Lacasse sells Eagle Creek

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:04 AM ET

When Andre Lacasse bought the Eagle Creek Golf Club in 1996, he said it was a Valentine's Day present for his wife, Jeanette.

Sure beats a box of chocolates, eh?

"It was a joke, but it was also a little true," the 63-year-old self-made millionaire said yesterday after closing a deal almost exactly 11 years later to sell the club -- rumoured price, $10 million -- to Club-Link.

"It's kind of sad. I'm giving them the key (this) morning," said Lacasse, who spent every day from March-October at Eagle Creek for the last 11 years.

NEVER MISSED A DAY

"I was never sick and I never missed a day. A lot of those days were 12-14 hours. I'll be a little crazy this spring. I'm used to working, but I think this is a win-win situation. I won't have to work 80 hours a week now and they get a flagship course in this region."

Lacasse, who still runs three other companies involved in real estate development, said it was time to slow down a little bit. He hasn't had three days off in a row in the summer months since 1972, when he was starting his empire with a lumber yard in Hull.

He had a bit of a health scare before Christmas which required some attention, but said the wheels were already in motion before that to sell Eagle Creek. It's the region's top course (it was the only area course ranked in ScoreGolf's Top 100 Golf Courses in Canada).

He bought the club, designed by former U.S. Open champ and CBS golf analyst Ken Venturi, when it was being run by a bankruptcy trustee after a plan to make it the region's first equity club unravelled for homebuilder R.J. Nicol.

It's believed Lacasse bought the course for about $3 million, but he also plowed a lot of money back into the track.

"I never took a dime out of it," he said. "Every bit of profit we put back in."

Andre and Jeanette were the definition of hands-on owners.

Under their care, Eagle Creek blossomed into the region's top course. They put in interlocking brick cart paths. They finished the clubhouse and planted and tended to numerous flower beds throughout the course.

Andre would be at the first tee to make sure people started on time. He wanted the Eagle Creek experience to be the best it could be whether you were a 25-handicapper or a pro.

During the years of the Canadian Tour's Eagle Creek Classic, Andre would have his barbeque tools in his hands, hunched over a smoking grill, cooking steaks for the players.

"Maybe now I'll get a chance to play some golf," he said.

He hadn't played more than three or four rounds -- "nine holes here and there" -- in the 11 years he owned the club.

ClubLink, which bills itself as Canada's biggest owner and operator of golf courses, has grabbed itself a gem in Eagle Creek to join Kanata, Hautes Plaines and the 36-hole GreyHawk club on its menu for the area (a membership at one club allows ClubLink members to play the others, as well).

"We're absolutely thrilled. It's our crowning jewel in the national capital region," said Jonathan Bodden, Club-Link's regional sales manager for this area. "It's recognized as the finest course in Eastern Ontario. Now we've got four clubs and five courses in this market and Eagle Creek will give us new influence and strength."

FEES TO START AT $13,500

ClubLink announced yesterday it will spend $1 million over the next two years spiffing up the course, the entrance to the club and the clubhouse. The course will continue to offer tee times to the general public for the time being, but Eagle Creek will ultimately go private, which is bad news for area golfers.

Membership fees at Eagle Creek will start at $13,500 with annual dues in the $3,400 range.

Lacasse leaves a legacy of great customer service and value for the money at Eagle Creek.

It was a gift for his wife, but wound up being something every golfer in the region could enjoy.

As far as Valentine's Day this year goes?

"I'm going to buy her lunch," said Lacasse.


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