Boris Uvakov, General Manager & COO at the Ottawa Hunt and Golf Club sat down with Flagstick.com (FGM) to talk about the Hunt Club and the CP Women’s Open as round two play was beginning.
FGM: Can you share what it means to have the CP Women’s Open at the Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club?
BU: It’s a pretty high-profile event. It’s an event that this Club is very proud to host. We’re thrilled that the course is showing well which is something in the back of mind, you want to host an event like this you want to have your best face on and the condition of the course is just spectacular. The feedback we’ve gotten from the athletes has been amazing. I had one athlete, and she didn’t know who I was and I said how do you like the course? She said this was the best course we’ve played all year. I said it’s in good shape, isn’t it and she said, No, it’s in superb shape. You hear that and she didn’t know who I was. That’s like when you hear someone talking about your child and they don’t know you’re the parent; you’re super pumped when you hear things like that and we’ve been hearing comments like that all week. So, we’re thrilled about how well the course has been received and this is a big-time event. It is so much bigger than when we hosted back in 2008. You look at all the corporate tents; the Golf Channel takes up the majority of our north side parking lot and they have towers on 14 holes. That’s pretty neat. As Brooke would say, that’s pretty cool.
FGM: So you had said that the members are proud and how many of them are volunteering?
BU: We have 400 of our members who are volunteering. Now we have 1400 members, some of whom are curling and social. Primarily we have eight, nine hundred who are in the golfing category and 400 of them are volunteering. So virtually half of our golfers are volunteering. I shouldn’t say that, there are curling and social members are who are volunteering as well. But predominantly the golfers.
This has been a two-year project. It was officially announced in October of 2015 that we received the Open and right off the bat committees were formed. Lori White and Ron Milligan who are two past presidents were named as co-chairs and they’ve done a phenomenal job. They have 21 sub-committees who have chairs, vice-chairs and a number of volunteers as well. I think the last number was 1400 volunteers to help run this event. There are a lot of moving parts and right now we couldn’t be more proud. For the first time in Golf Canada’s history they shut off the registration for volunteers six weeks prior to the event. There’s so much desire there for people to volunteer.
FGM: Apart from the daily activities that we see, you’ve got the merchandising tents and I see your staff looking after things at both ends so there are some residuals that you’re receiving, do you receive anything from Golf Canada to host the event?
BU: We do. We get residuals from the merchandising, the merchandising is our baby to run and we either make money or lose money depending how you run it. It’s a business, so far so good. We also have the food and beverage within the clubhouse, the corporate areas for CP, the corporate areas for people who bought corporate tables in our banquet area. Our lower level is for people who have clubhouse badges. We also have an upper area designated for people with corporate badges and we receive the food and beverage revenues from those, which could be very significant. There are also some incentives on the sales side whether for tickets or corporate sales that a commission would be paid back to the Club but I can’t really get into details as that part is confidential. If the event is successful for Golf Canada, then it will be most successful for us.
FGM: Are you also judging the success of this event by the number of membership inquiries?
BU: We were hoping that this would spur on membership but we had a membership drive this past spring and we are right now three members away from a waiting list. We have what we call Hunt Club Ambassadors out on the golf course giving some information to people as to what vantage points are best for viewing, where the washrooms are and the feedback they are getting is people are interested in memberships so I would not be surprised to get the three available memberships after this event. We should fill those spots and have a waiting list after this event. We would be one of three golf courses in the country who have a waiting list. That’s pretty neat.
FGM: People that have never played here and are seeing the course for the first time are commenting how beautiful the course is.
BU: Sometimes you become a bit blasé as you’re here all the time. Last night when I went home I had PVR’d the Golf Channel’s broadcast and saw the course and ‘wow’ did it look spectacular on TV. It looks spectacular in real life but you see it and I was even more proud, it showed very well on television. The changes that Michael Hurdzan made were significant and a lot of the players came in and mentioned that they had there notes from 2008 and told me they just threw them out because every hole has been changed and for the better. It was a good course before the changes were made so we’re thrilled with the changes he made. It’s a very interesting course with the mix of short and long par 4’s, the long par 5’s, one of which the girls can reach, at least where they’re playing it from now. We’ve added an additional par 3 and took out a par 4 in order to create some space for a practice facility. We have a driving range right out front of the clubhouse and that practice range is phenomenal. It is such a beautiful area with target greens to hit to. There are three practice putting areas. We have three nines here and by the first hole on each nine there’s a practice pitching and hitting area. It’s a great Club to be a member.
FGM: What was the thought process in making Brooke Henderson an honorary member of the Ottawa Hunt & Golf Club?
BU: She wanted to practise on this course because she knew the CP Women’s Open was coming. She grew up in Smiths Falls and is a member of the Smiths Falls Golf Club and she finds when she goes there because everyone knows her, they all feel like they are family which is a tremendous thing but when she goes there she finds that it is difficult for her to practise. Everyone’s coming up and it’s hi, how are you. You know how Brooke is, she’ll talk with everyone. She’s such a nice young lady. I think when she comes here, people will give her space. They haven’t known her since she was a little girl and so I think she finds it may be easier to focus on practising. When she’s at a golf course, that’s her job. She’s working and that’s an important part of why she is such a great golfer, she works on her game. It was a unanimous decision by the Board to give her and her sister an honorary membership, there wasn’t too much discussion.
FGM With the number of golf media members present for this event, it’s nice to have the exposure?
BU: Our members were disappointed with the rankings last June when the Score Magazine course rankings came out and the Ottawa Hunt wasn’t in the top 100. I followed up on it and found that not enough golf rankers had come out and you need a minimum number of rankers to come out to be put into the computer. Our course re-opened in May of 2016 after years of construction and between May and June we didn’t have enough course rankers come out. I’m fairly confident that we’ll have enough rankers prior to next June’s ranking. This course should be in the top fifty in the country, just from the feedback we’ve had from the LPGA.
FGM: Thank you for this Boris and good luck with the rest of the CP Women’s Open.