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Mountain Home Magazine

Changing Course

Jul 29, 2016 04:27PM

Many sons follow in their father’s footsteps. But, few have done so as literally as Dean Andrews. As the general manager and golf course superintendent of the Tyoga Country Club (TCC) in Wellsboro, Dean holds the same position, on the same course, as his dad, Gary, did. When Dean says that he grew up at TCC, he means exactly that.

“We lived above the clubhouse. I remember being about seven years old, and the tennis courts had just been resurfaced. To my mind, it was the perfect place to try out my new skateboard. And I still remember one of our lady members yelling at me,” he says with a smile. (If you need proof that TCC has always been friendly to lady golfers, there you go.)

His Dad is retired now, but still comes onto the course a few times a year “to critique how I’m doing.” The smile appears again. Dean spent his college years at Penn State in the turf management program and worked at golf courses across the country. But 1988 saw him return home to take the reins of the then sixty-five-year old course. A redesign by prominent golf course architect Edmund Ault in 1977 had expanded the course from nine to eighteen holes.

Doubling the size of the course also brought the need for more players, leading club officials to open both the golfing and the restaurant to the public. At that time, in the early 1980s, the concept of “vacation packages” was just catching on in parts of the country. Tyoga Country Club began partnerships with the Sherwood Motel and Penn Wells Hotel to bring golfers to the area. A couple nights’ stay, a couple rounds of golf, and a couple of meals make for easy planning for out-of-town duffers.

Cat Rush is the Sales and Marketing person for TCC. She says such pairings work out well for all involved. “It is the benefit of the entire community that people come to the area for the golf course. Because, they also eat and shop in Wellsboro.” She ticked off a list of where their stay-and-play visitors hail from: “Rochester, Buffalo, Philadelphia, New Jersey, even Canada. And they come back. We’ve had the same visitors over twenty, thirty, and forty years.”

They may be returning for the feeling of intimacy and warmth that TCC offers. The 200-acre course lies in the embrace of verdant hills just outside the borough of Wellsboro. A large deck overlooks a graceful fountain near the first tee. The clubhouse retains the footprint of the original farm home, built in the 1890s and quite large for its time. The layout works well when Cat is hosting a bridal shower or anniversary dinner in one of the many rooms.

“We are expanding the event side of our capabilities. We recently hosted 140 people by extending a tent from the clubhouse. And there is work underway to allow us to have larger groups on site,” Cat says.

That work includes a large concrete pad that has been laid adjacent to the clubhouse. A good-sized tent will fit easily, without tearing up any natural ground, a major no-no for golf courses. The folks at TCC are aiming to become a favorite event location, with room for larger weddings, class reunions, and other happy happenings.

Tyoga is a study in miniature of what has happened to the entire golf industry over the last fifty years. Gone are the days of men heading off to “the club” to dig divots and dine while the wife and children stay home. Parenting today includes both mothers and fathers, and loaded schedules have them looking for places the whole gang can enjoy together. TCC has made this transition, offering members a swimming pool and family-centric events like cookouts to encourage gathering on the course for those non-players.

But golf is still the main thing. Tyoga Country Club has its share of hillsides and tight corners, but Golf Pro Matt Sternquist says the course is challenging without being intimidating, a delicate balance that some tracks have difficulty striking. Ask him which is the toughest hole and he comes back faster than a hooked shot. “Number 10. It’s a par 3, 180 yards, but it goes straight up. You can’t see the green, only the top of the flag.”

The folks here are rightfully proud of their involvement with several good causes, hosting charity golf events every year. The Endless Mountain Music Festival has been holding an outing for the visiting musicians each of the last five years to raise funds to support the concert series, and will do it again on Monday, August 1. The Tioga County Youth Program, the local fire department, and others have realized impressive “green” with their day on the greens.

“You can feel the passion behind the tournaments when they are for an important cause,” Cat says.

Passion and dedication are constant themes at TCC; you can feel it in the warmth of every smile and greeting. Whether you are the next Tiger Woods, or just spend most of your golf day in the woods, the folks at Tyoga Country Club make it their mission to give you a pleasant day on the course.

Dropping that four-foot putt is still up to you.