Vineyard Golf Club shows its generous side

Vineyard Golf Club shows its generous side

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The Vineyard Golf Club clubhouse was designed to blend into the landscape and provide a relaxing spot for the exclusive membership. — Photo courtesy of VGC

The 10-year old Vineyard Golf Club (VGC) in Edgartown is a low-key private club. But it’s going public to promote its charitable giving program in 2012.

Through its VGC Foundation, the club has quietly donated $1.3 million to a dozen Island community and service groups over the past decade. The club has also established a scholarship program benefiting Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School seniors through the VGC/Ray Ellis scholarship fund. Mr. Ellis is a noted Island landscape artist who donated work for auction to underwrite the scholarships.

Now with a thin economy chipping away at budgets Island-wide, the club wants to make sure that the Island nonprofit community, numbering more 150 entities, is aware of the foundation’s giving program, General Manager Gerry Daly told The Times. “This year we’re trying to cast a wider net to reach the broader community,” he said recently during an interview in the pre-season calm at the 235-acre club and course off the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road.

“We’ve put everything online, including the application and deadline process. Funds will only be used to help charities on the Island,” said Mr. Daly, a Milton native.

Island organizations that received grants in 2011 included The Drum Workshop, Friends of Edgartown Council on Aging, Hospice of Martha’s Vineyard, Animal Shelter of Martha’s Vineyard, Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club, Martha’s Vineyard Cancer Support Group, Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust, The Red Stocking Fund, The Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation, The Vineyard Nursing Association, The YMCA, and the Martha’s Vineyard Arena.

“We don’t have pet projects,” Mr. Daly said. “If you look at the giving we’ve done to date, we’ve worked with probably 60 of the 160 or so nonprofit organizations so the idea of casting a wider net is to make sure everyone is aware that the foundation is here.”

Management of the course shifted from the development team to the membership three years ago and VGC operations are overseen by a president and board of directors these days. “The board now runs day- to-day operations and they want an inclusive giving process and procedure in place,” he said.

The 450-member club includes 150 Island resident memberships and those relationships are harmonious, Mr. Daly said.

Harmony was in short supply in the early days of planning, permitting, and construction, when verbal pitched battles were fought by those who didn’t cotton to a fourth Island golf course (fifth, including the man-made three-hole course on Chappaquiddick) on the Island.

“It wasn’t easy to get this done, but we are good stewards of this land,” Mr. Daly said, looking at the course which melds with surrounding conservation land owned by the Sheriff’s Meadow Foundation. “There is a good and interesting dynamic between Island members and the seasonal members. Friendships have taken root and people learn about the Island from each other.

“This island has an everyman aspect to its golf culture that you see in Ireland and Scotland but not always in the U.S. But this island is unique and it works that way here. People here know that everyone puts their pants on one leg at a time.”

As a private course, VGC doesn’t release member names or initiation fees and dues, though a 2008 Golf digest article said an annual Island membership costs $500. Regular members paid a $350,000 initiation fee and were assessed $12,000 in annual dues in 2008, according to the Golf Digest story.

Island members are not assessed initiation fees, Mr. Daly said. Regular members are assessed $500 per year for the foundation’s work.”Many of them contribute a lot more,” he said.

Beginning his third year as VGC’s general manager, Mr. Daly has wide experience managing high-end golf courses, including 18 years at The Honors Course in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he hosted U.S. amateur competitions won by now-professional golf stars Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar, among others. A private club that is often listed as one of America’s Top 100 courses, The Honors Course devotes resources to promoting amateur golf and golfers, hosting state, regional and national collegiate matches.

“Golf clubs do a lot of community service work,” Mr. Daly said. “It’s sort of an untold story. Close to home here, the Nantucket club has a huge foundation that does tremendous work and is an important part of fundraising in its community.”

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School golf team uses the VGC facility and the club hosts fundraiser tournaments annually for the Vineyard Nursing Association (VNA), the Edgartown Police department and the Rotary Club. VGC also donates foursome rounds to be auctioned at Island charity events.

“The Vineyard Golf Club has been a wonderful relationship for us,” Robert Tonti, chief executive officer of the VNA, said. “They provided the facility for our golf tournament literally since they opened and recently added us to their foundation so we’re able to get a donation from the foundation. We look to raise $300,000 to $400,000 a year in total fundraising and their involvement represents a substantial gift.”

The VNA averages 40,000 home visits a year on Nantucket and on the Island and employs 100 people, including 15 on Nantucket, Mr. Tonti said. The VNA’s 2012 golf tournament will be held on Friday, June 22, at the VGC.

To a first-time visitor, the rolling heathland-style course is reminiscent of Scottish and Irish courses constructed centuries ago, before men ever dreamed of bulldozers.

The Club describes itself as the most environmentally sensitive course in the country. Jeff Carlson, golf superintendent, is not permitted to use pesticides or synthetic chemical treatments of any kind to maintain the club’s exclusive 18-hole golf course.

Applications for foundation support, which must be received by June 15, should be sent to Vineyard Golf Club Foundation, P.O. Box 9, Edgartown, MA 02539 . Complete information on registration and grant application is at vineyardgolf.com.

Correction

The print edition of this story published May 17 incorrectly reported that Tiger Woods and Matt Kuchar each won the U.S. Amateur golf championship at The Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn.

In fact, while Mr. Woods (1996 NCAA individual medalist) and Mr. Kuchar (1999 Palmer Cup team) each won amateur championships at The Honors Course, neither man won the U.S. Amateur championship. The Honors Course has hosted the U.S. amateur championship once, in 1991, won by Mitch Voges.