After its January board re-organization, Blue Ridge Country Club's new regime realized that a couple of very important issues had to be addressed.
The first thing on the list was to improve the overall experience for all of current members. The second thing was to improve the marketability of the club.
It was decided that the club needed a golf professional who would improve the golf experience for all of its members, be the spokesman for BRCC in the community, and guide the recruitment for new members.
The search committee utilized the Philadelphia section of the PGA and after receiving 20 applicants and interviewing four candidates, Blue Ridge found its man.
Rich Conwell, who has over 20 years experience as a PGA pro, was chosen unanimously for the position and began working at the club two weeks ago.
Conwell's most recent job was as Head Pro at Uniontown Country Club from 2009 through 2011. He also held the same position at the Country Club of Culpepper and Quicksilver Country Club.
"All clubs in the area are suffering, looking for members," said John Rehus, Blue Ridge Country Club general manager."Every golf course, every private club in this area is struggling with membership, from the top down.
"Years ago everybody had a waiting list. You had people willing to shell out $3,000 as an initiation fee and you had people on a waiting list to become a member. You never really learned how to sell memberships. People just expected that the economy would stay the way it was and there would always be people looking to join.
"It stopped happening. And when the economy took a dive a couple of years ago, it really deteriorated."
The club hired a consultant and what was learned was that the clubs having the most success during the economic downturn was the ones who had families. The clubs with just men, were losing members.
"People were leaving and kids weren't getting into the game like they were 25 years ago," said Rehus.
That will be one of the main goals for Conwell, to see more ladies and children getting involved to make it a family sport.
"This is a really, really old school golf course," said Conwell. "Old school golf courses are really neat. Th course is in great shape and the superintendent (Pete Beblavy) has done a great job. I think the membership is pretty proud of its golf course and it should be.
"From what I'm finding out is that there is a whole lot of people who don't know about the golf course that should. Once we start getting the word out that we're as good as we are, we'll be just fine."
Conwell, who is available to give lessons for both members and non-members, said his first goal as the new pro is to see Blue Ridge Country Club "grow rounds".
"I'd love to grow rounds and start a junior golf program, because they haven't had anything around here like that," he said. "And I think the overall priority of the entire club is just increase energy around here."
The club is in the process on developing a driving range and practice area of about 200 yards behind the clubhouse. Conwell will be giving full swing lessons parallel to the No, 2 tee. Short game lessons will be held around the old clubhouse where the putting green is.
He is also starting two clinics for ladies. One, for the 18-hole ladies league, beginning this Tuesday (May 15). The other, called the "He is Wrong Clinic.," also starts Tuesday. That one will get underway at 6 p.m.
For more information, call the pro shop at 610-826-7050.
Rich Conwell, the new PGA Professional at Blue Ridge Country Club, will be writing a weekly column to appear in the TIMES NEWS every Saturday starting May 19. He welcomes questions at firstname.lastname@example.org