Mike Deep says he's an "atrocious golfer."
Be that a humble assessment or a realistic one, that doesn't diminish his love for the game, and Waubeeka Golf Links members can be thankful for that. After a long winter spent worrying about the future of their Williamstown golfing home, Deep purchased the club for an undisclosed price from Jim Goff and is quickly trying to get it spruced up in time to open for play when Mother Nature allows, hopefully by Masters weekend (April 13-14).
Goff, weary of trying to run a course from his home in Denver, made it clear last August that it was time to sell, and if the prospective owner wanted to buy it for a purpose other than golf, that wouldn't be a deal-breaker.
Like most in the Berkshire County golf community, the 64-year-old Deep, a North Adams developer and the owner of Deep Associates Insurance Agency, was worried that would be a possible outcome.
"I didn't want to see Waubeeka not be a golf course," said Deep, a Taconic Golf Club member for more than 30 years. "Jimmy and I had the same vision. You just can't put houses there. It wouldn't be proper. It's just too beautiful."
While Goff, a Williamstown native with a golf background, made it clear he would sell without conditions, that clearly wasn't his desire.
"I think the course's future was in question. That's no longer the case and that's exciting," Goff told The Eagle when the deal became official.
Deep made an early purchase attempt after Goff's announcement, but then he heard businessman Bo Peabody, also a Taconic member, had entered the picture.
"Once Bo said he was interested, I got out of the way for three months," Deep said. "Bo's a great guy and is very good at running a business. He knows how to take something that hasn't been successful and make it succeed. I would have been very happy if he had bought Waubeeka."
But, eventually Goff called Deep to inform him that the deal had fallen through.
"We finalized a deal in less than five minutes over the phone," Deep said. "I have never met Jimmy, but he's the most honest guy I have ever dealt with. We made a lot of deals on the phone [regarding the sale] and he's lived up to all of them. ... Williamstown was lucky he got involved at Waubeeka. The course wouldn't be what it is if he hadn't."
Indeed, Goff sank a lot of cash into renovations that included a complete reworking of the back nine and the building of a driving range that is arguably the county's best, along with a short-game practice area and 12,000-square foot putting green.
Given the timing, Deep has had to hit the ground running. First, and perhaps foremost, he retained highly regarded course superintendent Greg Tudor, who has consistently kept Waubeeka in pristine, country club-like condition.
Deep then talked lifetime friend Vicki Richardello, a former North Adams teacher and current golf-loving Taconic Golf member, to help him. He has leaned on her as a member of an unofficial advisory board that includes the likes of Peabody and golf business veterans Bill and Sylvia Palko. He has also acquired knowledge from former Waubeeka general manager Mark Mills, who has played a major role in the recent facelift at Greylock Bowl & Golf.
"People a lot smarter than me have been giving me help and ideas," Deep said. "Thank God for Vicki's help. Bo has been calling me a lot and showed me his business plan, a lot of which I have implemented. And Mark has emailed me with answers to anything I've asked him about."
Richardello has focused on off-course issues.
"We have refurbished the office, which really needed it," Richardello said. "The next thing to work on is the pro shop. We will have a fully functional shop when we open. And we are in the process of working on the clubhouse with new carpeting, bathrooms and other cosmetic changes."
Deep and Richardello are looking for someone to run the restaurant. They have also submitted an application to renew the facility's liquor license, which had lapsed.
Deep has also hired a head professional, 26-year-old Ed Cano, a graduate of MCLA who played his college golf at Waubeeka. Cano has spent four years as an assistant pro, the last two at Stockbridge Golf Club. Cano is an apprentice pro who is working to earn his Class A PGA card.
"For such a young guy, he's so advanced," Deep said. "He's a real gentleman. When people come to our course, he will treat them right."
Deep also hopes Williams College women's golf coach Erika DeSanty, who spent the past two summers giving lessons at the club and whose team practices regularly at Waubeeka, will return this summer.
"We are scheduled to meet Monday," Deep said. "She has done an amazing job with the golf team and is an ambassador of the game. She is more enthusiastic about golf than I am."
Deep has found the larger golf community welcoming. He was greeted with applause and congratulations at an Allied Association meeting Thursday night and has been receiving plenty of advice from those at his home club.
"The management at Taconic has been very helpful and others have reached out to me and asked, ‘How can we help you; what can we do for you?' " he said.
Among those was Jim Kelly, the owner of nearby Donnybrook Country Club.
"Jim called me from Florida and told me to let him know if there is anything he can do for me," Deep said.
Then again, perhaps Kelly was actually talking about helping Deep with his golf game.
"We played the eighth hole at Donnybrook [a tricky downhill par 3] together one day," Deep said. "He made a birdie and I had a six."
To contact Richard Lord:
or (413) 496-6236.
Game plan ...
Some thoughts from Mike Deep on the future at Waubeeka Golf Links.
- Marketing: "The first year, we are going to market the heck out of it. I think I can personalize it a little. I know a lot of people. ... We want to promote this as a family game. What better way to raise a family than on a golf course? We are going to focus on getting kids involved. [Head pro] Ed Cano is passionate about junior golf."
- Practice facility: "I believe our practice facility can be a profit center. We are going to offer range memberships. You can play somewhere else, but come here to practice."
- Members: "We have lost some very good members this winter. Hopefully, they will come back next year and we will get some new ones. I think we will get back to where we were and eventually surpass it."
- Outings: I like them. Many of those who play ionly play once or twice a year. If they enjoy it, maybe they'll want to play more. ... We know course availability for our members is an issue with outings. It's a fine line. We are going to send regular emails to keep members apprised of outings and course work. We will attempt to get our regulars tee times they like or as close to it as we can. They are our base."
- Pricing: "We are keeping the fees the same as last year."
- First-year expectations: "The course lost money last year. If we break even this year, I will be ecstatic."