Gloria & Tom Welch – The Minders of Metcalfe Golf
“It all started with a blind date set up by my sister Marilyn,” said Tom Welch about his thirty-nine year union with his wife Gloria.
Marilyn Welch was working with Gloria Fluney at the Bank of Montreal in Orangeville, Ontario and had been attempting to set up a date for Gloria with her brother Tom for the better part of a year. “I think I agreed to the date just to pacify her,” said Gloria. “I should add that upon meeting Tom, my mother knew he was the one, and she was right.”
Gloria and Tom were married in 1976, the same year the Metcalfe Golf & Country Club opened with nine holes. It’s hard not to talk about the Metcalfe Golf & Country Club when you lay out the story of Gloria and Tom Welch. Their married life has been spent working and promoting their successful business that they have built to 27-holes, not to mention the outstanding food coming out of the kitchen at their Hickories Restaurant.
In the early 1950’s, Alfred Welch and his wife Jean had purchased one hundred acres and farmed cattle on the land. A friend of Alfred’s had suggested at one point that the property would be suitable for a golf course and the seed of an idea was planted.
Until 1975, Tom worked with his father Alfred in their successful T.Welch & Son Limited Roofing and Sheet Metal, a business that had been in operation since 1880. Under recessionary times, the family business was feeling the pinch in the early 1970’s. “Good time to shut down the business and build a golf course,” uttered the then 60-year-old Alfred Welch.
The Metcalfe Golf & Country Club is truly a family operation. The planning, design and routing of the golf course was done by Alfred and his two sons Tom and Scott while Jean operated the kitchen.
Alfred was often heard talking about his golf course, “It’s nice to have people pay to walk on your grass.”
Unfortunately Alfred passed away in 1996 as a result of injuries sustained in a car accident in Florida and his wife Jean passed away in 2001. But Alfred had seen his dream come to fruition and he was proud of his golf course operation.
Both Gloria and Tom come from rural backgrounds and hard work is no stranger to either of them. They are the current owners and operators of the now 27-hole golf course and have played direct roles in the constant improvements which have made the course what it is today.
Apart from adding nine holes to the course in 2004, they have supervised renovations to the 18-hole course including the redesign of 6 holes, 9 new greens and 7 new tee boxes. In addition, the parking lot has been paved, the irrigation and drainage systems expanded and renovations made to the patio at Hickories.
Tom laughed when he talked about the third nine holes put into play in 2004. “The extra nine holes were built so we could shut down nine holes from time to time for maintenance purposes. But we’re too busy on all 27 holes.”
Isn’t that a nice problem to have?
Gloria and Tom still spend much of their time at the course, but they have passed along most of the responsibility for day to day operations to their General Manager and now partner Rob Howell. “Rob is like a son to us,” said both Gloria and Tom. “He’s detail orientated and very well organized.”
They are both proud of their business, but attribute much of the success of the Metcalfe Golf & Country Club to the staff members they have hired. “They are all good people,” stated Gloria and Tom. “Our team isn’t just our managers, but also our front line servers in the pro shop, in the restaurant and the on-course starters, marshals and maintenance workers. We are proud of them all.”
The Metcalfe Golf & Country Club is also big on the promotion of junior golf. How often on a golf club website do you see a tab titled “Juniors & Families” promoting junior golf in a number of programs? As Gloria and Tom stated, “Kids are the future of the game and we try and provide affordable golf for junior golfers and their parents.”
Gloria and Tom are also community orientated.
They sponsor the Open Junior (driver must be under 20 years of age) Dress Up Division at the annual Metcalfe Fair where awards are given to the best decorated horse, cart and driver and they also support an award for the fiddling & step dancing.
They also give up their course annually for their Metcalfe Charity Classic with funds raised going to the Osgoode Care Centre. $89,000 has been donated over 14 years to support capital projects and item purchases at the non-profit community-based charitable corporation that provides services to seniors in the Osgoode Community.
When asked about life outside of the golf club, Gloria and Tom responded that they enjoy amateur theatre and love their outings to the Upper Canada Playhouse. Although travel is not a priority, they also both enjoy Golf Club Owner’s Association National and International meetings. As they say, “We build memories with the people we meet. We all have a common goal of promoting golf. We have also built friendships through the years that have stood the test of time.”
As to the future, Gloria and Tom are looking forward to celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary next year and at the same time celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Metcalfe Golf & Country Club.
Gloria and Tom have come a long way since they were married and started out their life together with little in the way of finances. They have no regrets and are comfortable in life now and proud of their accomplishments as a team, but they are just as down-to-earth as you would expect of a couple with their rural roots.
I guess you would have to say that Gloria and Tom Welch owe a debt of gratitude to Tom’s sister Marilyn for insisting on that blind date so many years ago.