Horizons has won its first Newcastle district men’s pennant in another sign the once-struggling club is getting back on its feet.
Horizons downed Tanilba Bay in a play-off to win C grade at Charlestown on Sunday when Mark Atkinson beat William Osborne on the first sudden-death extra hole. Atkinson had won his match against Steve Hollingsworth on the 19th hole.
The victory capped a positive year for the Salamander Bay club, whose ladies team also won their first pennant in 2016.
Director of golf Greg Ramsey said the club’s membership had grown by 74 since July to almost 400 and overall player numbers had grown 30 per cent on 2015.
Horizons opened in 1992 and 10 years later was voted the best resort layout in NSW and in the top 50 Australian courses. It hosted the ladies Players Championship, NSW Open and, in 2004, the co-sanctioned European and Australasian PGA ANZ Championship before owners Le Meilleur, a Korea-based construction company, went into administration six years ago.
A group of volunteers ran the club under licence until long-time members Selva Saverimuttu and Peter Rickard bought it last year.
Ramsey said the club was now in the happy position of “having a conversation” about capping membership so holiday-makers could still access the course when they wanted.
“It’s all very positive,” he said. “The course is in very good condition again, and we opened up a lot of new categories and became more flexible with membership.
“Before it had been an all-you-can-eat-type membership where you paid a fee and no green fees. That doesn’t suit everybody.
“We introduced pay-as-you-play, midweek membership, country membership, junior membership of $50 a year and no green fees. We went from 20 juniors to 30 already.
“It’s still resort-ish, but we’ve probably got more focus on membership than we did in the past because members are the lifeblood of any club.”
Ramsey said the increase in player numbers was mainly due to attracting more tourist traffic as word spread that the course’s condition had improved.
“The course went through its bad times in 2010 and 2011, and bad news travels fast. It takes a long time to get the good news out there.
“That’s your best advertising: getting people playing and telling their mates. It’s probably never going to be in the condition it was at the time of the ANZ, but it’s very close.”
** Belmont won the B-grade pennant, also in a play-off, when David Gates beat Pacific Dunes’ Shane Beasley in sudden death at Charlestown on Sunday.
** Maitland raised about $5500 on Friday at its Autism Charity Day with help from pros Greg Chalmers, Nathan Green, Jake Higginbottom, Leigh McKechnie and Paul Gow and former league star Tim Brasher.
Chalmers, whose eldest son has autism, and Maitland pro Neil Dorsett grew up playing golf together on the Central Coast. Chalmers’ parents moved recently to Maitland from Perth.
The charity day followed the recent opening of the club’s new 2nd and 10th greens, which were destroyed by flooding in April 2015.