AMHERST - One major charity golf tournament has been cancelled and another may not be far behind after the Amherst Golf Club increased the fee paid by participating golfers.
"It's very disappointing because that's a lot of money we won't be able to give to cancer research this year," said Rod Wilson, who organized the previous four Amherst Dooly's Giving Hope Golf Tournaments. "I had hoped to be able to work something out but the golf club refuses to give charities such as ours any breaks and we just can't charge the golfers any more to play than we already have."
Over the previous four years, the Dooly's tournament, which raises money for breast cancer research through the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute in Moncton, has raised $34,000. With government matching funds, that contribution has been more like $130,000.
Wilson said the course used to charge $20 per non-member and then increased it to $30 last year. This year, he said, the club increased the price again so that it's the same as corporate renters at $43 per player (taxes included).
"A registered charity is not a corporation and you can't charge the United Way, Dooly's or Ducks Unlimited the same you'd charge Scotiabank," said Wilson, who added he cancelled his membership at the club in protest.
As much as he's disappointed with the club's stance, he can't understand how it's willing to give up several thousand dollars in potential revenue from food and beverage sales and cart rentals.
"When you consider green fees, beverage sales and cart rentals, we probably bring in about $7,000 in revenue for the course on a day when things aren't normally busy," Wilson said.
Prior to this year's increase, Wilson said, the tournament made about $35 per player that was handed over to cancer research. This year that amount would have decreased to about $20 without charging more - something Wilson feels he can't justify.
"In a recession it's hard to charge more than we already do," he said. "I don't think we'd be able to charge more and expect to get the same number of golfers."
While the Dooly's event is cancelled, Cheryl Allen is pretty certain the Ducks Unlimited tournament in September will also be called off.
"It's probably not going to happen," Allen said. "It's too bad the club has decided to take the position it has because it's losing business. It just seems as they are trying to profit too much from these events."
There is a possibility the Ducks tournament could be held at another area course.
Club board member Todd LeBlanc said it was a tough decision to increase green fees, but added the club is a business and needs to operate like one. As well, he said, it's difficult to charge different customers different fees for the same service.
"It was a financial decision," LeBlanc said. "I've said at membership meetings that I'd love nothing more than to give the course to every charity that comes through the door, but we're just not in a financial position to be able to do that."
LeBlanc said the increase was done gradually and all charities that use the course were given lots of notice.
Club pro Frank McShane said it was difficult to raise the price charged to charities, but pointed out the club has been raising member prices over the past few years and then taking the course away for a day here and there for charity and corporate events.
"If we're going to give our members' golf course away for a day we have to justify to those members that we're making money at what we're doing," McShane said, adding the club does not charge for club members who participate in charity events.
While the club does make money from the charity events, McShane said it's not as much as some would think.
"Our business is golf and we sell golf. The other stuff is nice and it helps, but you'd have to sell a lot of beer and potato chips to run this place," he said.
McShane also checked with other golf clubs in the region to see what they charge and found the new rates to be on par with others.
There are a number of charity tournaments still on for this year, McShane said, and the door remains open for Dooly's and others to return to the club.