NEW BEDFORD — If Bruce Carlson’s vision of the Whaling City Golf Course becomes a reality, it won’t be his first victory on the course.
As a teenager he played the course as a member of Attleboro High School’s golf team.
“I loved it. It was a tough course, I remember that as a kid,” Carlson said. “I played good. We had a great team so we won a lot of matches.”
Forty years later, he and his wife, Susan, stood in the locker room of the clubhouse as the new managers of the golf course. They see the course, which lost more than $113,000 at the end of the 2016 season, as a sleeping giant.
"We’ve got a great core group (of staff) that has been here that love the place. We have a group of members who have been here through thick and thin and are back here supporting us," Susan said. "We are really really excited about this season."
The City Council approved Bruce and Susan, as part of W/S Golf Management, as new managers of the Whaling City Golf Course on March 22. They took over on March 28. Golfers began playing earlier this month.
“There’s much more to do than we had anticipated and we had anticipated quite a bit,” Bruce said before Susan finished the thought, “It’s never ending.”
The Carlsons expect to spend at least a “couple hundred thousand dollars” in upgrades to generate revenue, about double to the amount they expected when they were the only bidders to run the course.
Susan said the kitchen needs to be cleaned and updated. The couple plans to recarpet the entire clubhouse, modernize the bar area and update the ladies locker room.
That’s in addition to repairing some structural work and solve irrigation problems throughout the course.
There's also a pole that fell as a result of a recent storm and caused a live wire to dangle on the ground. The electric company decided it wasn’t needed so they cut the wire. It turned out the wire was needed for the gas line. So they have no gas.
“We are still very optimistic,” Susan said. “We’ve been beat up the last three weeks.”
“Sue is very excited. I am too,” Bruce said. “I’m more cautious and just the anticipation of everything we have to do is mind boggling sometimes.”
They also planned on having a superintendent manage the grounds crew and maintain the grounds. The course superintendent is no longer there, so the responsibility now falls on Bruce.
“That’s what my expertise has been over the years,” Bruce said. “I was going to have someone else do it but now it falls on my shoulders more.”
Susan continued, “And that may be a good thing when we look back — if it doesn’t kill him.”
Bruce responded with laughter, ”If it doesn’t kill me.”
The fact that the course was designed by Donald Ross, a famed golf course architect, lured the couple into bidding to manage Whaling City.
“That intrigues me,” Bruce said. “We used to go on vacation and play Donald Ross courses. And now we manage one.”
The couple have managed courses before and renovated some, too. None compare to the magnitude of this project, though.
They remain confident their investment will pay off and they’ll be turning a profit in year 2.
“I guess it’s just the challenge of it all,” Bruce said. “We knew what we’ve done in the past. We knew we could make it successful and with the two of us working at it as a team and a husband and wife.”
The Carlsons hope the kitchen will open by the middle of May and they'll have a liquor license next week.
They’re purchasing new carts. They’re creating a ladies league. Room remains for other leagues and they want to host outings.
They’re also scheduling a free junior golf clinic to potentially pass down memories that Bruce once experienced as a youngster walking the Whaling City Golf Course.
“It’s just kind of like full circle,” Susan said. “I just think we’re meant to be here.”
Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT