BREWER, Maine — Both Jason Brooks and his fiancee, Katie LaChance, expected that preparing Pine Hill Golf Club for this season was going to take a lot of work.
“It held up to that expectation, if not more,” said LaChance.
“We’ve put in a lot more hours since we opened,” said Brooks. “It’s pretty much been Katie and I here.”
They expect to see that ease back soon.
“With better weather, we’ll have another three to four part-timers as well,” said Brooks.
Brooks and LaChance, in their first year of leasing the course from owners Jim and Cathy Gero, spent many of their winter hours remodeling the inside of the clubhouse.
“We put a lot of money inside,” said Brooks, who also has a FedEx Ground franchise. “Two TVs, a different menu, more sponsorships.”
A new lunch counter replaced some of the merchandise space and faces one of the overhead TVs.
LaChance, who is a full-time registered dietitian at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, did much of the interior decorating, including adding a couple of couches and throw pillows in the middle of the clubhouse with the second TV.
“We wanted to focus on the inside, the food and beverage part, and the course itself, trying to get it back the way Mr. Little had it,” said Brooks of Bob Little, who opened the course in 1962 on what had been part of his dairy farm.
“Mike [LaChance, Katie’s father] and I did the traps,” said Brooks, whose father, Larry, will be one of the part-time staffers.
Jason Brooks and Mike LaChance have also been doing some of the small-scale mowing, taking some of the pressure off Gary McClure, who does the large-scale mowing of the fairways, rough and greens as well as maintaining all of the equipment.
“Gary was a one-man show for the last two years,” said Jason Brooks.
Loam has been ordered to help in rebuilding some of the tee boxes, along with new grass seed.
The work appears to be paying off.
“They’ve done a remarkably good job,” said Jim Gero. “The clubhouse is comfortable and appealing. It’s a tremendous improvement.”
Gero also helped by having a ranch-style maintenance building constructed alongside the entrance road and having a new roof put on the clubhouse.
Play appears to be up, according to Brooks.
“The parking lot was full Sunday,” he said. “People were parking on the grass and down at the maintenance building. One of the guys who played said it was never like that last year.”
Katie LaChance, who is in charge of promotions and advertising, said, “We have seen a lot of new faces.”
Those faces are being reflected in the memberships, Brooks said.
“We’re pushing 45 members,” he said. “There were about 10 last year, and Katie, Mike and I were three of them.”
Interest is also picking up for Pine Hill’s men’s league, women’s league, seniors league and couples league.
“We’ve been getting a lot of calls,” said Brooks. “We’re going to start the second week in May.”
The women’s league will be held on Mondays at 8 a.m. starting Monday. The next day the men play with a 5 p.m. start. Seniors are Fridays at 8 a.m. beginning May 10 and couples play Sunday afternoons at 1 p.m. starting May 12.
Special events are also being set, including a ReMax Long Drive qualifier on June 1 beginning at 10 a.m.
“We’re going to shut down the course for a couple of hours,” said Brooks. “They’ll tee off from the ninth fairway, in front of the clubhouse, hit over the eighth green and into the sixth fairway.”
Having them tee off in front of the clubhouse will allow spectators to see the competitors up close.
“That should be fun,” said Katie LaChance. “And I guess some people travel all over New England competing.”
If someone doesn’t qualify at one, that person can then enter another one. Anyone is eligible to participate.
“It’s a $40 entry fee, and you can do it as many times as you like,” said Brooks.
And Pam Foss, one of Bob Little’s daughters, is bringing the Bob Little Memorial tournament back to Pine Hill.
The club’s special of 10 percent off memberships ends Wednesday, and the 10-play cards are $119 through Wednesday as well.
During the season kids 12 and under play free with a paying adult, and those ages 13 to 17 play for $10.
“And members at any course in the area can get a half-price membership at Pine Hill,” said Brooks. All they have to do is show proof of membership, he said, and the area is pretty loosely defined.
“I think they’re going to do great,” said Gero.