Almost three decades after his first round at Maple City Country Club, Mark DeActis can still remember how special it felt.
He was a 13-year-old wowed by the club’s allure.
“It was my first private club experience,” he said. “I never forgot what it felt like to come onto the grounds. It was a privilege to play here.
“As a junior, I got my first hole-in-one here. I’ve always had fond memories of the club.”
The 41-year-old Ridgetown native hopes to create many more memories as the club’s new general manager and director of golf.
The Chatham club began a new season Monday with several changes at the top. Matt Robertson has been promoted to head pro and Greg Brown is the new course superintendent.
Head pro and manager John Dengel and greens superintendent John Pickard retired at the end of 2020. Each spent more than 40 years at Maple City.
“Both Johns (are) highly respected,” DeActis said. “They’ve done a marvellous job in their 40-plus-years tenure here at the club. My objective is to just take what they’ve built and offer our membership a wonderful experience.”
DeActis spent the last 20 years in Muskoka – 15 years at Windermere Golf & Country Club, where he worked his way up to general manager, and the past five years at South Muskoka Curling & Golf Club as the GM.
He grew up playing and working at his hometown Ridgetown Golf & Curling Club. His wife, Brianne, is from Morpeth. They still have family in Chatham-Kent, so he’s thrilled to be at Maple City.
“This was the only club that was going to get us home. Nothing else,” said the father of three. “… This is where I want to finish my career.”
DeActis loves not only the club but also its “values and principles.”
“This is the dream job,” he said.
He spent opening day at the first tee greeting players. They were happy to be back, especially with so many other activities shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is the only thing you can do right now,” DeActis said before the provincial government announced the closure of all golf courses Friday afternoon. “It’s a great outlet. It allows for the social distancing element. It provides a mental well-being element. There’s just so many benefits to golf right now.”
Robertson, 32, is a Chatham native who worked in the Maple City back shop as a teenager. He’s been in the pro shop since turning pro 10 years ago.
“This is the only place I’ve ever been. It’s like home to me,” he said.
“John (Dengel) taught me so much through the years, he’s really prepared me well for it,” Robertson said about his new job. “I really owe a lot to him, just seeing how he conducted himself out here. It’s pretty neat to be in this position.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted. I’m pretty lucky that way.”
Now he waits for the course to reopen once the province’s latest stay-at-home order lifts. Tee times were fully booked this week.
“People can’t really do anything else, so this is their one leisure activity,” Robertson said before the shutdown. “… Everybody’s pretty thankful just to be out here playing.”
He looks forward to teaching members and running the club’s junior program.
“Making everybody feel as welcome as they can when they come out here to play and hope they leave happy when they leave the parking lot,” Robertson said.
Brown is a Sarnia native who comes from Essex Golf & Country Club. He’s also worked at Beacon Hall Golf Club in Aurora and East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
“He brings a lot of wealth of knowledge to turf,” DeActis said.
He’s been busy prepping Maple City’s 6,485-yard course after a relatively mild winter.
“Greg, our new superintendent, has got it in fantastic shape. It’s nice and green now,” Robertson said.