Wood opts to leave Kitchen Creek

An ad for a job opening in this week’s Classifieds section of the Fort Frances Times is sure to raise some eyebrows.
The position is for facility manager and the employer is the Kitchen Creek Golf Club, which means one of two things—either they are hiring another manager at the course or current club pro Steve Wood is leaving.
So which is it?
“I’m not coming back next year,” said Wood, whose last day will be Oct. 31 after six seasons as the pro at Kitchen Creek.
Wood said the birth of his daughter, who is now five months old, as well as not being able to spend as much time with his family as he would want, contributed to his decision.
“I just found it too hard to be away and they couldn’t get down here too often. And with my wife going back to work in April, it was going to get even harder,” noted Wood, who will be heading back to Winnipeg where he is originally from.
But there are more layers to this onion.
Allegations Wood skimmed funds from the club, which has been losing money for years, has taken its toll, he said.
“It just wears on you and it consumes the talk and it just gets annoying,” Wood remarked. “It’s more troubling because I know, and a lot of people know, the allegations aren’t true, which makes it harder to deal with.”
Kitchen Creek has resembled more of a setting for a day-time soap opera than a golf course over the past month.
Two meetings were held, where changes like implementing a floating membership rate (the more golfers, the less they pay) were made. And it was at those meetings where those allegations were first given voice.
But it seemed the course was starting to make changes to get it out of the red, with Wood being put in a position to be more accountable for the course’s state.
“There was no accountability towards myself,” he had said a few weeks ago. “The club basically ran it the way they wanted it and they dictate to myself and our superintendent [Greg Ross] 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 who’ve been trained in this business,” he stressed.
It’s unclear if the person who takes over as the facility manager will be given the reins of the club like Wood would have been given.
Club president Shawn O’Donnell couldn’t be reached for comment but it’s almost certain that whoever does take over will have quite a challenge in putting stability back into the course.
And the person will have to do it without Glen Mills and Johnny Lundon, who also won’t be returning as assistant professionals next season (neither could be reached for comment, either).
The club’s membership certainly has declined of late, with just 287 this past season compared to 485 in 2001.
Wood, who previously said mismanagement in the past contributed to the course’s current poor state, had predicted the club would be out of the red within five years by revamping “the way we operate and make sure we operate with tight reins on expenses and try to maximize on our revenues.”
He’s disappointed he won’t be around to see the club turn the corner.
“You never want to have any, I don’t know if turmoil is the right word,” Wood remarked. “I would rather leave on a positive note and to a point I am thinking like that because a). I’m going to be with my family and b). the club is kind of on the right track right now in regards to their financial future.
“But, obviously, I would’ve liked to have seen it through,” he admitted.
It won’t be any problem for Wood, a professional for 11 years and recently named president of the Manitoba PGA, to get a job in Winnipeg. Still, he said he will miss most of the people at Kitchen Creek, though there are others who made his job difficult to perform.
“I would say that 95 per cent of the people here are just awesome and great people, and I have developed a lot of close friendships and I will miss those people and it will be tough.
“But you’ve got to take the good with the bad when you make changes,” Wood reasoned.
And though he wished he was leaving under better circumstances , Wood said the combination of his commitment to his family—and the commitment to himself—made the choice to leave an easy one to make.
Golf is a game based on honour, and no one has been able to provide proof to back up the allegations against Wood.
“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 noted.
But there will always be whispers and Wood, who describes himself as an honourable person, admitted he wouldn’t be able to handle that kind of talk.
“It’s all false [the allegations], but there’s nothing you can do to prevent them from talking like this and making these allegations,” he said. “People that have a conscious have a tough time dealing with that.”
But by deciding to leave, Wood has dealt with it.