Pickleball Takes Center Court

by Martha-Page Althaus

 Mar 22, 2019 at 7:00 PM

It’s the fastest growing sport in the country, and McConnell Golf members have home-court advantage.

Pickleball is a paddle sport, similiar to tennis or badminton, but with fewer rules and, some would say, even more fun.

“This year is our test year for pickleball,” says Kyle Thortsen, McConnell corporate director of tennis. “We’re educating our tennis pros on how to play and running demos at clubs, so be on the lookout for more details from your pro shop on upcoming pickleball socials this year.”

Holston Hills Country Club and Country Club of Asheville have seen a big interest in the sport; both clubs have a regular group of players who meet weekly.

“The biggest fans of pickleball are usually those who are aging out of tennis,” says Thorsten. “It’s a slower-paced game with an underhand serve, played on a smaller court. It’s great for tennis players who may have had injuries or can’t take the wear and tear of covering a full tennis court.”

At CCA, Director of Tennis Bill Barber says pickleball is bringing new people to his indoor courts.

“I’m seeing new people out here, which I love. It gets people active, and that’s a great thing. I’ve been shocked at the interest. There’s a very quick learning curve and it’s an incredibly social game. People are watching and laughing at the good, the bad, the ugly shots. It’s almost like adult ping-pong. I love when I hear members say ‘I haven’t laughed this much in years.’” 

CCA member Wayne DiCastri recently moved to Asheville from Minnesota, where he and his wife, Ingrid, played the sport regularly. They didn’t miss a beat when they joined CCA last fall.

“We have a great core group that plays regularly,” he says.

“It was a great way for us to meet new people and get some exercise. There’s less area to cover on the court and all the equipment is here. You just show up and start playing.” 

Read More

The Many Benefits of Massage

by Martha-Page Althaus

 Mar 22, 2019 at 2:30 PM

Massages are for more than just relaxation. They’re beneficial for all ages and there are no negative side effects. Rethink massage as total pampering, and reconsider it as a necessary step in taking care of your health. Natalie Veres, licensed massage and body therapist at Country Club of Asheville, shares four benefits of massage treatments

1) Stress Reduction

“We’re working harder and longer hours, sitting at desks all day long. We carry our stress and it can hurt. For pure relaxation purposes, consider a Swedish massage.”

2) Pain Relief

“Massage helps with back and nerve pain. If you’re recovering from surgery, massage helps rehabilitation and creates a healing response in the body to prohibit scar tissue build-up and stiff joints.”

3) Athletic Performance 

“It aids in flexibility with your golf or tennis swing. If you’ve been swinging the same way for years, throwing your body into that one hip, it creates lower back and hip pain. Repeating the same movement causes muscles to contract and tighten over time. But it’s completely treatable! A deep-tissue massage helps muscles to relax.”

4) A Better Night's Sleep 

“Massage has been proven to help with insomnia. It helps regulate serotonin and reduce cortisol levels.”

Read More

In Good Taste

by Martha-Page Althaus

 Jun 21, 2018 at 3:30 PM

There’s never been a better time to have dinner at the club. Here's, one of McConnell Golf's Executive Chefs dish on everything from locally sourced ingredients to the best entrée and wine pairings.

Bruce McIntosh, Certified Executive Chef

“The halibut we’re serving tonight will fly out the door,” exclaims Bruch McIntosh, who helms the kitchen in Asheville.

“It’s gorgeous. Smoked tomato cream sauce, grilled corn succotash, lemon aioli. You’ve got three different notes on the plate there, and we try to hit that every time.”

Hitting the right notes, indeed. McIntosh and his team earn praise for quality and consistency, two of the most important factors for any restaurant, but especially so in foodie-centric Asheville.

“We try to get North Carolina fish whenever possible,” says McIntosh. “We look at what season is coming up, and that dictates the menu. We have some of the best fish in town. We’ve been buying from the same fish purveyor for more than 30 years, so they know what I want.”

The citrus notes in Juslyn’s new sauvignon blanc pair well with McIntosh’s seafood plates, especially, he notes, in the calamari and pan-seared fish entrées.

Sourcing locally extends to other ingredients, too. Local mushrooms and produce come from Franklin, NC. The creamy
grits in McIntosh’s shrimp and grits dish hail from a nearby purveyor in South Carolina. 

Read More

Tracing Asheville's Roots

by Brad King

 Jun 19, 2018 at 1:00 PM

The long and enduring history of Country Club of Asheville has involved land purchases, gifts, leases, debt solutions, and “The Big Swap.” Today, the club is North Carolina’s oldest in continuous operation, and the second oldest in the South.

Golf's Early Days in Asheville

Neighboring farmers in West Asheville soon began to complain about the fox hunts causing damage to their property.
Noticing that the fox population was declining, the club decided to drop fox hunting in favor of golf ball hunting. A committee bored several holes in the terrain. The result? Golf became so popular that the same committee built a new five-hole course.

In 1896, the club changed its name to Swannanoa Golf and Country Club. The club moved its rudimentary golf course three times thereafter, each in search of a more convenient location to the city.

