PAULSEN: GOLF STILL THE GAME PLAN
Like most Capital Area golf courses, Eagle Crest opened early this season. With the mild winter, there wasn’t much of an off-season anyway.
So in March, as golfers started to show regularly, Eagle Crest owner Bill Paulsen, Jr. had a brief conversation with his assistant pro Scott Battiste, who had just won the NENY PGA Assistant Pro of the Year.
It went something like this:
Paulsen to Battiste: “I’ve got to apologize for all the questions. I’m sure you’re being asked by every third person about the move.”
Battiste to Paulsen (jokingly, we presume): “No, it’s more like every person.”
So it goes for the staff at Eagle Crest, which annually hosts the challenging and unique Eagle Crest Shootout (began May 1994) and last fall held the Section II high school championships. There’s now an “Important Notice” flier on the counter when you walk in the pro shop, on every golf cart, and on the course’s website to explain “the move.”
It reads, in part, “Our loyal customers know we’re a hands on, family run, small business and we appreciate all the support we have received from the community over the last 25 years and hope for that continued support into the future.”
Back in late December, Paulsen filed paperwork with the town of Clifton Park to begin the process of turning his longtime course into homes and retiring. It has already prompted one league to jump ship this season and has made some golfers skittish.
“Once we get these approvals it isn’t going to happen right away, anyway,” Paulsen tells Capitalareagolf. “We’re trying to reassure everybody that I’m not that kind of person.”
There has been no movement so far, the proposal hasn’t even gone to the planning commission yet, Paulsen said.
“We’ve been discussing this for a couple of years just because long-range planning is what it really amounts to,” he said. “The golf business is not what it was. We’re fine, we don’t have debt. We’ve been in business for 25 years. It’s not like we’re losing money.
“But everybody has to have an endgame and we’re trying to get these approvals from the town to allow us to do a community at some point.”
The property sits on 200-acres off Route 146A, about 154-acres holds the course. The plan is for 170 proposed units – “a combination of traditional homes and carriage homes,” Paulsen said. “There’s a big need for that in our area…the town of Clifton Park is in short supply on those type of homes.”
Paulsen, who turns 59 this month, says with their kids out of the house, and no pension, he wants to secure a future for his wife and family.
“There’s a lot of demand for people that are downsizing at our age but still love the town of Clifton Park and like the community and want to stay in the area. I’m sure it will be a successful project it’s just there are some zoning changes that need to be done.”
The plan is to use only 38% of the property and have a large border for neighbors plus relief from the railroad tracks, he added.
THE HORSE’S MOUTH
“Everybody comes in with different theories and what they heard,” Paulsen said.
Last Friday, a golfer came to play and, of course, the topic of closing came up. He said he heard “from a good source” that they were going to leave the perimeter nine holes and put a nursing home in the middle. Paulsen smiled and said no.
“You’re talking to the horse’s mouth,” he assured the man. “…it’s almost comical, I have to chuckle.”
Paulsen insists he would like Eagle Crest to stay a golf course. It began as Northway Heights when Gino Turchi and his wife Willie bought the land in 1963 and opened it for golf two years later. On December 7, 1980, Turchi made the first and still only hole in one from back tee of hole #17. He died in December 2012.
In February 1991, the Paulsen family bought the club and property and renamed it Eagle Crest Golf Club, Inc. A few months later, Ron Philo was hired as the first teaching professional.
“Trust me,” said Paulsen, “I would rather see it stay a golf course. We’ve got a quarter of a century of passion and hard work in the game. Working and playing there and everything being equal, or even someplace close to it, that would be ideal, but I just don’t see that happening.”
Paulsen, a good player in his own right, was the only man in the state to play in the Senior, Mid-Am and Men’s Amateur golf tournaments in 2013. In 2014, he shot 36-38 and was tied for the lead after the first round of the 58th NYS Men’s Senior & Super Senior Amateur Championship at Cedar Lake Club. He is also helping to run the two-day Saratoga County Amateur Golf Tournament.
“This is long-range planning for the good of our family,” he said. “It’s just something we had to go through. I knew it wasn’t going to help our business.”