OVERSEEING THE RIVER. Nash County native Randy Davis is the new head golf professional at The River GC. (Times photo by Geoff Neville)
FRANKLIN COUNTY -- Randy Davis has navigated through plenty of ups and downs during his 25 years in the golf industry -- and he hopes to bring that problem-solving expertise to his new position as the Club Professional at The River Golf and Country Club at Lake Royale.
Davis has witnessed participation soar to tremendous heights during the peak of the Tiger Woods Era in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
But he has also seen the recent consolidation of area course options as long-time layouts such as Hickory Meadows, Bull Creek and Birchwood have closed for business.
Davis hopes the worst is behind the sport -- at least from a nationwide participation standpoint.
Generally, millennials have shunned golf for easier, more convenient and less time-consuming endeavors, but Davis is determined to be part of an uptick in area growth -- despite the current economic challenges presented by spread of the COVID-19 virus.
"There have been highs and lows,'' Davis said. "I tell people that it parallels Tiger Woods' career. When he plays well, golf is jamming. Everybody wants to play.
"I feel like we have bottomed out and are working our way back up. Trends tend to go from West to East in our business, and things have really picked up out West.''
Davis, a Nash County resident and 1975 graduate of Rocky Mount High School, served as the pro at Nashville's now-defunct Birchwood Country club from 1994-2013. He then spent five years at Northgreen Golf Course in Rocky Mount before accepting the position at The River in February.
The River is known for its picturesque, difficult layout, with several holes spanning along the Tar River between Spring Hope and Bunn.
The course was recently purchased by the Lake Royale Property Owners Association from private hands.
"When I came on board, the (LRPOA) had some really big ideas of things they wanted to do, and that excited me no end,'' Davis said. "What effect (COVID-19) will have on that is to be determined.
"But the 3-5 year vision is really exciting. The course does need some love and attention, and we are busy with that every day. We want to get everything feeling and looking good again.''
While the majority of businesses have been adversely affected by COVID-19, there have been no shortage of golfers recently at The River.
Davis indicated that the course has been proactive in making the facility safe for visitors during the virus crisis.
"At the moment, people feel like the golf course is a safe place to go,'' Davis said. "Business so far has been booming. We will be open until someone tells us we can't be.
"We have been bleaching and sanitizing carts to make sure they are safe. We have modified the (hole) cups so you don't have to touch them. We have taken the rakes out of bunkers and aren't filling the ball washers. We want to make it so you don't have to touch anything while you are out here.''
When the virus dies down, Davis hopes to implement several new features at the facility. The course is already offering reduced rates through April, and Davis is in the process of formulating new membership plans.
Davis, who has served as the golf coach at both Nash Central High School and Rocky Mount Academy, is a long-time proponent of junior golf, and he plans to bring that philosophy to The River.
"We want to have camps and clinics for young people and ladies,'' Davis said. "We want to get people involved in the game.
"I think people often expect too much too soon when they start playing, so we want to emphasize things like simply being able to hit the ball in the air instead of topping it.
"We want people to take small steps like making double par on a hole. And then getting lower from there. You want to make the sport fun. And for a new golfer, that is the best way to do it.''
Realistically, there is plenty of room to grow at The River, which saw its play numbers rise when Louisburg's Bull Creek shuttered six years ago.
And with the recent closure of Birchwood, the short trek to The River is a convenient option for residents of the Nashville area.
To talk with Randy Davis about playing options or to set up a tee time at The River GC, call him at (252) 478-3832.