03/12/06 — Walnut Creek Country Club shifts focus, personnel

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Walnut Creek Country Club shifts focus, personnel

By Turner Walston
Published in News on March 12, 2006 2:08 AM

New staff members are intent on enhancing the image at Walnut Creek Country Club.

Jerry Bosquet managed Kinston Country Club for 22 years before retiring in September 2004. A year later, Bosquet came out of retirement to help Walnut Creek as a consultant.

"I told (Walnut Creek) I'd give them no more than three months," Bosquet said. "That was six months ago." Bosquet said he has made a commitment to rebuild the club's reputation. "It became a challenge for me," he said.

Club president David Jackson said Walnut Creek was looking for a new direction.

"We basically had to refocus what we were going to offer the people in the community to get us back on the right track," Jackson said.

The changes haven't stopped at the front office. In the past year, Walnut Creek has hired a new chef, tennis pro, golf pro and golf course superintendent. Bosquet said he is confident in the people helping him to revitalize the club. "This club right here has got some great staff people working here now," he said.

Tennis pro Lee Bailey came to Walnut Creek from Wilmington in May. A former college tennis player at Mount Olive and University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Bailey joined Walnut Creek after working at Porters Neck Country Club in Wilmington.

In addition to tennis leagues resuming play this spring, Bailey is starting a junior tennis team for players ages 7 to 17 to play against other clubs.

"It's really all ages," Bailey said. "We've got something that fits just about anybody."

Walnut Creek will continue to have monthly tennis socials, clinics and cardio tennis.

The golf course at Walnut Creek was rebuilt after Hurricane Floyd came through North Carolina in 1999. Fairways were renovated, trees were cut down and drainage issues were fixed. To go with a new course, the club got a new golf pro.

Kevin Williams joined the staff at Walnut Creek in January, after serving 10 years as golf coach at East Carolina University. Prior to that, Williams worked with Bosquet at Kinston Country Club.

Williams calls Walnut Creek the best private club in Eastern North Carolina.

"I've been real impressed with the core golfers we have," he said. Service is the key to a successful golf club, Williams said. "It's all about the members, and it's all about treating everybody the same."

The club's Pro Lady tournament takes place May 16, and the member-guest tournament is the weekend of June 24. Other tournaments follow in the summer and fall, including the Roy Jones-Clarence Rose Junior Golf Classic in July.

"Some of the biggest name pros in golf come here at Clarence's invitation, and they all speak very highly of the course," said Judith McMillen, chairwoman of the club's membership committee.

Walnut Creek also has reciprocal agreements with clubs in Wilson, Kinston and two courses in Greenville, and Ironwood and Greenville Country Club.

Chef Scot Elden comes to Walnut Creek from Kinston by way of the Caribbean. Dishes include pan-seared sea scallops over roasted corn and basil salsa, shrimp and grits with andouille sausage and cream sauce and jumbo crab cakes with tropical fruit salsa.

"It's fun to bring people out here for lunch and hear them say 'I didn't know food like this was available in Wayne County,'" Ms. McMillen said.

In coming months, all desserts and breads will be made in-house.

Walnut Creek is open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday, and for lunch Wednesday through Sunday.

Ms. McMillen said part of the facelift involves making the club more family-friendly. She said Walnut Creek board of directors and staff looked to successful country clubs to give them direction.

"The more family-oriented clubs were the ones that were prospering," she said.

Currently, the club has more than 570 members.

"We have people here from Wayne and surrounding counties, and all walks of life," Ms. McMillen said.