New careers lead to owning golf course

Rose Brook gets facelift

OBSERVER Photos by Marilyn Kurzawa Above: Myra Pinker stands at the sign designating the first hole at Rose Brook Golf Course. At each hole there is a sign donated by an individual or a business. This one is dedicated to her parents, who were influential in her decision to buy the golf course. Right: Joey Miller uses a weed wacker to help keep Rose Brook looking good.

of retirement as a time to kick back, relax, try out some new hobbies or continue ones that have been underway for years. Most people do not think of retirement from a life-long career as a time to buy a golf course and start a whole new business, as did Gary Cerne, long-time superintendent of the Dunkirk City School District and his not-yet-retired partner, Myra Pinker.

When Cerne decided that it was time to retire from public service, he and Myra talked for a long time about what to do next.

“You can’t just retire. You have to have a plan for the future,” he stated.

After some investigating and talking to many people, they learned that the Mancusos were ready to slow down and take a break from full-time work at their golf course, Rose Brook, at 12486 Beebee Road, Silver Creek.

“We approached the owners of the course to see if they would sell the course to us. For the first year, we were one-third owners, and by Jan. 1, 2016, we owned the whole thing,” Cerne added.

Since purchasing the golf course, Cerne and Pinker have learned so much about golfing, golfers, mowing, hosting tournaments and golf leagues, mowing, weed whacking, mowing.

“I am not a golfer, but I have learned many new things about golfing in the past couple of years,” said Cerne. “This is a fun place to be, and during the season we are here from 8 a.m. when the course opens until 10 or later each night. It’s a full-time commitment that both Myra and I love.”

As for the mowing, “We have four men who work part-time to mow each area of the course each day. I also spend some time on a mower, and once in a while we have to repair the mowers. Ray Ebersole is the main repairman for them, however, since purchasing two brand new mowers last year, we will be having to do that less and less in the future.”

This year’s seemingly endless rains in May had a big business impact on all golf courses. According to Cerne, “We lost 11 days due to rain, and that of course impacted our mowing schedule. We are finally getting caught up with mowing and tending all of the other areas of the course.” His part-time turf manager, Todd Meisner, takes care of all the DEC-approved pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers, and files all of the required documentation to keep the course up-to-date, safe and enjoyable.

Cerne and Pinker have also hired two high school students to weed whack and use the push mowers for areas where riding mowers can’t reach. One of them, Joey Miller, was there the day that I visited and was more than enthusiastic about his work and the responsibilities he had for keeping the entire area in good shape.

Joey told me, “I like meeting new people. Most everyone appreciates what we try to do here, and I like making the place look really good.”

When asked who makes the best hot dogs, Gary or Myra, Joey just smiled and said, “I can’t tell. They are both great!” And he’s a diplomat too.

Another high school student working part-time at the course is Brent Geise, a culinary arts student from the Erie 2 Chautauqua Cattaraugus BOCES program at the LoGuidice Center.

He has recently joined the kitchen staff at the golf course, and is eager to add items to the menu, such as tacos in a bag and different sandwiches. There are also two part-time adult bartenders who work there later in the day and at night.

The course itself offers a modest challenge to area golfers. It has five par 3 holes, eight par 4s, and five par 5s, spreading over both sides of Beebee Road. It incorporates a waterfall on Rose Brook that runs through part of the course, a gorge, and many ponds that play the role of hazards as well as sources of water for the newly-purchased sprinkling system on the course. Ned Schawbel, a long-time golfer at this course, noted how much the course has improved over the last couple of years after all the work that Cerne and Pinker have put into it.

“I love to play golf here. It’s always fun and the course is in great shape now,” said Schwabel.

And, it’s affordable! A nine-hole round costs $15 or $20 with a cart; 18 holes cost $20 or $25 with a cart. There are also special rates for golfers who start after 1 p.m. and rates go up a bit on weekends. Senior citizens have special rates too, as do juniors.

When asked about the decline nationwide in the number of golfers engaged in the sport, Cerne replied that they have noticed that the golfing population seems to be aging. However, “We have a plan. We are establishing an almost free program for junior golfers to learn to play and spend time on the course. This way, we hope to rejuvenate the golfing ranks and assure us many more years of players for this sport,” he explained.

Children from ages 8 to 12 can join the junior program to be taught by Lake Shore Central School District coach Dan Elvin on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5 to 6:30 p.m. On those same days, students from age 13 and up can learn and play from 6:30 to 8 p.m. There will be a meeting for young future golfers and their parents on June 14 at 6 p.m., and the program will begin on Monday, June 19 at Rose Brook. Parents and participants are encouraged to meet in the clubhouse on June 14 for the meeting. Cerne and Pinker have found business and individual sponsors for this program, so the parents will only have to pay for tee-shirts for their children who participate, and provide golf clubs for them.

There are a number of leagues that play at Rose Brook each Monday through Thursday and every other Friday.

“Some of our regulars come early for a cup of coffee, clubs in the trunk of the car, and wait until someone else shows up who needs a partner on the course. They then link up and are off to play a round. Many of these regulars have paid a membership fee, so they can play for no additional charge all day long. It’s a win-win for everyone,” Cerne stated. “Everyone agrees that what makes this place stand out from many others is the casual atmosphere, the fun people have while playing and while relaxing in the clubhouse, the fact that no one judges your clothing or your play. It’s just a fun, laid-back place to be. Collared shirts not required.”

No matter where they come from or how hard they have played, everyone is commenting on the renovated clubhouse and the way it now looks. The bar was completely replaced, windows were added, a “real” ceiling was installed; and the place was repainted, all making the room much more hospitable. All of this work was completed by Cerne and a crew of friends who simply love to be engaged in work where there is a visible result. It all worked to provide a more appropriate space for his brother Randy’s great chicken wings and other foods often found in area bars.

When asked what he likes about his new job, Cerne replied, “This is a place where you meet really nice folks who are having fun. The atmosphere is casual, the mood is light-hearted, and the people are just out to have a good time and enjoy a day outdoors. I have met so many nice people, and that continues each day.”

If there is someone else out there who would like to own a golf course, Cerne recommends the following: “Do your homework. Take a look at the maintenance barn and the machinery in it. Make sure you are ready to go to work seven days a week for most of the year. And get ready for a great adventure doing something for people who love to golf.”

Good advice for people who think that they are ready to own a golf course!