With the golf season set to tee off at the Birchbank Golf Course on Friday, a familiar face returns to the course as its head professional and Director of Golf.
Jeff Papilion has more than 20 years experience in the golf industry, and returns to Birchbank with a renewed sense of commitment and refreshing outlook.
“I’ve been out of the golf business for six years, so I’ve missed some of it, some of it I didn’t, but it’s good to be back,” said Papilion. “The members are happy to see me back and we’re going to make a few changes and hopefully have a good start to a good year.”
Papilion was the head professional at Birchbank from 2009-2011, and spent five years at the Nk’Mip Canyon Desert Golf Course in Oliver prior to his move to Trail. His experience includes previous stops in Grande Prairie, Alta., and Surrey’s Morgan Creek club, before helping develop the Nk’Mip course into an award-winning track in the Okanagan.
Along with building membership, the Regina native says one of the keys to a successful course is attracting young golfers, and hopes to rebuild partnerships with local schools and include a regular run of junior golf clinics.
“If you don’t get juniors, if you don’t get kids, you don’t get new members, so we’re really going to work on the junior aspect as well,” said Papilion.
The scratch golfer also wants to revisit his network of golf courses to attract golfers from around B.C. and Alberta.
“We kind of lost a bit of contact with some clubs that sent their members back and forth,” said Papilion. “I’m going to try and get some traffic back.”
One highlight of the Birchbank golf season will be the BC Golf Zone 1 Women’s Championship on May 26 and 27, in addition to a stop from the West Kootenay Junior Tour on June 8, and the annual Men’s and Ladies’ Club Open.
Despite the turbulent winter weather, the Birchbank course is in great shape and, given Mother Nature’s approval, will be ready to play on Friday.
“It’s been a long tough winter but it actually wintered really well,” said Papilion. “The greens look good, and there’s a few splotches, a little bit of snow mould here and there, but they actually look really, really good. The fairways look really good, too, so we’ll open up in pretty decent condition actually.”
New members also get a sizeable discount, and those who work days can enjoy a twilight membership with weekend discounts. But even more popular may be the 10-punch and 5-punch passes that will save golfers cash up front.
“We revamped all of our punch cards, so a person buying the 10-punch pass will save about $100.”
The Birchbank Bistro is also up and running with Food and Beverage Manager Kalea Garrett introducing new features to the menu.
The driving range opened on Mar. 30, and players can book their tee times for the 18-hole course for Friday morning at 9 a.m. – weather permitting. Last year Birchbank opened the first week of April, while in 2016 the driving range opened in early March, and members teed off on Saint Patrick’s Day, Mar. 17.