Crestview Country Club owner rescues the course he grew up playing.By Wayne Mills
restview Country Club in Agawam, Mass., might have been one more tale of woe if not for Dave Fleury.Those connected to golf know that the past few years have been difficult for the industry. With course closings outnumbering openings and participation rates declining, there are plenty of sad stories.
With Crestview in danger of closing and up for auction in 2012, Fleury returned to the course where he once caddied and saved it from extinction. Today, Crestview is a semi-private club with tennis camps, a playground area, a pool, a fitness center, upscale restaurant and a renovated golf course.
But success hasn’t come easy. “I always knew it would be difficult,” Fleury said. “My eyes have been wide open. I never ran a club, but having dealt with many clubs I had a good idea of what I wanted to do.
“Some of the founding members have come up and said never in all their years have they seen conditions this good. That means everything to me.”
Who said you can never go home again?
Fleury grew up on his parent’s horse farm in the Connecticut River Valley town just southwest of Springfield. He would ride his pony as a child to nearby Crestview and fish in the ponds. The head pro, Pat Kringle, initially thought it was cute, but he didn’t want ponies trotting around the course and kids fishing in the ponds, so he invited the 10-year-old Fleury to become a caddie. And that’s how a lifetime in the golf industry eventually led him back to Crestview.
Fleury transitioned from caddie into a member of the grounds crew, which led to the desire to become a golf course superintendent. After earning a degree in plant and soil sciences at UMass-Amherst, he interned at Westchester Country Club and the Stanwich Club before becoming assistant superintendent at Garden City Golf Club on Long Island. One of his first assignments was supervising renovations of the bunkers.
“As I was doing it I remember [Stanwich Club golf superintendent] Scott Meyer telling me I should differentiate myself from other turf school grads by learning course construction,” he said.
“That way you know what is being done on renovations and can quality control that,” Meyer told him.
After working with Nicklaus design for four years, Fleury was hired by former U.S. Open champion-turned course architect Jerry Pate to help build Limestone Springs Country Club in Birmingham, Ala.Fleury took the advice and eventually landed a job with Jack Nicklaus’s design company as a course construction supervisor. “My first job was at Indigo Run on Hilton Head, a Nicklaus Signature course, so I got to work directly with Jack,” he said. “I’m not usually a star-struck guy, but with him I was.”
But before long, love intervened. Fleury had met his future wife, Shannon, who lived near Springfield, so he wanted to return to Massachusetts. That led to a job with renowned golf course architect Roger Rulewichin Bernardston and eventually to a business partnership.
While attending a wedding reception in 2011, life took another turn. A former member of the Crestview grounds crew mentioned that the club was being sold for $1.5 million. Spotting the chance of a lifetime, Fleury went to work on trying to make a deal. But he knew that Shannon needed to be on board, so he waited until they were on vacation in Aruba to broach the subject. After a bit of convincing she signed off.
“She’s a great woman who trusts me completely,” he said.
Fleury saw his opening. He met with the board, explained that he was a legitimate buyer who would keep the 400-acre property intact as a golf course and proved he could put financing in place.
When his first offer was rejected by the board of directors, Fleury returned with another offer, only to learn that Crestview had signed a deal with a member of the club who was a commercial real estate developer. But the club’s board of directors ultimately voted down the deal, fearing the developer would close the course and build warehouses. Instead, they put Crestview up for auction.
With that, Dave Fleury finally came home, this time as the new owner.