Group chips in to renovate Strawberry Ridge Golf Course
Tony Tamaro used to call the Strawberry Ridge Golf Course “the dust bowl” during the early days in its transformation from a former farm into a nine-hole golf course in 2000.
“There wasn't that nice of a finish to it,” said Tamaro, 71, of Cranberry who played regularly at the Lancaster course as it expanded to 18 holes and underwent other upgrades.
“It's been phenomenal watching the transformation.”
Tamaro is one of several people who have agreed to invest in improvements to the family-owned layout.
Owner Tim McNulty, along with his wife, Ann, said the investment group, a mix of about 10 friends and former employees, has pledged $200,000 to $250,000.
It will pay for paved golf cart paths, a driveway, a new sand trap area and a second practice green.
“I find myself humbled with appreciation,” McNulty, 55, said. “It feels like our customers are a family within this community.”
McNulty and his family started a farm nearly 32 years ago, he said, growing produce such as strawberries and bell peppers. They sponsored a large annual Halloween festival.
By the mid-1990s, McNulty said, it was time to make a change.
“We had looked at a golf course probably about 20 years ago, but it was a good seven years before we went ahead,” McNulty said.
He admitted he should have taken another year to open the course, but forged ahead in the summer of 2000.
“Things were rough,” McNulty said. “They were terrible.”
But by 2003 he had expanded the course to 18 holes, and business steadily improved. Tamaro said he has been impressed with the work that McNulty has done on his own to improve the course, sculpting the earth for the holes and making a paving machine.
“It's far from pristine, but it's pristine compared to what it used to be,” McNulty said. “I'm grateful those people stuck with us.”
Further down the road, he said, is the possibility of a banquet facility in an old barn on the nearly 140-acre property.
“Are we going to go nuts at this? No. We have to make the conservative decisions,” McNulty said. “We have to make improvements so that we get the most punch for the money.”
McNulty would not say how many golfers he gets yearly, or what his annual revenue is, but acknowledged that the industry as a whole has struggled.
“Very few places are getting the rounds we actually need,” McNulty said.
His course has plenty of competition.
According to the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau, there are at least 10 golf courses in the county, including Strawberry Ridge, all within 30 minutes of each other and drawing golfers from around the region.
Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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