When Morningstar Golf Club went into receivership in 2018, membership at the Parksville facility had dropped off due to water-supply problems affecting the condition of the 18-hole course.
But under a restructuring of the business led by receiver G-Force of Vancouver, the water woes were sorted out and the course improved. Previous members returned, and new ones have joined.
The club officially changed hands this week for $4.5 million, and is now held by its previous owner. Realcor Golf Inc. bought back the club under a B.C. Supreme Court-approved sale.
Realcor represents the pension plan for Local 115 of the International Union of Operating Engineers. The pension plan was the primary secured creditor.
It had owned the club for 12 years prior to selling it to Paul and Shane McCracken of Edmonton in 2010.
The receiver’s goal was to restore Morningstar’s reputation as a top course on Vancouver Island and in B.C., and to establish a sustainable operation.
Today, membership is full at 230, there’s a wait list and juniors have joined up as well, Barrie McWha, general manager, said Friday. McWha, of Wedgewood Golf Management, said the company signed a 2019 contract to manage the club.
High salinity in reclaimed water from the Nanaimo Regional District’s water treatment plant had affected the quality of the turf and the club stopped using the water. The receiver said when it took over, the club was able to use reclaimed water again because of new technology, and efforts to solve the problem with the regional district.
“The golf course was in a pretty stressed place because it literally was operating without water,” McWhat said. Now that the course has been improved, “we are giving them [golfers] a good reason to want to be here.”
Membership is strong due to existing area residents and newcomers who have moved to Vancouver Island and are keen to play golf, McWha said.
The pandemic saw the course close in March 2020 for a month and a half. At the time there were about 18 employees. Today there are 43 staff, about half of whom are full-time and some seasonal. The club is continuing to hire.
“When we reopened in late April, it was like somebody blew the doors off. Everybody wanted to play golf,” McWha said.
But COVID-19 brought new hurdles such as challenges in supply chains, hiring and imposing new safety protocols for golfers and staff, McWha said.
A highlight for the club took place in June of this year when it hosted the B.C. Junior Golf Championships.
The club has seen growth in numbers of both junior and intermediate (aged 19 to 35) players, pushing down the average age with a greater mix of ages, he said.
“That’s a great healthy sign for any business.”
Les Furber designed the course. He returned to offer advice during the receivership and again to celebrate the club’s 30th anniversary.
Gary Powroznik, G-Force managing director, praised the pension plan’s investment and commitment.
“Through substantial additional investment by the OEPP [the pension plan] during the receivership and the hard work and wisdom of its management and employees, Morningstar’s operations have regained their former excellence, a full membership and a robust day golfer commitment.”
Lee Riggs, pension plan administrator, said it aims to invest in the club to support its long-term stability and to continue its relationship with the Parksville community.