In late 1898, one of Asheville’s prominent citizens, George Willis Pack, whose wife Frances liked to play golf, leased to the club for $1 a year the land it needed to construct a more sophisticated golf facility — including a new clubhouse with showers, locker rooms, lounges, and game rooms — on the site just off Charlotte Street, north of downtown, near the present-day Omni Grove Park Inn.

In 1905, Swannanoa Golf and Country Club was renamed Asheville Country Club. Five years later, Asheville’s Grove
family helped hire Willie Park Jr., a golf pro and course designer from Musselburgh, Scotland, to take the existing nine holes, add nine more, and present a full 18-hole layout to the club. Park, along with his father, won a total of six Open Championships. They were rivals of Old Tom Morris and his son Tommy Jr., who together won a total of eight Opens.

In 1926, Donald Ross, the renowned Scotsman who moved to Pinehurst in 1900, completely redesigned the course, which then began playing host to the world’s best players. Soon after the original 1926 Ross design grew in, the likes of Harry Vardon and Ted Ray competed in an exhibition. The PGA’s Asheville Land of the Sky Open ran for 18 years (through 1951), with the legendary Ben Hogan winning three consecutive years from 1940 to 1942. Another legend, Bobby Jones, also came to Asheville and the Grove Park Inn to play the lower mountain golf course that he so enjoyed.

In addition, two years after Ross’s course opened, the nearby Lake View Park development built its own Ross-designed
layout, Beaver Lake Golf Club, where Country Club of Asheville members enjoyed playing privileges.

"The Big Swap"

In the 1930s, the club survived the Great Depression, but that did not ensure staying in the black. Fast-forward a
generation, when another golf-loving newcomer to Asheville stepped in to provide Country Club of Asheville its next big boost. Mitchell Wolfson — a multimedia magnate and horse breeder from Miami — arranged to have the country club sell its course to the Grove Park Inn. He used the profits to buy the Lake View course and build a new clubhouse, tennis courts, and pool.

This led to a 1976 event known as “The Big Swap,” when Grove Park Inn acquired the original golf course, while Country Club of Asheville moved to its current course at Beaver Lake. During this time, the club also changed its name from Asheville Country Club to Country Club of Asheville.

Raleigh’s McConnell Golf purchased the club in late 2014. Two years later, McConnell Golf spent $3.7 million on capital projects, including a major course renovation.

Asheville's Next Chapter

Ed Woeckener, 83, has been a member at Country Club of Asheville for nearly two decades. He has played more than
350 courses in 26 states — 100 in Florida alone — along with 13 other countries, including rounds with 37 golf-tour professionals. He is a member of the Donald Ross Society, the Golf Collectors Society, and the Society of Hickory Golfers, a distinguished consortium of avid golfers who play only with hickory shafted clubs.

“This club has an amazing history, and we’ve seen many changes in the past 18 years,” says Woeckener. “We are very
strong supporters of John McConnell. His entry here has been most appreciated and he’s done everything he’s said he would do.”

For much of 2016, Country Club of Asheville’s course was closed due to extensive restoration performed by Pinehurst-based golf course architect Richard Mandell, who oversaw numerous improvements such as new 007 Bentgrass on all 18 greens, a restored creek crossing on No. 10, a new practice facility, and rerouted cart paths.

Today, after a long, storied — and occasionally confusing — history, Country Club of Asheville stands proudly as North Carolina’s oldest continuously running country club and the second oldest in the south. With a legacy like this, the future looks just as rich.

Read More

Barber Shop

by Brad King

 Mar 22, 2018 at 1:00 PM

For The Country Club of Asheville tennis program, the past, present, and future are bright

Young Athletes abound at McConnell Golf Clubs. Lately, The Country Club of Asheville, in particular, has garnered recognition for its impact on junior tennis in the South. That’s thanks in large part to the efforts of its Director of Tennis, Bill Barber, but also to top-notch facilities.

When Barber came to CCA in 2000, he brought with him a wealth of world-class playing experience and a pedigree that included nearly three years on the ATP tour — where he was ranked in the top 250 in the world — four years playing collegiately at UCLA and a junior experience that once saw Bill ranked among the top 20 junior players in the U.S.

At CCA, Bill started building a junior tennis program from the ground up. He initiated both after-school and summer programs, and the structure was rigorous but lighthearted. “The path to success in junior tennis is a long one, so there has to be fun along the way,” Barber says. “We don’t expect every junior to be a top state tennis player but we want to provide them with the tools to get them there if they desire.”

His attitude is contagious. “Bill Barber combines his wealth of tennis knowledge and his non-stressful, but supportive teaching style,” says Barbie Haynes, a longtime CCA member and mother of three junior players. “It has encouraged a love of tennis in my children.”

Of course, a first-class pedigree thrives in an outstanding setting. CCA built its state-of-the-art indoor facility in 2005, allowing members to practice and play year round — and particularly helping propel the junior program to the next level. Eight lit Har Tru clay courts sit surrounded by tall pines. And a pair of deco turf courts — an identical surface and color as those at Flushing Meadows, where the world’s best compete every year at the U.S. Open — give CCA’s indoor tennis facility a big-time feel and playability.

