When a Pro Shop Burned Down, the Golf Community Stepped Up
Brian Lowe got the call at about 10:30 p.m. on July 16. His pro shop at the Catskill Golf Resort in New York was on fire.
A member of the Northeastern New York PGA Hall of Fame, Lowe lives about 15 minutes away from the facility at which he’s spent a good part of the past three decades. By the time he got to the course, the fire had been brought down to a smolder, but the pro shop was a total loss. His golf clubs, along with those of the owner, general manager, several members and a few sets of rental clubs, were left in ruins. Range balls, pencils, scorecards, his table for re-gripping clubs, and all the apparel in the shop went up in flames.
And just outside, where it was found the fire had likely started in some nearby trash cans, 29 golf carts were fried.
Lowe, 71, lost a number of irreplaceable mementos from his long and accomplished career in golf, among them his bag tag for playing in the U.S. Amateur championship in 1979. Somehow, a 50th birthday picture of Lowe and his wife, Stephanie, who passed away in 2020 after a battle with cancer, survived in the blaze.
“It was in the fire, but I’ll be darned if only part of the frame got a little smudged. That was meant to be saved, somehow,” said Lowe. “The rest of it, it was a mess.”
Lowe is among a diverse mix of golf course operators who every month submit rounds data to the NGF that’s anonymously aggregated in the free National Rounds Played Report produced by Golf Datatech. When July came to a close, Lowe had more than his rounds number to share, as the course had been forced to suspend operations for several days after the fire. But Lowe, when contacted about the incident, also expressed appreciation for those in the golf world who came to his aid afterward.
Two other nearby daily fee, public facilities – Christman’s Windham House and Windham Country Club – each donated five carts to Catskill. Lowe noted that the resort’s owner had just ordered 10 new Yamaha carts for the fleet and took delivery of five of them the day before the fire. All of them burned. But the neighboring courses, competitors in some respects, stepped up to help. Lowe actually spent 15 years at Windham before returning to Catskill, where he’d been previously from 1991 through 2001.
They weren’t the only ones in the golf world who came to Lowe’s aid.
During the winters, Lowe heads to Florida, where he has a home in Vero Beach and plays quite a bit in Port St. Lucie with a group of golfers – more than 50 in total – who call themselves the “PGA Dogs.”
“A ton of them contributed money,” said Lowe. “It’s pretty nice, because I didn’t insure myself, plain and simple. I owned a shop for 35 years and I guess I rolled the dice one too many times. Financially, I’m fortunately not going to take too much of a beating. The donations have been extraordinary. I’m going to have to start fresh, that’s all. And that’s something I look forward to. I don’t think I’ve ever had a new shop, where all my fixtures are going to be new, and all the clothing – there’s not going to be anything old in there.”
Lowe was also surprised when a local optometrist and golfer, Nicolette Sacco-Brown, who plays in his Monday Ladies league at Catskill, started a GoFundMe page on his behalf. Among the golfers who have pitched in are Bob Greifeld, the former chairman of Nasdaq, who with his wife donated $3,000. The local Cablevision company donated another $2,500.
“You feel good about the whole thing, but you also feel rotten to be in this position,” said Lowe. “Still, as one lady told me, don’t deny people the joy of trying to help. So that’s my attitude. The golfers, we already know we’re a breed apart of how difficult the game is, so we have to be kind of special people to keep at it. They all have a big heart.”
Of course, as he looks to the future, there’s still the challenge of trying to deal with demand at the golf course while shorthanded.
“I get calls, ‘Oh, I see you lost 29 carts… Well, we’ve got a tee time at 9:10 on Friday, are we going to have to walk?” Lowe acknowledges, with a chuckle. “For some, that’s the biggest fear.”
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