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The restaurant at Brockport Golf Club served its first dinners under new management last Friday, the latest step in restoring the 28-year-old facility to its prime.
"We had a very soft opening, just word of mouth," General Manager William Beairsto said this week. "We probably did 60 dinners, and everybody seemed very happy about what turned out that night."
The opening came a month after the club was approved for a liquor license by the New York State Liquor Authority and nearly six months after it was sold at auction to Toronto businessman Vladimir Zarev for $864,000.
"That will be significant," Beairsto said of food and drink revenues, "but it's going to take time to build that as well. The golf has got to be solid. The restaurant has got to be solid. They go hand in hand."
The 18-hole course at 3770 Monroe-Orleans County Line Road straddles Monroe and Orleans counties. It stretches 6,700 yards from its back tees. The front nine is in Orleans, the back nine in Monroe. That gives the course its charm, Beairsto said.
"We're the farthest-east course in Orleans County and the farthest-west course in Monroe County," he said. "We have the best of both worlds. We have an east-side course and a west-side course."
The course is considered to be among the most difficult in the Rochester area. It ranked sixth on the Rochester Business Journal's 2008 list of toughest courses.
For a while, it was uncertain the public-private golf course would remain at all. The previous owners, Timothy Burklew and wife Anna, spent three years trying to sell the facility, eventually putting it up for auction Jan. 26.
The 168-acre property was appraised at $4.45 million in 2009.
The Burklews bought the club for $2.4 million in 1998, Monroe County property records show. The land is assessed at $327,650, with a total assessment of $395,250.
It was profitable every year until bad weather in 2011 resulted in a loss, Timothy Burklew said in January.
Zarev, who could not be reached for comment, closed on the deal March 9, records show. Beairsto started work the next week.
Friesland Inc. is listed as the seller. Brockport Ventures Inc. is the listed buyer.
"He wanted to play golf," Beairsto said of the new owner's interest in the club. "He's from Toronto, so he can be here within, oh, 31/2 hours. He'll come down on the weekends with his family and play golf. We'll have our meetings on what we need to do. He usually stays in a hotel."
The weekend visits allow Zarev to monitor the renovations, Beairsto said.
"He has seen from the start what has transpired," Beairsto said. "He's seen the improvements. It's been baby steps.
"Anybody I've talked to in the golf industry says you can't turn something around overnight. You have to be very slow and make sure you do things right, and complete the task and then go to the next task. It's never-ending on a golf course."
Beairsto, a club member for 35 years, was recommended to Zarev as a potential general manager by the Burklews.
"I didn't solicit this job," said Beairsto, who once owned Angus O'Brien's restaurant in Brockport and ran several golf leagues and tournaments.
"There were a lot of members who've been here for a lot of years. I didn't want to see this club just fall by the wayside. I figured I knew enough people to maybe pull it back, and hopefully it would turn around."
The club has approximately 70 members now, Beairsto said.
Memberships start at $250 for ages 18 and under without use of a golf cart and go up to $1,500 per couple including a cart, the club's website states. A single membership with a cart is $1,000.
"It's hard to tell what they had last year because they had a different pricing style, very low-end," he said. "We made it one price for a membership. The guys who joined again were previous members. We let them know what we were doing, and they jumped on board.
"They can see the improvements we've made. I think our membership will probably double next year. It was a late start for membership this year as well, because nobody knew anything about what was going to happen."
Public golfers outnumber the members so far, Beairsto said.
Public rates range from $10 to $30, based on nine or 18 holes and the day and time played, the website states.
"We haven't done any advertising yet because we didn't have the restaurant and bar up. Like I said, we're taking baby steps here," Beairsto said. "We just want to put everything in order. We didn't want to promise anything that wasn't there."
The facility is four miles west of Brockport and some 20 miles west from Rochester, off the beaten path of heavily traveled roadways.
Its membership is evenly split between Monroe and Orleans counties, Beairsto said.
"We'll have some public play, but you won't find too many guys who live outside of the two counties," he said. "With the gas prices and that type of thing, I would say it's the west side of Monroe County and the east side of Orleans County."
Beairsto's first hires were grounds superintendent Gerald Harris, who previously held the job but left more than 10 years ago, and close friend Craig McAllister to man the pro shop.
"He's done a great job in the pro shop," Beairsto said of McAllister. "He knows a lot about the golf industry, too. These two guys were the keys to me finding the right people."
He has since hired a chef and a bar manager.
"And everybody is on board," Beairsto said. "It takes a lot of people. There are so many areas within a golf course."
The most significant area of need has been the course itself.
"The irrigation system was basically not functioning whatsoever," Beairsto said. "We had to first tackle the irrigation. We're not completely finished yet.
"It's about a three-month process to get this irrigation done. The whole system was torn up when (Zarev) purchased it. It became quite an undertaking. I'd say it's 90 percent done now."
The project included the replacement of pipes and sprinkler heads, and the system's electricity.
"Irrigation is the key to any golf course," Beairsto said. "You need water."
Also, the pro shop roof was replaced and new equipment was purchased to maintain the grounds.
Zarev funded the purchase of new sand for the course's sand traps and 50 new golf carts.
"Those are our main things we've focused on," Beairsto said. "We still have more stuff to buy. We need more equipment. It's never-ending. I would say we're three-quarters of the way there.
"The place was pretty well stripped when he bought it. We had to invest quite a bit more money into the club. It wasn't a turn-key. It was basically a startup."
The club lagged others in the Rochester area that opened early because of unseasonably warm weather. Brockport Golf Club did not have a consistent stream of golfers until the beginning of May.
The first tournament at the club is scheduled for the end of August, a military veterans appreciation event with 30 foursomes. Each group must include at least one veteran.
Beairsto decided not to book tournaments early in the season because of the work being done and because he did not know when the liquor license would be approved.
He declined to say how much Zarev has spent to upgrade the club, other than "there has been a considerable investment."
Banquet rooms are being renovated, and longer-term plans call for a new party house for weddings and special events.
Beairsto hopes to have the rest of the needed equipment in hand by next spring, prior to the 2013 season.
"Next year will really be our opening year," he said. "This was an in-between year.
"Our game plan for next year is to look for more leagues," he added, "and then we'll go after the tournaments that we've done in the past, and the memberships. Those three are our priorities."
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