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Published: Wednesday, 4/19/2006

South Toledo course s neighbor now competition

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Greg Fish is beginning his 20th season as the PGA master professional at South Toledo Golf Club. For all of those years, the nearest public course competition has been about six or seven miles away Ottawa Park to the north and, more recently, Fallen Timbers to the southwest.

Now, the competition is a sand wedge away.

South Toledo is directly across Heatherdowns Boulevard from Heather Downs Country Club, which will be operated as a semi-private club and is open to public play for the first time since it was founded in 1925.

The two courses were once affiliated. In fact, for eight years beginning in 1978, when Fish was hired as head pro at the Downs, he directed golf operations at both courses.

Now he is the owner-operator at South Toledo and the old dame across the street is the competition.

"There will be a lot of curiosity, I m sure, because Heather Downs has been a private country club for 80 years and people haven t been able to play it," Fish said. "Now they can, which will give the people of south Toledo a choice.

"They re there and I don t think they re going away anytime soon, so I think we ll both have to figure out ways to get a share of the business. My understanding, though, is that Heather Downs is going to niche itself as a high-end public course and that s OK. I can live with that."

As a high-end course, Heather Downs will be charging $50 greens fees weekdays and $55 on weekends, which include Fridays. Those prices include cart rental fees.

South Toledo counters with fees of $36 and $39, including cart costs.

"I think we re a very well-rounded operation and, hopefully, that will keep us in a strong market position," said Fish.

South Toledo s retail shop is one of the largest in the area and specializes in professional club-fitting and shoe sales. There is also an emphasis in developmental programs for women and juniors. Fish was one of the founders of the Toledo Junior Golf Association and his right-hand man for the past 18 years, head pro Nick Szymanski, currently is president of the TJGA.

"We had 92 kids in our Wednesday morning junior program last summer and I m certain we ll have more this year, perhaps as many as 120," Fish said.

Fish s daughter, Sheryl, is the staff member who oversees that program.

Finally, South Toledo benefits from a year-round operation made possible by a domed practice facility that has been in place for more than a decade.

Still, Fish knows that "the market is far over-built. We don t need any more public golf courses, that s for sure."

But there it is, right across the street.


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