Westpark Golf Club ceased operations on Sunday, September 29th, ending a 51 year run for the public track in Leesburg. There’s been a ton of attention on this mostly overlooked course in the last two years, ever since Dittmar Corporation decided they wanted to sell it. Not surprisingly, the prospect of losing a large amount of open green space caused residents of Leesburg –especially the Country Club neighborhood that surrounds the course– to suddenly spring into action and want their voices heard. If they had only supported the course while it was still open, it would have never come to this. Let me explain.
We know more about Westpark than probably anyone in Loudoun County. You see, Michael was the PGA Head Golf Professional there from 1999 through 2011, and I ran the food and beverage operations there from 2000 until 2006. (Anyone remember Heather’s Sidehill Grille? It was a great spot for a little while.) When we got to Westpark, there were still motel buildings on the property. Those ‘fell down’ somewhere around 2000, I think. (Without town/county approval or permits, but that eventually got sorted out.) There were also still tons of golf outings and tournaments being held there. The crew at Spanky’s had some of the most memorable, by far! Team Joe got started at Westpark in 2007. We held the short lived LoCo Open there in 2009 and 2010. We remodeled the pro shop, then the snack bar. We planted all of those trees that line the driving range. We built the lesson tee, and covered it. We built the scoreboard area just outside the pro shop. We tried very hard, for a very long time, to improve the service, the experience, and the atmosphere. It was our home. At one point, Erika and Wil, as very little kids, even asked for me to take them to “Daddy’s House,” which prompted some changes to their Dad’s lengthy work schedule.
However, there were a few factors there out of our control. Mainly, how much money the parent company chose to spend (or not spend) on the property. We watched the main clubhouse building deteriorate in stages: the restaurant kitchen upstairs, the upstairs banquet room, the women’s locker room, the indoor lesson room all eventually became unusable as needed renovations were never prioritized. The golf course conditions were a constant struggle with the weather and lack of budget for personnel to maintain it and chemicals to keep it healthy. Tournaments stopped coming. The community around Westpark dwindled: there was no influx of new golfers, except for a few regulars there was no support from the surrounding neighborhood (who had no actual connection to the course other than proximity). Even the closing of the next closest public course and Westpark’s main competitor, Goose Creek, didn’t really push any more business to Westpark.
Michael played the course about two weeks ago. The pro shop and snack bar were the only rooms still open in that entire building–the bathrooms were walled off and unusable, with portable toilets installed outside. A sad last experience at a place that was once full of life and activity.
Admittedly, our only personal connection to Westpark since 2012 was when our oldest daughter Erika worked in the pro shop in the summer of 2016. But we know that profitability, round counts, and ancillary revenue were a predicament for a company that wasn’t even holding a large note on the property–can you imagine how hard it would be to BUY this property, figure out some sort of clubhouse/dining/restroom situation (renovate the existing building? tear it down and rebuild?), and play catchup on the course maintenance, all while attempting to make those financials work? That’s difficult math at best. I can promise you that the vast majority of folks bemoaning Westpark’s demise didn’t patronize the course on a repeat basis during the 13 years we were there every day. The core supporters that remained just weren’t enough to keep it afloat. The most successful golf courses–especially the public ones– have a thriving culture of community driving that success, something that Westpark slowly lost over the years.
I’m grateful to our Westpark family, some of whom were still playing the course until the bitter end. We have wonderful friendships to show for our time there, and we would have never come to Loudoun County and made our home here if it hadn’t been for the opportunity at Westpark. I’m sad that this is how it all ended for Westpark.
A few of our favorite Westpark memories:
- Poker nights in the snack bar
- So many floods–and so many lost range balls
- LGA Saturdays (I still remember a few of your regular breakfast orders)
- Wil and Erika’s 3rd birthday party in the upstairs banquet hall
- The twins learning to read from the beer cans they helped serve in the grill
- That time when someone stole a golf cart in the middle of the night and took it for a joyride up to Food Lion
- The Steinhice’s beer cooler on the 15th tee
- Multiple putters suffering their death in a watery grave on 18
- Picking the driving range with one of our kiddos napping in the cart beside me
- The back office/playroom full of our kids’ drawings
- That crazy Radford alumni tournament that drank 550 beers
- A whole generation of cart boys and cart girls that alternately drove us nuts and made us proud (especially Jonathan Stewart!)
- The snack bar staff of champions: especially Melissa, Little Heather, and Jess
- Most of all….so many special people: Currell, Mike, Gordon, Gary, Nigel, Teddy, Ralph, Poppy, Sam and Ed (ham and eggs), Dagmar, Greg, Pete, Marvin, John Murphy, Rob, Richard Thomas, Richard Virts, Dave, Arthur, Jackie, John Sidwar, Jim Burton, Big Tony, Uncle Wayne, Clay, Dan Clemons, Rich, Kevin, Greg and Eric, Jon, Marilyn, Terry, Juanita, Leon, Brian, Matt, and of course Bart. (If we missed anyone it’s because we’re old now and our memories aren’t as fresh as they used to be!)
(Anyone remember when my license plates used to read “PGA Wife”?)