Bonnie Briar will always represent a special place for me. We joined in 2000 and I became involved in the governance of the Club first as Chair of the Long Range Planning Committee, then the Green and Grounds Committee, and finally President between 2006 and 2008.
I left to join Winged foot in 2015 and had not played much at the Club since leaving, but my friend Clarke and I were able to arrange our 'grudge match" in August 2018 against our dear friends David and Herb, and this time we actually managed to win...
The course is now a pleasure to play. Back in the day, a group of our friends all joined at around the same time - we were called “The Shore Club Group” because that’s where we mostly all Members prior to joining, and we were outsiders and were accorded that status for some time. The only reason we were able to join was that the Club was financially stressed and in fact was heading for bankruptcy due to the short sighted idiotic plans of the then President. I’ll refrain from mentioning names but you’ll be able to work it out if you are at all interested. An ignorant bigot who would have ruined the Club given a chance. In fact things got so nasty he led a campaign against me and a few others, and then when he lost that battle chose to take something like 20 families with him to a different Club. He nearly consigned the Club to bankruptcy at that point!
Anyway, we started to see some real turnaround: the management, the golf pro, the superintendent, the golf course and pool areas all dramatically improved under first Geoff Whelan, Fred Cuccia and Roger Maxon. My tenure on the Board was a dismal experience at first, but now the Club has a sensational course and a full membership. I’d like to think I was part of that success, but so were the following: Geoff, Jerry, Herb, Alan, Clarke, David T, Steve, Tim, David W, Freddie, Todd, Rob, and many many more who saw the potential to create something great.
So close to Manhattan, a gorgeous piece of property, non denominational and a friendly Country club in the true sense of the meaning. Hard to believe there were moments in Bonnie's history when things might have unraveled. A developer gained control and nearly converted the pace to a 9 hole course with sheltered housing. It only just failed. Then there were spats within the Club over the direction to take. Some wanted a Palacial clubhouse to have their social life. Fortunately they lost out ot the club would have gone the way of others who neglected the key asset, the golf course.
Amongst the initiatives we took, we made several change to personnel. We hired a new manager who remains in place at the time of writing. Kevin Burke is a larger than life figure who has played a key role in turning the Club around. A new Superintendent was vital, and we were fortunate to hire Nick Lerner. The guy is sensational. His commitment to the Club has been exemplary. He worked closely with an agronomist we also hired, Ed Edtchells. I well recall a previous Board unwilling or unable to recognize the value Ed would bring to the Club. We struggled to get "Qman" and his cronies to hire him. We hired David Heatwole as architect and his skills transformed several holes including most recently 18. We also hired Tom Willson, one of the best teaching pros around. He coached Rob Labritz at Whistling Straights for example.
The lesson is clear: good things happen when you hire people who know what they are doing and leave them to get on with it. It's so tempting to interfere!
We also made a series of physical upgrades: the Course came first. If we had not done this there would be no Club today. The course was awful when we joined and despite the desires of a certain group of narrow minded members we prevailed and money went to start the restoration of the club. Tees, fairways, bunkers, greens were all upgraded. New equipment given to the crew to keep it in good shape was obtained. We built a maintenance facility.
We beautified the course by revealing the awesome rock formations and with new plantings.
After I left the Club I was delighted to be shown the completed project to ensure water. That was guided through by a former President, Roger Maxon. I consider this one of the most important investments the club could ever make.
Today, as I pass by Bonnie I am proud to been part of the process to restore and rejuvenate the Club. It is in a prime location and now has a thriving membership and a gorgeous course.
Some of the folks who made Bonnie so special.