Augusta James takes on a new golf challenge | Spare News
TYENDINAGA – In golf, every great player needs a great caddy by their side, suggesting clubs, offering motivational tips and advice and wisdom at the right time.
In the case of golf course ownership, the same can be said of the general manager. Having the right person in charge is crucial for the success of the course, building trust between its members and understanding the ins and outs of the game and the course itself.
At Briar Fox Golf Club, that accolade went to Augusta James, who is more than qualified to be the steady guiding hand. And what steady hands James boasts of.
On the course, she has been a true phenomenon throughout her career, having succeeded at every level, from the age of five to winning Chico’s Patty Berg Memorial in 2015. James has won provincial titles and nationals, a scholarship to an American college and competed professionally, amassing a hall of trophies and a list of accolades few others could boast.
After retiring to undergo wrist surgery in 2018, James returned to her home country and region, where she was again recruited, this time to oversee Briar Fox Golf Club, which was sold by its former owners to the Bay of Quinte Mohawks in 2021. James was hired as general manager on the advice of former course owner Cal Dunville.
“Cal called me and said he was selling (the course) and he knew the new owners were going to need a general manager, so he put my name on it,” James said. in an interview at the clubhouse on a beautiful sunny November morning.
The 29-year-old has been tasked with adding a new skill to her golf repertoire, management.
“It was nice getting to know Cal and Patsy,” James said of the course’s former owners, who showed him the ropes during the transition period between ownership. “It was good for me to get to know them and understand the ins and outs of this place before they moved out last year and the Bay of Quinte Mohawks completely took over.”
An expert on the course, James is excited about the prospect of managing at Briar Fox, which, like the sport itself, has been experiencing a renaissance since Tiger Woods entered the scene in the 1990s.
“I’m going to be 30 next year and I was young when he (had his) huge, huge run,” James said of Woods. “Basically anyone between, say, 25 to 35, we were so impressed when he was doing that run that we stuck with golf. It’s ingrained in us, there’s a lot of passion behind it. I think his run, and I mean his career as a whole, was huge.
The global COVID-19 pandemic has also helped renew interest in the sport, James noted.
“Golf has exploded in the last two or three years since COVID hit,” she said. “It’s at an all-time high, I would say, in the last 25 years. Obviously we’ll see some of these things stabilize much like you would with anything post-pandemic, but there’s so many people who play golf now who have never done it, and they are passionate about it.
James knows a thing or two about passion, something she will bring in abundance to her new position, as she navigates her own transition from player to operator.
“What they say is true: if you don’t want to play golf, get into the golf industry,” she joked with a laugh. “Things are always busy in the summer, so me playing has really taken a step back, but I really enjoy the organizational aspect, seeing the business from all different sides from all the different departments. I took a course short, the turf management course in Guelph last winter, so I was able to learn more about yard work and the maintenance crew and stuff like that, which was fun. is a whole different part of golf.
That doesn’t mean he’s still not asked to type in a club and click on the links.
“People ask me to play all the time and I don’t really play much anymore,” James said with an infectious laugh and smile.
That doesn’t mean she doesn’t miss it though.
“It’s been a tough journey and my life is in a completely different direction now than it was then, but yeah of course I miss training and working on my game, I’ve always really enjoyed my game. ‘coach,” James said.
Turns out, practice really did make perfect, James noted.
“Now when I can’t get out there and hit the shots I want to hit or the ones I knew I could hit before, it’s frustrating sometimes,” she admitted. “But I found a totally different love for the game because now I go out there and enjoy it with my family or with my friends and it doesn’t matter if we go out and people shoot 120 or if they shoot 70 is a good time.
As for the course itself, James said the MBQ has approved budget increases to improve the golf experience itself, but it is working hard to also retain the charm that its former owners have built.
“Even though it’s not a family business anymore and it’s owned by a company, I didn’t want to change anything about what appealed to people,” she said. “A few changes we were able to make are we increased our budget on the golf course a bit to elevate the golf course experience for members and public play.”
James and his brother Austin are part of a long list of local golfers who have tasted success both amateur and professional and have built a stronghold of talented players from the Belleville Corridor to Brockville. Names like Jeff Crowe, Chris Barber, Matt McQuillan, Brad Revelle, Brooke Henderson and Augusta and Austin James are synonymous with sports in this region. James said it was impossible not to be inspired by those who came before her.
“I think it speaks to people like Jeff Crowe — Brad Revelle was a big name for me — and some of these other people in this business,” James said. “When they’re nice and happy to answer your questions or play golf with you and stuff like that, it drives more golfers and more top golfers.”
And while James’ focus will shift from sinking her next shot to raising the profile of Briar Fox, she won’t soon forget her roots, the roots that brought her home.
“We have a good community base,” James said. “People are nice here. They are straight, they are kind. They’re willing to help other golfers, and that’s how you get that trickle down effect. And we are fortunate to have many golf courses in the area. It doesn’t matter where you live between Kingston and Belleville. There are lots of options and they range from very high end to more affordable places so it’s great to see and I think that makes a big difference.”
Always a competitor, James will face all the challengers again, with the aim of making her course the best in the world.
“My vision for this golf course is honestly to make it the best it can be. It’s on the golf course, and it’s in the clubhouse here,” she said. to people in the community and our members here and continue to grow where we can, where it makes sense to benefit the people who play here.”
In other words, challenge accepted.
Jan Murphy is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works for the Belleville Intelligencer. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.