Over 80 golfers played in the 100th Anniversary tournament held recently at the Ridgetown Golf and Country Club. Photo by The Ridgetown Independent News

Ridgetown Golf & Country Club broke 100 last weekend.

And while that may be an accomplishment for some golfers to see their score in double digits, members and staff at the Ridgetown Golf Club don’t mind reaching 100 at all – and are eager to keep that number growing.

The Ridgetown Golf & Country Club celebrated its centennial on Sunday, July 23, with a 100th anniversary golf tournament.

More than 80 golfers (including some who have golfed there for over 60 years) played in the 18-hole tournament.

“Congratulations, a hundred years is a big deal,” said Doug Breen, Vice-President and Supervisor for Golf North, the company that purchased the Ridgetown Club in 2016.

“I hope you realize what a great accomplishment this is,” he told golfers, guests and staff during the opening ceremonies before the tournament.“Few businesses make 100 years, and even fewer golf courses.”

“With all of the pressures on golf courses to become other things and changing economic times, for a golf course to make 100 years is very, very rare,” Breen said.

The Golf North VP said the Ridgetown course making to 100 years is especially notable since it was a community-operated golf course for more than 90 years.

“It was never really owned by anyone; it was a not-for-profit structure that was kind of common back in the 1920s when it was built,” he said.

Breen said soldiers in the First World War took up golf while deployed in England and Europe and returned after the war with an appetite for the game.

“You guys were part of the biggest golf boom ever,” Breen told the audience. “A lot of towns built golf courses in the 1920s when they (soldiers) came back from the war. But, almost none made it because many were built with good intentions but not with a good business plan.”

The first Ridgetown Golf Course course had 15 members when it opened on a farm field owned and donated by Neil Campbell on Erie St. on the south side of the 12th Concession.

A new site was needed when negotiations for a long-term lease on the Campbell property fell through.

Club executives reached a deal with Phil Henry to use 60 acres of his farmland and rent the house for $200, as a nine-hole course was constructed on what is still the site of the Ridgetown Golf and Curling Club.

The course was expanded to 18 holes in 1954.

Today, the course is a 6,099-yard layout featuring a clubhouse in a restored century farmhouse with a spacious patio, restaurant, licensed bar, and a pro shop and driving range.

In its heyday, Ridgetown G&CC had more than 600 members but, like many local courses around the province, suffered a drastic drop in membership and greens-fee players in the early 2010s when the golf business fell on hard times.

Golf North purchased Ridgetown G&CC in 2016 and is the only one of its 40 facilities with a curling rink, offering year-round use to the community.

“As a business, it’s been good for us,” Breen said of Golf North’s association with Ridgetown. “There are two things that make a golf course work, whether public or private. You have to have good people, and you have to have a good golf course, which we have here.”

He was especially appreciative of the work of course superintendent Jim Gammage and general manager Doug Paling.

“You may not realize what an interesting spot you hold in the community of golf courses in Ontario,” Breen said. “You’re well known. You’re well respected. The golf course is excellent, and the people are excellent, which makes for an excellent business.”

Chatham-Kent Mayor Darrin Canniff brought greetings on behalf of the municipality.

“One hundred years is a big thing; on behalf of Chatham-Kent and Council, we have a plaque to celebrate 100 years,” Canniff said.

Among the participants in the centennial tournament were Murray Scoyne and Dick Wright, both in their 80s and long-time members for over 60 years.

Paling said there was a good mix of members and guests, young and old, women and men golfers at the tournament.

Local businesses donated more than 35 prizes that the golf course handed out for in-tournament contests and a random draw.

Golfers enjoyed a roast beef dinner at the end of their round.

“It was a great day. Everyone enjoyed themselves,” Paling ended.

By Michael Bennett, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 31, 2023 at 12:40

This item reprinted with permission from   The Independent News   Ridgetown, Ontario
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