Editor’s note: This is a letter sent to Oak Ridge City Council by the Oak Ridge Country Club in response to comments made during a City Council meeting in January, when Council considered whether to provide $120,000 for the city-owned Tennessee Centennial Golf Course.
Dear Council Members:
On behalf of the membership and Board of Directors of Oak Ridge Country Club (ORCC), I would like to take this opportunity to express our displeasure in councilman Rick Chinn stemming from a statement made during a recent City Council meeting, which subsequently made it to public media outlets. During that meeting Mr. Chinn, in defense of his vote against allocating funds to Centennial Golf Course, stated that, “there is another private golf course in Oak Ridge that is also struggling.” Due to the fact that ORCC is the only private golf course in Oak Ridge, one can conclude that he was referring to our club. I would like to take a moment to address that completely unfounded and inappropriate comment.
Oak Ridge Country Club was founded in 1947 and will celebrate its 70th year in existence this year. ORCC is not funded by the City of Oak Ridge. We currently have 275 golf members and over 440 members total that maintain the financial stability of our club, without city or state assistance. Our club is not remotely a fair comparison to Centennial when it comes to taxpayer dollars spent in the city of Oak Ridge.
Of that membership of 275 golf members, a good percentage are individuals and families that come from outside the city of Oak Ridge (Powell, West Knoxville, Hardin Valley, and Kingston, to name a few), thus bringing dollars into our city’s economy. Our club annually hosts events for Tennessee Golf Association, Tennessee PGA and Knoxville Chapter PGA. All of these events bring players from all over the state of Tennessee into our community, to our hotels, restaurants, gas stations, etc.
Furthermore, for the past three years, we have been the host site for Scott Stallings (PGA tour player and Oak Ridge native) Under Armour American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) Championship. In 2016, this event brought juniors and parents from 19 states and three different countries into our community for a week-long event. The AJGA supplies our club with an annual economic impact report from this event that shows an impact of over $150,000 per year to our local economy. This event contributes nearly $15,000 per year to local charities, including the Boys & Girls Club, Girls Inc., Choices Resource Center, Folds of Honor (for Chattanooga victims), ORCC Junior Golf, Kennedy Ladd Foundation, and more. The list of contributions to the community by ORCC continues with countless donations to local charities and playing host to other charity fundraisers such as the annual Boys & Girls Club reverse raffle. We also serve as host to the St. Mary’s School and Oak Ridge High School golf teams, a service that is provided at no charge to the schools or kids. As you can see, ORCC is very connected to serving our community and doing our part.
In 2016, ORCC opened a brand new swimming pool and outdoor entertainment facility. This pool is “hands down” the finest facility of its kind in our city, and the entertainment venue is unsurpassed in our community for hosting parties, wedding receptions, etc. Social memberships to the pool are in line with costs to join other community pools, and non-members are eligible to rent out the entertainment space for their events. While we are a “private” club, we remain very accessible to our community.
Based upon the information stated above, you can imagine the dismay of our membership, Board, and staff when we learn that an elected official of the city that we pay taxes in makes an inaccurate and negative comment that implies we are “struggling.” ORCC is a non-profit business that continues to make improvements to our course and club on an annual basis; many of those improvements are paid for with cash rather than financing. We employ 30-40 people, depending on the season, many of which live in Oak Ridge. We are active in the community, and we pay our bills. To be disrespected by a public official who has no knowledge of our financial situation, simply to serve his own agenda, is unprofessional and unacceptable to say the least.
In the future, we are hopeful that this individual, and all elected officials serving our community, will make their comments based on factual information. We are also hopeful that these individuals will have a desire to help the local businesses in more positive ways so that we can all be successful in growing the wonderful city of Oak Ridge.
I thank you all for your time and consideration.
PGA Director of Golf/General Manager
Oak Ridge CC
Note: The submitted letters and columns published in the Opinion section do not necessarily reflect the views of Oak Ridge Today or its staff.
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