BREWER, Maine — Jason Brooks grew up just down the road from Pine Hill Golf Club, picking range balls for owner Bob Little and his daughter, Pam Foss, to pay for his membership.
Katie LaChance, his girlfriend, was taught to play there a few years ago by her dad, Mike.
Now the two will be managing Pine Hill starting next year, having signed a three-year lease with club owners Jim and Cathy Gero.
They didn’t go looking for this venture, but when it came up, they jumped at it.
“This past summer we [Brooks, LaChance and Jim Gero] were sitting out on the deck up at Pine Hill and I think we were talking about how Jay [Collier, the current manager] wasn’t coming back or something like that and I asked him if he’d found anybody [to take over],” said Brooks. “I just threw it out there to him … if he had found somebody and he said he had a couple and that was it [for interest] and he asked if I was interested. I told him I’d be very interested.”
Brooks and LaChance worked out a three-year lease with Gero but declined to give details.
“That’s just something we agreed not to let out.” said Brooks.
LaChance wasn’t expecting to be running a golf course, but she’s eager to be part of it.
“I love the atmosphere, I love the people, it’s a great place to get away,” she said.
Collier still had three years remaining on a five-year lease, but said Gero let him get out of the lease.
“Jim Gero has been great to me,” said Collier, who is moving south.
“The challenge is over for me here. I’ll be going to Florida. It’s a revenue opportunity I can’t pass up,” he said without being specific. “I’ve done it the last two winters, but I have a chance to do it full time now.”
Collier thinks the new managers are a good choice.
“I think getting Jason and Katie was a great decision,” he said. “They’re local and they know a lot of the members. I think they’ll do a great job.”
LaChance has sent out letters to past members and prospective new members to try to boost membership.
Brooks and LaChance believe Collier had some good ideas.
“Those [10-]play cards that he did, that we’ll continue to do, those were a huge hit,” said Brooks.
“I touched base with Tom Bryant as well,” said Brooks of the general manager at nearby Rocky Knoll Country Club in Orrington. “He said, ‘Anything I can do to help you out, I’m more than willing to.’ Katie talked to Pam and she was very excited for us.”
They want to return to a prior ambience.
“It’s going to be more of what it was in the past, you know,” said Brooks. “We’re going to try to bring the family atmosphere back like it was when Mr. Little had it.”
While they will be running the club, Brooks and LaChance have other jobs they have to attend to as well.
Brooks, 36, has more flexibility as he owns a FedEx Ground franchise, Brooks Inc.
“I’m there every morning,” he said. “I’m usually done by 8 [a.m.], but I don’t have to be there every day.”
LaChance, 30, works as a dietitian at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and does the Brooks Inc. payroll part time.
“I’ll put my 40 hours in there and do what I need to do nights and weekends, then play when I can,” she said.
Brooks considers helping out around the golf course as part of the job.
“My cousin was a superintendent of a golf course in South Carolina, so I actually worked down there for a year [at age 19], mowing greens and fairways and tee boxes,” he said. “I know what it’s supposed to be like.”
They’ve set their membership rates for next year, starting at $500 for a single, $680 for a couple, $435 for a senior single (55-plus) and $615 for a senior couple, for example.
They aren’t expecting managing the golf course to be easy.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s a gut feeling that you go off,” LaChance said. “You enjoy going there, you enjoy the people, it’s sort of sentimental as far as playing there, and Jason growing up there and me and my dad playing there as well.
“It’s going to be a lot of work, but in the end, it’s the place we want to be.”