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Save! NHL player rescues a golf course

The San Jose Sharks' Jeremy Roenick bought the Pembroke Country Club after hearing it had gone into foreclosure. Roenick had spent many afternoons at the club as a teen. The San Jose Sharks' Jeremy Roenick bought the Pembroke Country Club after hearing it had gone into foreclosure. Roenick had spent many afternoons at the club as a teen. (L.M. Otero/Associated Press)
By Emily Sweeney
Globe Staff / March 22, 2009
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PEMBROKE - The Pembroke Country Club is getting spruced up in time for opening day. On a recent afternoon, two workers unfurled a giant roll of fresh roofing material, while down in the parking lot, a truck was about to empty a hulking dumpster of trash and debris.

The coming season - scheduled to start on April 1 - marks the beginning of a promising new chapter for the golf course, now that it's been rescued by an unlikely white knight: National Hockey League veteran Jeremy Roenick.

The club's savior in hockey armor grew up in Marshfield and spent many an afternoon at the Pembroke Country Club as a teenager. When Roenick heard about the club's financial woes and uncertain future, he decided to buy it.

"I jumped at the chance . . . not because of the price, but because this is part of my past, where I grew up. I wanted to keep it in business," said Roenick, who plays center for the San Jose Sharks. "It's such a staple of the town."

News of the deal - and Roenick's plan to keep the club open - was met with relief in town.

"This came out of the clear blue sky," said Edwin J. Thorne, Pembroke's town administrator. "We're pretty excited about it. This is what we were hoping for - somebody to buy and keep it as a golf course. It's an important asset to the community."

Roenick emerged as a South Shore hockey phenom back in the 1980s, playing forward for Thayer Academy in Braintree. He began his career in the NHL in 1988 as a first-round draft pick and went on to become only the third US-born NHL player to score more than 500 goals.

Now, in his 21st pro hockey season, the 39-year-old has his heart set on winning a Stanley Cup. He also has big plans for the Pembroke Country Club.

Roenick's first order of business is putting "some TLC" back into the golf course. An avid golfer who describes himself as "golf snob," Roenick said he wants to make sure the 18-hole course is in great shape. "That's gonna be my goal," he said.

There's new sand for the bunkers, and a new greenskeeper has been hired. ("I've been told he can grow grass on Mars," said Roenick. "I like that.") A new golf pro is on board, and renovations are underway inside the clubhouse and function hall.

All of this activity is welcome news to local golfers and area residents, who, up until a few weeks ago, wondered if the country club would ever reopen.

The place is a local institution; the banquet facilities have long been used for wedding receptions, community fund-raisers, political events, and parties. The golf course was open to the public and served as the home course for Pembroke High School's golf team.

But the country club had fallen on hard times, its financial woes deepening this winter. The property was foreclosed. Everything - the 150-acre golf course, equipment and furniture, the club's liquor license - went on the auction block on Jan. 9, and Norwood Cooperative Bank, which held the mortgage, acquired it for $4.4 million. The bank promptly put the club on the market.

When Roenick got wind the club had closed and was owned by the bank, he expressed interest. He and the bank reached a deal, and sealed it the second week of March.

"We're happy it went to a local person who's keeping it as a golf course, and making improvements," said John Galvani, senior vice president at the bank.

Many others were also relieved to hear the news.

Paul Consolati, the golf coach at Pembroke High School, had been worried about the future of his team's home course, and feared that it would end up in the hands of a real estate developer who'd transform the golf course into a subdivision of houses. Now the future seems much brighter.

"To have a high-profile professional athlete buy the course . . . it's great for the town, the school, and the program," said Consolati.

Consolati said Pembroke High School's athletic director has already been in touch with the new management team at the course. "It's great. My players are excited," said Consolati. Two of his players recently got part-time jobs at the club, he said.

Roenick declined to disclose how much he paid for the property, only saying it was a "good deal" that was "well worth it."

"It was sad that the bank had it, not knowing what would happen to it," said Roenick. "Pembroke Country Club was one of my favorite courses. It's not a generic public course. I loved the tree lines, the water . . . it's a beautiful layout."

He said "never in a million years" did he think he would own it.

Roenick, who lives on the West Coast, has assembled a team to manage the golf course and banquet facility.

"A lot of my friends are going to be helping me out," said Roenick. And after the hockey season's over, he said, "this will bring me back on the East Coast more."

He wants to make the club's facilities inviting, even to nongolfers, "a place where people can hang out, have a cigar, have a beer."

Meanwhile, workers are busy making improvements to the course, clubhouse, and function hall. If all goes according to plan, the Pembroke Country Club could be open as early as April 1.

"We want to get it back to the public as fast as we can," said Roenick.

Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com.

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