New head pro among changes as season begins

MANCHESTER - Members and patrons of the Manchester Country Club might notice some changes when the season begins this year - the new head golf pro Michael Harger being among them.

With new blood comes new ideas, which is something Harger, 28, said the Manchester Country Club is looking for.

One thing that Harger said he - and he believes the club as we well - would like to see changed is transforming the environment of the Manchester Country Club so that there is something that appeals to everyone.

"The biggest thing we need to change is the perception of high end country clubs, especially in this area," said Harger. "I would like to see Manchester (Country Club), and I think it's the overall goal of this club, is to have Manchester be the community club. Make it more accessible to a variety of the demographic as opposed to people that can afford a fairly significant [fee]."

Manchester Country Club is already the home course for Burr and Burton Academy and Harger said that the club is also looking to become more involved with juniors in the coming seasons.

"We're going to do a junior club championship this year," said Harger. "We're going to bring back a junior golf camp for the first time in I don't know how many years, but I think the last time we had it was with Sarah Hunter."

The camp - which will be held in partnership with the Manchester Parks and Recreation Department - will occur over a two week span at a date yet to be determined.

There will also be a change to the club's annual lobster bake that they hold around the Fourth of July. This year the event will place more of an emphasis on family, which will include a fun tournament for children. The children can choose to play three, six, nine or 18 holes with their parents, grandparents or other family members.

Though hired in November, Harger didn't begin until last month. Since then he has been undertaking a variety of tasks including developing the club's calendar for the year, ordering merchandise for the pro shop, working with numerous committees to determine what they want to achieve in the upcoming season, brainstorming new ways to attract members, engaging in marketing and community outreach, and having discussions with Burr and Burton Academy and representatives involved with the Wounded Warrior Golf Tournament that is set for Sept. 3.

When the season begins though he said that he will be acting in more of a supervisory role as the club will have four other golf pros on hand. However, he still intends to spend as much time as possible out on the greens giving golf lessons, which he said is a passion of his.

"My favorite thing is helping people enjoy the game more," he said. "It truly makes me feel good when I can see someone after a golf lesson go out and have more fun on the golf course."

Harger - who grew up in Proctor - attend attending Clemson University where he went through their Professional Golf Management program. It was in part because of that connection that the Head Golf Pro position at Manchester Country Club appealed to him.

"I grew up playing high school golf matches here so I knew the quality of the course [and] I loved it," said Harger. "It was [also] the Vermont lifestyle and atmosphere that I was really looking for. But combining that with coming to a high end private club, a club that's looking for some change was an exciting opportunity for me."

Harger's father instilled the love of the game into him and he said his favorite thing about the sport is that it can be played by anyone of any ability and still be enjoyable. However, he said there are also more positive, far reaching impacts of playing that transcend the sport itself.

"[It's] very social. You spend four plus hours with somebody. So, more so than the game I think the most important thing is the relationships that you gain from the sport, the time you get to spend with people and the positive [effect it can have on] families in the community at large," Harger said. "I think it's really underestimated how powerful this game is outside of just being a game."

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