Richard Lord | Tee to Green: Pollards ready for new future with newly named The Links at Worthington
That's great news for the club's loyal members, the town of Worthington and for any golfer who would enjoy a scenic drive into western Hampshire County for a round of golf on a beautiful course that will challenge without breaking your back.
Since its founding, Worthington Golf Club had been a member-owned operation. With funds dwindling, it was nearing a breaking point. Fortunately, David and Helen Pollard — with more than three-decades-plus of membership apiece — weren't about to let that happen, purchasing the club on Feb. 6.
"The members have owned this course all the way back to 1904, and the preference was to keep it that way, but the economy was not in our favor," said the 57-year-old David Pollard, who is the CEO of a software company. "We did not want this to get away from us. The club is a big part of this community and we didn't want to take any risk of losing it to developers."
There is little doubt that the Pollards have their hearts into creating a bright future for the club despite a golf economy that isn't exactly thriving — witness the announcement last week that Pontoosuc Lake Country Club in Pittsfield will close after this season.
"David's and Helen's love for Worthington supersedes anything else," said the club's new head pro, veteran PGA professional Francis Kringle. "Their commitment to the club and the town is like nothing I have ever seen."
The Pollards wasted little time getting started, both in the old clubhouse that was overdue for a major upgrade and on the golf course.
"We started by working on the basic infrastructure and by expanding the budget for (course superintendent) Eddie Figiela so he could purchase some long overdue equipment," Dave Pollard said. "It's a beautiful track, but we have been unable to do a lot of stuff that we needed to do. ... We just aerated the greens for the first time in several years."
The name change is meant to help send a clear message that the club will be about much more than golf going forward.
"We have reframed ourselves as The Links and will continue to transition into that into next year," said Pollard. "We plan to have music events, glowball and other events. We hope we will be that gathering place for Worthington and the hilltowns nearby. ... The town is celebrating its 250th anniversary at the end of June and we hope to be mobbed for that."
Helen Pollard, her husband said, is very active in the operation, overseeing the clubhouse renovation — especially the kitchen and dining area — and helping in the club's day-to-day management.
"We have affected major repairs to the kitchen that were long overdue," Pollard said. "We wanted to get it up to code and make it into a place where a chef would want to work."
Apparently, that work was an effective recruiting tool. The Pollards manged to hire chef Dave Moses away from the highly regarded Sierra Grill in Northampton.
"Dave Moses is a hell of a chef," Pollard said. "Our members and new patrons are ecstatic."
Asked what lured him from a high-end restaurant in a food hotbed like Northampton to a small club in a town of just more than 1,000 people, Moses said that he liked the idea of a slower pace that will allow him to focus totally on the food. He describes his offerings as "super classic New England-style comfort food with a flair for foodies."
Like the rest of the building, the pro shop has undergone a total makeover and is stocked with new merchandise.
As in acquiring a new chef, Pollard also scored a big win by being able to hire Kringle, one of western Massachusetts' most respected head professionals. The 69-year-old had spent the last 14 years at Blandford Golf and Tennis Club. His longest tenure came at Agawam's Crestview Country Club where he was the head professional from 1978-96.
"I have known Francis for many years and he's a great head pro," said Pollard, who was a past member at Blandford. "We are thrilled to have him and we will build a great team around him. He's doing a terrific job so far."
Kringle said the club talked to him a year ago after Erik Tiele, a good friend of his, left Worthington to become the head professional at Waubeeka Golf Links in Williamstown.
"I couldn't take the job because I was still under contract at Blandford," he said. "I always love coming to this place and I told them I'd be interested in talking in a year, but then it changed hands so I didn't expect anything. ... But then I got a call from David in February, and a week later, on Feb. 22, I had the job. It's been a whirlwind ever since."
So far, so good, says Kringle.
"The improvements in the clubhouse have been fantastic and we have incredible conditions," Kringle said. "The first year (of new ownership) is the toughest but the reaction to the food and golf have exceeded expectations so far."
Because Worthington is located at about 1,700 feet above sea level, it usually takes the course a little longer than others in the Pioneer Valley or in the Berkshires to get in prime condition. While Kringle and Pollard are pleased with how the course is coming along — Pollard says everything is "really green" — longtime amateur standout and Worthington member Steve Magargal, who calls Figilia "a magician," believes things will look even better in a few weeks.
"Some of the new members are a little antsy, but we always fall a little behind the other courses because we are up so high," Magargal said on Thursday. "The work itself is done. I played last night and it was really good, but without fail we are at our best by mid-June."
Pollard is very pleased with how things are going thus far.
"Every single member of record at closing stayed, about 100, and we have picked up about 20," he said. "Both public play and membership are looking good. That's growth with very little marketing. While I have never run a golf course, I feel bullish about our future."
