Originally created 11/20/02

New owner aims to keep club on par



Chris Verdery's name has been synonymous with the River Golf Club ever since it was established in North Augusta nearly five years ago.

As the head pro, he was on board months before the course opened its doors. He spent much of that time praying that the rains in the winter of 1997 rains would stop washing away parts of the course, which opened in April 1998, four months behind schedule.

Starting last month, Verdery took on even more responsibilities at the course located across the Savannah River from downtown Augusta.

He and his father, Charles Verdery of Richmond, Va., formed River Golf, Inc., and purchased the course from the original owners, North Augusta Golf Venture, Inc.

Not bad for someone who's just 33.

"I think it's every professional's dream to get into the ownership side of things somehow," said Verdery, who is now the director of golf at the club. "To be able to do it at this club is a tremendous opportunity."

The course changed hands quietly.

"It wasn't real important to have a big public announcement," Verdery said. "But I think having local ownership will be a benefit for everybody."

Being absentee owners is the main reason North Augusta Golf Venture, Inc., sold the course. With two of the partners living in Florida and the other in Atlanta, they made it to North Augusta to check on their investment "once or twice a year," Verdery said.

"There was some frustration on their part that with their busy developments in Florida, they were unable to provide the attention to this facility that they would like," Verdery said. "But we had tremendous support from them. They made a strong commitment to do things the right way."

The fact that the club had a strong golf course superintendent in Shane Schutte, and food and beverage manager in Pat Hungerpiller already in place, helped make Verdery's decision to purchase the club easier, he said.

"One of the reasons we wanted to make an investment here was because we felt the club was a special place already and had a lot of natural strengths as far as the golf industry goes," Verdery said. "We just want to make the place better every year."

That does not mean it will follow the lead of The Club at Jones Creek in Evans and go from a semi-private daily fee club to private.

"We anticipate still taking public play for many years to come," Verdery said. "I think with our location to downtown Augusta and affiliation with the community, it is a positive for people to visit Augusta or North Augusta and know they can play the course."

One of his goals is to beef up the membership roll, which currently numbers 220.

"I will be seeking quality members in the area; I'll be reaching out to them stronger," Verdery said.

It's no secret that a weak economy has affected the golf industry. That is not why Verdery and his father were able to purchase the River Golf Club at this time.

"We did not get the course because it was for sale or there were problems," Verdery said. "This was not a situation where the course was struggling and we took it off someone else's hands. We paid a fair price for a quality golf course."

Verdery said the owners had not entertained offers from other buyers, but sold it to the Verderys because they knew it would be maintained in the proper fashion.

"They would like to see the course do well and wanted to make sure it was in good hands," Verdery said. "That's a credit to them."

As director of golf, Verdery said he "possibly" will hire a head golf professional to help ease some of his golf duties. He also is the club's general manager.

Until then, Verdery's days at the course will be longer than before. At least when he drives down that long road to the clubhouse each morning, he'll be headed to his course.

Reach David Westin at (706) 724-0851.