Vanderlip, new owners land at The Port
It’s old but new again.
The Port Colborne Golf and Country turns 90 next year, making it one of the oldest golf facilities in the Niagara Peninsula.
It was tired and struggling, however, until a new ownership group purchased it from the members this winter.
That new group includes Allan and Sandy Billyard and Nick Durbano, a name that will be familiar to Hamilton hockey fans for his ownership of the Red Wings Junior hockey club in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
They convinced Tom Vanderlip to come over from Peninsula Lakes to be their general manager.
Vanderlip, a Burlington native, had been at Pen Lakes for 13 years, helping it develop a reputation as one of the places to play and dine in Southern Ontario.
“When we got here, the golf course was already in good shape,” Vanderlip said of Port Colborne. “The superintendent, Jay Kulak has been here 30 years and does a really good job.
“This a neat, old, fun golf course, with smallish greens.”
The new owners realized it was on the clubhouse more than the golf course where they needed to expend their energy and dollars.
Instead of tearing down the existing old farmhouse, which was built in 1895, and constructing a new building, they used the bones of the old structure and just opened it up inside to provide larger dining areas.
A coat of blue paint and a white picket fence around the patio gives it a nautical appearance, as befits a golf club that’s just a kilometre from Lake Erie and is named after a bustling port community on the Welland Canal.
Vanderlip says in its heyday, The Port had 750 members. That was down to 197 last year and he said it was technically zero when they took over.
“We have 350 members now,” he says, noting that there will always been room for greens fee players.
Vanderlip says their players comes from cottagers, many of them American. And from all over the Niagara Peninsula including Hamilton, especially the eastern parts like Stoney Creek where golfers find it less expensive to play courses down the peninsula than to head toward Toronto.
Greens fees at the Port are $45 at peak times and $40 at non-peak times.
Vanderlip says one of the fun parts of the new job for him is researching the history of the club by looking in the attic where’s found old trophies and newspaper clippings.
“The course started as four holes, then went to nine and then 18,” he says.
Whole-in-one: Kevin Roseneck aced the 144-yard sixth hole on the Gold Eagle nine at Chippewa Creek with a six-iron.