by Pierre HÉBERT
The Pen-Y-Bryn Golf Club, one of the oldest in Quebec, is likely to close after more than 100 years of history. With no one to take over operating it, the municipality, which owns it, has refused to put more tax payers’ money into ensuring its survival.
During the last season, the club and the chalet were both operated by a concession-holder, Randy Vintinner. He had an agreement with the municipality for one year, with a renewable option for 10 years if all went well. But he returned the keys at the end of the season. “I lost more than $30,000. I put money into the golf course, salaries, insurance. I made the effort. At least, I can say that I tried!” he said.
Vintinner is a businessman from Martinville, who was born in Bury. This was his first experience managing a golf course, but he does not think that had any impact on the outcome. “I have a transportation company. I know how business works. I simply did not have people coming. My biggest day was to have about 15 green fees. It’s not funny at all.”
As for the municipality, the administrators were aware that the profitability of the club was in question. Bury’s mayor, Walter Dougherty, mentioned that, on average, the municipality had put $60,000 per year into the club over the past 10 years or so. It was precisely for this reason that the municipality had offered the golf club and chalet as a concession for the 2016 season. The offer was communicated to the Association des terrains de golf du Québec (ATGQ) and in a number of advertisements. Vintinner was the only person interested, said Karen Blouin, director general of Bury. The municipality, explained the mayor, also helped the concessionaire by investing more than $30,000 in the terrain, providing fertilizer and so on.
For the moment, the mayor said categorically, “the town will not take charge of the golf club. We cannot have a $60,000 deficit every year.” The municipality tried several strategies in the past, said Dougherty, even investing some $50,000 to repair the chalet and refurbish the restaurant in the hope of breathing new life into the club. But all was without success. “We cannot subsidize the golf club with taxes; it’s not fair for the citizens,” he added.
The municipality convoked a public consultation on the future of the golf course last October, with about 10 persons attending the meeting. None of them expressed interest in taking on the project, said Blouin. However, the municipality is not yet officially closing the books on it. It is ready to consider any serious proposal with a business plan. The proposal could pertain to the golf club, the chalet, or any other vocation for the site, within the realm of what is reasonable, said Blouin.