MURRAY — Gary Keith says his story is the perfect example of why the recent sale of the Murray Country Club to a large group of investors within the club is so important.
It is about keeping alive the chance to have what he and his family have experienced since coming to Murray five years ago, he said.
“Before we came here, we didn’t know but one couple, and they happened to be members of the country club. It just gave us a great opportunity to get know more couples and other individuals that we’ve come to know so well and who have become great friends. It’s a just a great place and we want that to continue for others,” said Keith, who is the 2019 club president and helped lead the investor group that essentially bought the club from its members.
A vote among the membership gave control to the investors, which he said number about 40 people.
“That vote was open to the membership, and I believe the final total was 64-3 in favor. It is somewhat of a unique thing, I guess, a group like purchasing from the membership, but I think that vote shows that we have a lot of people behind what we’re trying to do.”
Keith said the club fell into financial difficulties the past several years as attrition of membership for a variety of reasons was happening at a faster rate than new members were joining. This caused debt to accumulate and caused club leadership to have to form plans on how to address the need for increasing revenue. This resulted in the formation of what he coined the “recapitalization committee.”
The first of these steps, Keith said, came in 2016 when the club’s golf course’s greens were all converted from bent grass to mini verde, which Keith said is more durable, even allowing for play in the winter. Keith credited member and board member Howard Boone with driving that cause, which cost about $70,000.
Then came renovation of the three swimming pools the club runs. Those renovations occurred last year and involved members performing tasks such as sandblasting the pools, new painting and plaster, as well as installing new furniture.
“We also had a lot of people volunteering their time for this. They were not paid, and that saved a lot of money,” Keith said. “It also showed, I think, how these people felt about this place, for them to do it that way.”
The third step addressed the biggest problem: membership. Keith said that with the help of a variety of specials, 2018 did produce strong results, with about 130 joining. He also said the club utilized technology, and he gave credit to 2018 Club President Chad English and his wife, Sammie, for spearheading the social media charge.
“What this all came down to is that a whole bunch people here really rolled their sleeves up and did whatever needed to be done to make the club solvent (in 2018),” said English, who, like Keith, said he owes a lot to the club and where he is today. “I’m still fairly new to Murray. I’m from Marshall County originally and after I graduated from Murray State, I didn’t know too many people here, but after I got the job as greens superintendent at the club, I moved here and fell in love with this community.
“Through getting to know people, I was able to start my own business, then I served on the board and got involved with the leadership of the club, and it’s something you want to see continue growing.”
Keith said the growing membership, new activities and several other initiatives planned for the future give him, English and everyone else at the club encouragement that an establishment that has served for nearly 60 years can continue in that role for many years to follow.
“I joined in the early 1980s and it’s just a great part of this community’s history. I think of what it has done for its members over the years and how great it will be for that to continue,” said Calloway County’s Charles Reed, who serves as treasurer of the board.