in Los Angeles, Kevin headed for Door County to completely remodel the bar, restaurant area, bathrooms and pro shop.

“I didn’t sleep a lot in the spring,” says Kevin with a chuckle.

On May 7, the new Stone Hedge Golf and Pub opened for business.

And right off the bat, a little hiccup when lightning struck a tree on the 8th fairway and blew out part of the irrigation system and caused the pumphouse to catch fire.

“So that was my first week we were open,” says Kevin, laughing.

Kevin’s first season in the golf and pub business has gone well, and he’s grateful for the response he’s received from both golfers and locals.

“There’s 38-and-a-half acres of land here right next to Egg Harbor, so I think everybody was worried it was going to get sold and be developed, and that thought never even crossed my mind at any point when we bought it. The most touching thing somebody said to me was, ‘Thank you for making a choice to have your business here,”' says Kevin.

All that positive feedback has certainly been nice considering Kevin’s career change has meant a major sacrifice.

“It’s definitely been hard. It’s been emotional to be away from my family, and especially it’s my son’s senior year of high school,” explains Kevin.

Once the golf season wraps up, Kevin says he’ll be able to spend more time with his family in Los Angeles.

The goal a few years from now is to be living in Door County full-time.

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The executive producer of Fear Factor and Wipeout took a leap of faith and made a major career change