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John Reitman

By John Reitman

More than a year later, first-time course owner still learning

After more than a year as a golf course owner and superintendent, Matthew Woodcock has learned a lot. 

With two seasons of ideal putting conditions under extreme weather conditions and record play, Woodcock, 32, has learned that many of the decisions he has made as owner-operator (along with wife Jill) of Old Erie Golf Club in Durhamville, New York, have been spot on. 

"We just had the first measurable rain in three weeks, and the greens have never looked better," Woodcock said.

081022 old erie.jpg"Last July, we had 13 inches of rain. It was the wettest since they've been keeping records, and the hottest, and the greens were as good as they've ever been. From one extreme to the other, and the place looks great."

He also has learned that the jury is still out on some of the other decisions he has made.

Woodcock, 32, spent almost every waking hour in 2021 at the golf course. He knew it was time to make a change for the sake of work-life balance when he missed his son's baseball season and his daughter Ellis informed him in a not-so-direct way that he was spending too much time at the golf course.

"I brought her to the golf course and she asked where my bed was," Woodcock said. 

"I was never home when she went to bed at night, and I wasn't there when she got up in the morning. She thought I was spending nights at the golf course. I'm living the dream. Well, I'm living someone's dream."

The time focused on the golf course can take its toll.

About the time this story was published, Woodcock spent the night in the hospital when it was thought he might have had a heart attack. Fortunately, those concerns were unfounded and he was home again the following day.

Keeping Old Erie playable is not without its challenges on and off the golf course. Whether it is too much rain or not enough, pumping water from any of seven surface water ponds, learning the ins and outs of being a business owner on the fly, making agronomic decisions under severe conditions or doing all of the above with barely enough people to keep a putt-putt course in top shape.

That laundry list is a big reason why Woodcock spends so much time at the course. Woodcock does everything from change cups to mow to tending bar and cooking hot dogs.

"It's not hard work, but it's a lot of work," Woodcock said. "I have to get up at 4 or 5 or whenever it takes to get it done.

"I have four kids and a wife who are depending on me to get this done."

Woodcock does not have a lot of help, but in this business it is more about quality than quantity.

Woodcock's team consists of one regular employee and two seasonal high school students, who came on last year just weeks before the start of the school year.

081022 old erie 2.jpg

Sasquatch is the unofficial mascot of Old Erie. Photos by Matthew Woodcock

"Everything took a turn here the day they showed up," Woodcock said of his high school help. "They treat everything like it's theirs. This year, they showed up at the beginning of the season, and we were able to hit the ground running.

Quality help allows Woodcock to take care of some of the cultural practices that help keep Old Erie playable, rain or shine, like aerifying twice a year and verticutting monthly.

Good help also helps him reclaim some of his personal life.

This year, he coached his son's baseball team.

"In the last year-and-a-half, I've learned a lot more about agronomy than business. I've also learned that I have to let some things go," Woodcock said. 

"Last year, I wasn't able to attend my son's baseball practice. This year, I was able to step away and coach my son's baseball team."

Not only was he the coach, but the course was the team's sponsor, and the team name was a play off Old Erie's unofficial mascot - Sasquatch. 

Every team huddle ended with a "1-2-3-Sasquatch!"


Jill and Matthew Woodcock, 4th of July 2022.

Baseball aside, Woodcock is still logging a lot of time at the golf course where his focus is on growing the business further. Rounds and revenue were up by 10 percent in 2021. So far in 2022, play and revenue are up by 45 percent over last year's numbers.

"As much as I'd like to get up at 3 a.m. and have everything finished by 9 a.m., that's not possible," he said. 

He still tends bar for tournaments, wants to add more tournaments and events, is working to boost Old Erie's budding junior program and more. Much more.

"When I say this, I know my wife is probably going to kill me," Woodcock said. "In five to 10 years, I think I want to buy another golf course."

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