The transition to its new identity will continue this offseason as the Pollards attempt to make the club and its restaurant a year-round destination by winterizing the clubhouse. There will also be plenty of grounds work by Figilia and his crew as the club catches up on all the work it hasn't had the budget to perform in past offseasons..
As for how busy the course will be this summer, Magargal has been around long enough to know what the key to that.
"I really believe we need the weatherman to give us 10 days of sunshine," Magargal said. "Making a good first impression is very important. Right now, David and Helen are probably as concerned with the weather as anyone on the planet."
When Pollard says he is bullish about the future, he isn't kidding.
"I have a pie-in-the sky dream of adding nine holes in the future," Pollard said. "We own the land across the street. I know it is counter-intuitive, but maybe in 2019 or 2020 we will explore that possibility."
For now, however, he will settle for good weather and a busy golf course.
The Berkshire County Jimmy Fund Council will host the 35th Annual Paul Dowd Jimmy Fund Golf Classic on Wednesday at Berkshire Hills Country Club.
The Berkshire council is affiliated with the Dana-Farmer Cancer Institute in Boston, and with the Jimmy Fund Golf Program. In 2017 the golf program tournaments raised over $7.68 million dollars for cancer research and treatment.
There will be morning and afternoon flights with morning registration and breakfast beginning at 6:30 a.m. Morning registration and breakfast begins at 6:30 am. The morning flight will tee off at 7:45 a.m. The afternoon flight will tee off at 1 p.m.
The entry fee is $150 per player and $600 per team. The entry fee includes breakfast for the morning flight, lunch for both flights, golfers gift bags and awards and dinner at 6:30 pm.
Sponsorships are still available. The options are Bronze (tee sign) for $150; Silver (tee and green signs) for $250; Gold (tee and green signs and a sponsor award) for $500; Platinum (all of the above plus golf for two players for $1,000); Diamond (all of the above plus signs on the deck overlooking the course and in the dining room, and golf for four players) for $2,500; and Double Shamrock (all of the above plus golf for eight players and company name and logo on golfers gift) for $5,000.
For further information call Bob Tucker at 413-499-1099.
Stockbridge Golf Club
Best ball, 36 holes
1. Shields-Driscoll, 66-69 -- 135. 2. Bond-Lettner, 68-69 -- 137. 3. Rainville-Wichowski, 70-69 -- 139.
1. Cipollino-Delgrande, 73-69 -- 142. 2. Keenan-Keenan, 72-71 --143. 3. Rivard-Wichowski, 72-73 -- 145.
1. McMenamy-Cella, 74-71 -- 145. 2. Ortega-Keenan Jr., 74-72 -- 146. 3. Kinne-Kinne, 74-73 -- 147.
1. (tie) Biano-Cody, 76-70 -- 146; Waskiewicz-Germain, 76-70 -- 145. 3. Cotti-Nunez, 75-72 -- 147.
1. Mercer-Yarrows, 78-71 -- 149. 2. Curto-Vecchiarelli, 77-73 -- 150. 3. Cody-Renderer, 77-74 -- 151.
1. Linn-Warren, 78-71 -- 149. 2. (tie) Regan-Storozuk, 79-73 -- 152; Hogan-Quillian, 79-73 -- 152.
1. Boldyga-Kay, 79-71 -- 150. 2. Kelly-Kelly, 80-79 -- 159. 3. Betsold-Betsold, 79-81 --160.
1. (tie) Betsold-Wilkes, 80-76 -- 156; 2. Breen-Locke, 80-76 -- 156. 3. Brown-Scolforo, 81-78 -- 159.
1. Lee-Sykes, 82-78 -- 150. 2. (tie) Abbott-Premo, 83-80 -- 163; Holmes-Holmes, 83-80 -- 163.
1. Buzzuto-Buzzuto, 85-78 -- 163. 2. Perry-Simpson, 85-81 -- 166. 3. Kelly-Brown, 85-82 -- 167.
1. Flynn-Ross, 86-79 -- 165. 2. Gochinski-Murphy, 88-85 -- 173. 3. Pignatelli-Pignatelli, 91-84 -- 175.
Bas Ridge Golf Course
Monday Men's Golf League
1. (tie) Dan Kirouac, 39; Moe Litchfield 39
1. Bill Basilere , 34. 2. (tie) Bill Arseneau, 35; Paul Engwer, 35.
Lamar Smith, birdie 2 on No. 12; Dave Quail, birdie 4 on No. 16.
Kevin Weller, eagle on No. 10; Ted DiPetro, eagle on No. 11; Lamar Smith, eagle on No. 12; Bill Arseneau, eagle on No. 15; Dave Quail, eagle on No. 16.
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