“The junior tennis program is a big reason that we belong to CCA,” says Lee Anne Kelley. Her son, Ben, is a tennis team member at Presbyterian College, which she credits to “the coaching he received in the junior program.” It’s about more than collegiate success, though. “We have all formed lasting, lifelong friendships with the parents and juniors who have participated in tennis. Best of all, we are engrossed in a sport that we can all enjoy as a family.”

Indeed, more than a decade since the completion of CCA’s indoor facility, the club’s junior players have seen increasing success on both the junior and college circuit. CCA has produced one junior ranked No. 1 in the South (an eight-state region), six juniors ranked No. 1 in the state in their respective age divisions, one high school state championship boys team, two state runner-up high school girls teams, and three state high school individual champions.

Barber’s history as a junior champion makes his on-the-road wisdom all the more valuable to CCA’s junior standouts. “Bill and Spencer [Mai, Barber’s assistant professional] provide priceless leadership to the program,” says Anne Roegner, who has two tennis-playing sons, Ryan and Blake. “The program has given our boys confidence, ploys, and focus — skills that will continue to serve them for the rest of their playing lives.”

Currently, CCA has young men and women playing collegiate men’s and women’s tennis at UNC, UNC-Wilmington, Appalachian State, and Presbyterian College. Not to mention the numerous juniors playing club tennis at their various universities. “It is great to see all of those kids continue their tennis careers at the collegiate level and be able to benefit from athletic scholarships,” Barber says. “They worked incredibly hard for many years.”

A younger group of tennis players are carrying on the club’s tradition of excellence. Adrienne Haynes, 16, and Anne’s son Ryan Roegner, 15, are ranked as top players in the state and among the Top 75 players in the nation. Both have the potential to play at the collegiate level.

Mary Victoria Young, now 11, and Bill’s own son, 10-year-old Xander Barber, were both ranked No. 1 in the state for the 10-and-under division. Their achievement has set CCA junior records, setting a high bar for future players. “Only time will tell,” Barber says. “But with hard work and a lot of fun, anything is possible.” 

Read More

Comfort Food

by Martha-Page Althaus

 Mar 19, 2018 at 1:44 PM

Country Club of Asheville provided warm meals this winter.

There's Strength in Numbers for McConnell Golf’s Footprints on the Green program. For a successful outreach, both members and staff come together to support local communities, and that’s exactly what happened last fall in Asheville, when members and staff joined forces for their first Footprints effort.

CCA sent nine volunteers to participate in a meal-prep initiative at ABCCM Steadfast House, a shelter for women and children that provides stability, education, and job training.

Debbie Ponder, the club’s membership and marketing director, was part of the group that spent the day in the kitchen at Steadfast House assembling more than a dozen freezer-ready chicken and rice casseroles. Residents at Steadfast House enjoyed the meals throughout the winter.

“After we finished prepping the casseroles, we had a Q&A with Steadfast House staff,” says Ponder. “We’re hoping to establish a meaningful relationship between the club and Steadfast. We’re located so close to each other, and we hope to be able to do more.”

Member Gail Miller helped with the effort after reading about it in CCA’s newsletter.

“We were spreading freezer pans all over the place and filling them up,” she says. “Big casserole dishes for the residents to pull out of the freezer all winter long.”

For Miller, along with the rest of CCA’s volunteers, the day was about more than just prepping meals.

“It was good exposure. I didn’t even know Steadfast House existed. As a group, we learned more about the community and what’s being offered to help.”

“After that day, we all agreed — we need to do this more,” says Ponder.

Read More

Holding Court!

by Matt McConnell

 Mar 13, 2018 at 3:00 PM

Game, set, dinner!

Exhibition matches have long been a celebrated occasion across the tennis facilities of McConnell Golf; however starting last year, a new twist was added — members can enjoy great food, service, and entertainment right on the court.

“What can be better than dining under the stars while watching local collegiate and professional tennis players compete?” asks Kyle Thortsen, director of tennis operations. “These Dining on the Courts events are a night for the entire family to enjoy.”

This February, CCA hosted its second annual Grand Slam Social on their indoor tennis courts. The event featured a menu of seared tuna, beef sliders, and a batch of the official cocktail of the U.S. Open, the Honey Deuce.

For the entertainment, Ben Kelley (former CCA junior and recent graduate of Presbyterian College) and CCA Director of Tennis Bill Barber took on Henry Patten (UNC-Asheville’s No. 1 player) and Alix Theodossiou (a former CCA junior and recent graduate of UNC-Wilmington). Last year, Kelley, who is the top player in school history, helped his team win the Big South tournament and gain entry into the NCAA tournament for the first time. Meanwhile at UNCW, Theodossiou played the No. 3 spot her senior year and her team finished second in the Colonial Conference. Patten is currently ranked No. 32 in the NCAA men’s singles, the highest ranking ever for a UNCA player.

Both Patten and Theodossiou played incredibly well and despite Barber and Kelley putting up a strong fight, the young duo won 8-5. Following the doubles play, Patten and Kelley played an entertaining set of singles to finish off the evening’s entertainment. 

Read More