Kitchen Creek pro dispels rumours

Steve Wood is irate.
No, make that incensed. No, make that enraged. No, even better, make that indignant.
With rumours swirling recently about the future of the Kitchen Creek Golf Club, the club pro sat behind his desk Sunday afternoon—while 81 members were hitting the links for the club’s championship—with a look of seriousness in his eye and a tone of resolve in his voice.
“There have been rumours that the golf course is closing and I will tell you that this course is not closing,” Wood stressed. “We’re taking every step we can to ensure that doesn’t happen and will never happen.”
Another rumour is that Wood has been stealing from the club. Well, he’s firing back, calling on anyone to prove the accusations made against him.
“I was quite upset about that,” he admitted. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve done my best to create a paper trail so that things like that don’t happen.
“I’ve invited people to come and watch, and be here any time to see how things operate and see how clear things are,” he added.
Wood has been at Kitchen Creek for six years of his 11-year career. He also is vice-president of the Manitoba Professional Golfer’s Association and is line for the presidency next year.
As such, he’s concerned the accusations might cost him the position.
“I’m upset,” said Wood, his voice now rising, “because it’s a direct reflection on me and I’m not going to allow my name to get dragged through the mud.
“I would do absolutely anything to squash these rumours.”
It’s no secret Kitchen Creek has been steadily losing money for the past few years and Wood said that gives even more reason why he is not taking from the till.
“If people were to come and see our financial statements, they would see that our membership numbers have dropped considerably over the past few years.
“And the important thing to remember is you can’t steal what isn’t there,” Wood said.
Back in 2001, the club had 485 total members. Compare that to this year’s 287 and that spells trouble for the course. As a result, changes are being made to bring the course not only out of the red, but basking in the green.
Two meetings have been held over the past few weeks, with the one last Wednesday’s bringing about a change in membership rates that will be implemented next year.
The club will have a floating membership rate in place, which can see members pay as low as $500 or as much as $950 (this past season’s rate was $675 for adults).
The new rate is based on how many golfers sign up (i.e., the more golfers, the less they pay).
Such a format sees initiative placed on the shoulders of its current members because if they want to pay $500 rather than $950, they will go around the area and act like salesmen trying to promote the course.
“I don’t know of any other course that does it,” said Wood.
The two meetings were well attended by club members, but were the resolutions that came from them well-received?
“It depends on who you ask,” said Wood. “I think the members showed their care and concern for the future of this golf course. I think that they spoke loud and clear as far as what they want.
“And now at least, there is a direction for the future to go in and obviously that direction is to go forward,” he added. “We really need to revamp the way we operate, and make sure we operate with tight reins on expenses and try to maximize on our revenues.”
The sometimes harsh Northwestern Ontario winters (“We could be one bad winter from not being able to grow any grass again”) and the opening of the Heron Landing Golf Course at Couchiching, now its second full season of operation, has contributed to the dwindling numbers—and thus diminishing funds—at Kitchen Creek.
But the biggest reason why the club is in its current fickle is because of the past mismanagement, Wood said.
“I’m not going to name names, but the way it’s been since I’ve been here and the way it was like before I got here was that the board was very hands-on and they oversaw everything, and basically made it difficult for the person in my position to run the club,” he explained.
“There was no accountability towards myself,” Wood added. “The club basically ran it the way they wanted it and they dictate to myself and our superintendent [Greg Ross, who has worked at the course since 1982] what they want and we do it.
“So we do the job they want us to do as opposed to leaving the job in our hands and us doing it, and doing what we think is best for the club.
“Their hearts are in the right place, but we’re the ones that have been trained in this business,” he stressed.
Wood is thinking like former U.S. president Ronald Reagan in that he is looking at a “five-year plan” to not only make the club a viable business, but a thriving one.
“We’re going to be a little more pro-active and progressive instead of just sitting back,” he remarked.
“There are things here that aren’t getting done that need to get done and with the decisions that have been now made, those things will get done in the future,” he pledged.