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New Olds Golf Club pro looks forward to season ahead

Mathew MacDonald studied professional golf management at Lethbridge College
Mat MacDonald, the new pro/manager at the Olds Golf Club, was born and raised in Olds. He’s looking forward to the new season and possibly seeing some changes implemented at the driving range and possibly improvements to some green complexes.

OLDS — Mathew MacDonald is back where it all began. 

The new Olds Golf Club pro/manager was born and raised in Olds and got the golf bug when he was just a kid. Now at age 33, he’s managing the golf course he played on as a preteen and teenager. 

He replaces Randy Brown, who held the job beginning in 2022 and left this fall.  

Before taking this position, MacDonald served three seasons as pro/manager of the Innisfail Golf Club, his first job as head pro. 

MacDonald also served as an Olds Golf Club employee in 2010-and 2011. A year, later he passed his playability test and received his PGA (Professional Golfers Assocation) certification. 

After graduating from École Olds High School, where he played on the school’s golf team for a couple of years, MacDonald studied professional golf management at Lethbridge College, then started his career. 

“I think the first time I kind of ever had a club in my hand was probably about the time I was six years old,” MacDonald said during an interview with the Albertan

“It’s kind of a funny story because I was so hockey-focused at that time and my parents didn’t really golf or anything, it was more my grandparents that did. 

“I was snooping around in my grandparents’ basement and found this really weird looking hockey stick that was made of metal and I didn’t quite understand it, so I had to bring it upstairs and ask about it. That was kind of my first exposure to golf.” 

He received some clubs of his own and was taken out to the driving range at Westward Ho. 

“It didn’t take long before I was hooked,” he said.  

But it wasn’t always easy.  

MacDonald said he had to work hard to get where he wanted to be. He recalled some tough days at Lethbridge College. 

“I remember there were days when it was –20 on their outdoor range with the heaters above and I was the only one out there hitting golf balls. 

“It was a lot of fun, but now if I saw somebody out hitting golf balls at –20 I might think they’re a little crazy,” he added with a laugh. 

MacDonald said the best part of his game is his short game (chipping and putting). 

“For whatever reason, I’ve always had good feel and touch that way,” he said.  

However it’s taken nearly 20 years to straighten out his hitting. 

MacDonald said he enjoyed his time in Innisfail but saw a great opportunity in Olds. 

“I enjoyed it, but this is more of a management-style role. It’s got that kind of that hybrid role to it where there’s more management aspects to it, so from a career perspective, I mean it was good career advancement for me. 

“And another big part of it is just coming back home. I was joking with (associate pro) Jeff (Johnstone) the other day.  

“This is the office I used to get called into when I was in trouble or did something I wasn’t supposed to do and now I’m sitting in the chair in the office side of it, so it’s kind of a neat thing for me. 

“And I’ve always loved this golf course. I mean, I got my start here. I was a member here from the time I was 10 years old to the time I was 19 years old. 

“I got to watch the golf course grow and become essentially what it is now and I just really wanted to be a part of that going forward and see how I can potentially help out.” 

MacDonald doesn’t envisage any major changes to the course but some improvements are being considered. For example, tentative plans call for some updates to the driving range.  

If this project goes ahead, the deck would be made larger. Also, four target greens and a small practice chipping green would be added, along with sand-filled practice bunker. 

“This project has been approved by the board, and is likely to go ahead for this season, but not guaranteed if other projects are deemed to be of greater importance at the January board meeting,” he added. 

Another idea is to install a mat system at the back of the range, enabling people to hit off of the mat in order to save turf when conditions are wet.  

MacDonald also anticipates some other changes on various holes. 

“I know there’s a couple of more green complexes that (superintendent) Jason (Clouston) would like to touch up, some bunkers he would like to touch up, things of that nature,” he said. 

“I’m a firm believer that everything’s always a work in progress. You can never stop completely – unless you obviously don’t have the funds to do so. 

“You have to continually keep evolving, because the reality is, especially with the amount of traffic we get out here, the turf takes a ton of abuse, and you have to obviously take care of it and fix it and repair it when it needs it.” 

MacDonald said he’s looking forward to working with the Olds Golf Club board and members and dealing with any issues that may crop up.  

“I’ve been refereeing hockey for – I guess this is my 20th season as a referee, so I mean, I’m no stranger to conflict,” he said with a laugh. 

MacDonald said he and Johnstone have already had some success with a Christmas at the Course promotion aimed at heightening the course’s profile and awareness via social media. 

Another goal is to encourage membership and participation among young adults, especially those in the 18 to 25 range. 

“As I’m sure you know, when you have kids and stuff and get into those serious relationships, the golf time does sometimes take a little bit of a hit, and we want to ensure that younger couples and younger players can still continue to enjoy this facility,” he said. 

Fee increases ranging from four per cent to eight per cent were implemented as of mid-December. 

“I think the increase for the intermediate was about $50 a year, which is about four per cent and then eight per cent was just over $100 for the full membership, sort of thing,” he said.

Even with those new rates, the cost of a membership at the Olds Golf Club is “in the low end” among golf courses in central Alberta, he said.

“That is a part of the club’s mandate,” he said. “Our mission statement is to provide affordable championship golf to the residents. 

“So that’s one of the things, is we always try to be as affordable as possible while still maintaining enough profitability to be able to improve the golf course.”  

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