WELLSBORO — The Tyoga Country Club has dissolved and given its assets to the nonprofit GROW, giving the golf course a new shot at viability and allowing it to remain open with business as usual.
GROW — Growth Resources of Wellsboro Foundation — is a nonprofit organization comprised of business and individual members. It was founded and incorporated in 1956 when Dresser Industries was looking to put a plant in Wellsboro. All Wellsboro had to do was contribute $180,000 within 10 days.
“The business leaders here started a campaign called Operation GROW and they raised $230,000 — $50,000 extra — and that plant did end up coming here,” Shawn Bryant, president of the GROW board, said. The plant is no longer in operation here, but it was a big employer for a while, Bryant said.
Out of that, GROW was formed.
The Tyoga Country Club has needed financial support from GROW during the past few years, Bryant said, due to a decline in golfers and an uptick in competition. But before that, GROW was originally involved with the Tyoga Country Club in the late 70s when it assisted in obtaining funding to expand the golf course from nine holes to 18 holes.
“GROW has always had an interest in the golf course as a nice attraction, a nice recreational area for the community. It’s important to businesses to have recreational areas,” Bryant said.
Historically, GROW has been geared toward more industrial community assets. One of the most significant examples of what GROW has done, Bryant said, was in 1992 when GROW bought the railroad line from Wellsboro to the Painted Post/Corning, N.Y. area when Conrail, the owner at the time, planned to abandon it. Many employers at the time, such as the glass factory, used the railroad to get their supplies or to get their product to the markets. GROW still owns the railroad line today and leases it out to railroad operators.
But it’s not just about industrial assets in the community anymore. The schools, restaurants and things like a golf course, are important to the community, Bryant said.
“I really think it’s important when you have a great asset like the Tyoga Golf Course, to preserve those for the community and keep them going,” Bryant said.
Because of the significant financial challenges facing the country club, its members voted to dissolve and pass its assets on to GROW as the local nonprofit best positioned to take over and maintain operations of the golf course, Bryant said.
The majority of GROW’s money that is being put into the golf course comes from the railroad leases, Bryant said.
“The country club has had a lot of trouble just with the economy of golf, fewer golfers, they’ve relied on visiting golfers but that has died down a little bit because of competition,” Bryant said. “Over the last 20 years, a lot more golf courses have been built and a lot of formerly private country clubs have opened up to let more non-members play on them.”
The new asset ownership is good news for anyone local who plays golf, Bryant said.
“The golf course is going to stay open this year and beyond,” Bryant said. GROW has put together a new board to run Tyoga; Ron Butler is the chair of the Tyoga board. He’s putting together a group of people from various backgrounds, including some who have been involved with the country club before and some from outside of it, who will have a fresh look on things, Bryant said.
Butler said Tyoga is very important to the community, economic strength and development, and is glad GROW has the resources and willingness to take on this challenge.
“Our plan is to ensure it’s existence as a long term asset for the community,” Butler said.
Bryant and Butler both said though winter is typically an off-season for Tyoga, GROW is exploring ways to capitalize on that. During the golf season, they are also looking for new ideas and events.
“We have booked a few new events for this year, there are more that are being discussed,” Butler said. There’s a marketing committee that has been very active and getting everyone ready for the golf season, Butler said.
GROW encourages the public to submit ideas on how to grow Tyoga to either GROW or to the Wellsboro Chamber of Commerce. Contact information to GROW is available online at https://www.wellsboropa.com/business-resources/grow, the contact information for the Chamber is online at https://www.wellsboropa.com/.