Keeping Score: The Elwells buy a golf course

  • The fairways at The Oak Ridge Golf Club in Gill. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Oak Ridge Golf Club in Gill, shown here last week, was purchased by Jim and Denise Elwell. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Published: 7/3/2020 3:53:01 PM
Modified: 7/3/2020 3:52:49 PM

Good morning!
Richard and Janet Giverson got out of the golf business on Feb. 28, 2019, the day they filed for bankruptcy in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Orlando. Eight months later Greenfield Cooperative Bank sold their Oak Ridge Golf Course to Jim and Denise Elwell of Greenfield.

It was a package deal — 125 acres in Gill, an aging clubhouse and an $8,500 property tax bill for $275,000. “Everything else that was worth anything they auctioned,” said Jim Elwell. “Golf carts, maintenance equipment, and whatever they couldn’t auction we got, a couple of broken lawnmowers and two refrigerators.”

“It took about six months of making offers back and forth,” he added. “I love them, I do all my banking there, but we thought someone else would come in and grab it.”

According to, the average annual operating budget for a small nine hole course like Oak Ridge is about $90,000, but Elwell said replacing the tattered greens would double the cost.

Keeping nature on a leash is hard work. When Dave Samal owned Mohawk Meadows, he’d drive around the links in his Jeep Willy wearing his pork pie hat and watering the greens while his nephew mowed the fairways and his sister worked the cash register. Samal was a scratch golfer, but only had time for nine holes on Sunday mornings.

The Elwells own Jim’s Tree Service and are plenty busy cutting trees and running a property management business. They golf at the Country Club of Greenfield, but their true passion is the Red Sox. They own a place near JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, have season tickets at Fenway Park and were in St. Louis the night the Red Sox swept the Cards in 2004. “We were 25 rows behind home plate,” he said.

“Our friends thought we were crazy because they thought we were going to use it for golf,” said Elwell of the property. “We bought it for the land. We were going to chop it up, sell a few building lots and get our money back. One builder who did perc tests offered (the Giversons) $500,000, but they owed the bank $600,000 and turned him down.

“We haven’t strictly ruled that out, but right now we don’t want to disrupt the property.”

They are undaunted despite ruling out the fast money of home development. “We’re planning on a creamee stand, sell hot dogs, burgers, ice cream… It wouldn’t be a super lot of work, do the kitchen over, serve inside or do a window service,” he said.

That’s one idea, another was borne of their son Jake’s engagement to marry Ashley Whalen next July. “We might make it a wedding venue that our daughter Amanda would manage,” said Denise.

Or Elwell could use his tree cutting expertise to carve out mountain biking trails and host races. “We’ve got 75 acres of woods,” he said. “We’ve thought about a driving range. Hit a bucket, have something to eat and hit another bucket. We want to give customers something to do. Maybe we’ll restore the par-3 9th hole and stock the pond.”

Oak Ridge opened in 1960 and the Giversons had owned it since 2003. At the end of 2018 they offered their members discounts if they paid their dues in advance. Instead they pocketed the cash and moved to Florida. “I know a few guys who got taken,” said Elwell.

Maybe a free cone with sprinkles on top would help get them back in their good graces.


Hearing Paul Finebaum and Mark Packer talk about the upcoming college football season is depressing.“College football is weeks away and I’m having a tough time getting dialed in,” Packer recently admitted on his radio show.

Can’t say that I blame him for not being psyched about games that might not be played. Bowdoin College in Maine has already canceled its fall schedule, and the Patriot League has pushed its season back a month.

Football needs pageantry, marching bands, cheerleaders and tailgating. UMass is scheduled to open at UConn on Sept. 3 and host Troy on Sept. 12, but Governor Baker isn’t likely to let a team from the stricken southland into the Bay State. Nor will the Minutemen be traveling to Appalachian State, Florida International and Auburn unless something drastic happens.

And if they can’t play Auburn, UMass will miss out on a $1.9 million payday.


HOCKEY NOTES: Kudos to UMass hockey for having 24 players with GPA’s of 3.0 or higher in both semesters. The only Hockey East team with more was UMass-Lowell with 27.

During the Toot Cahoon years, some Northeastern players were stretching outside the locker room and saw Chris Capraro. “Hey I  thought Capraro got kicked out,” one of them said.

“Yeah,” another replied, “he’s dumb as a hockey player.”

It was a joke, but the last time anyone saw Capraro he was selling tickets outside Fenway Park.

In case you missed it, Minn.-Duluth defenseman Scott Perunovich was named this year’s Hobey Baker winner. The 5-foot-9, 164-pound native of Hibbing, Minn., was the St. Louis Blues’ second round pick (45th overall) in the 2018 draft. He scored 40 points (six goals, 34 assists) in 34 games and became the first defenseman to lead his conference in scoring.

Maine goaltender Jeremy Swayman and North Dakota forward Jordan Kawaguchi were the other two Hobey Baker finalists.


Former NMH grappler Yaraslau Slavikouski of Belarus was unanimously named the Ivy League rookie of the year. A member of the Belarus national wrestling team, the 285-pound Slavikouski was a three-time New England prep school champion at NMH for coach Zach Bates. At Harvard he was 30-8 overall, including a 12-1 mark in dual competition, and was a perfect 10-0 against EIWA opponents (Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association).

When he first arrived in the U.S., Slavikouski told friends he wanted to play college football, but his talent lay on the mat and not the gridiron.

SQUIBBERS: Last season after 60 games the Yankees were 38-22, Tampa Bay was 37-23, and the Red Sox were 31-29; no wonder this year’s over/unders are 37, 34, and 31 1/2, respectively. … Now that the Giants will be using the DH, Lexington’s Chris Shaw might get some at-bats. A power hitting first round pick out of BC, Shaw has only one home run in 72 MLB at-bats, and that was at mile high Colorado no less. … RIP Arnie ‘Woo Woo’ Ginsberg, the hyperactive DJ who spun the platters that mattered on Boston’s WMEX in the days when AM radio reigned supreme. … The difference between Tom Brady and Jarrett Stidham, as the SportsHub’s Michael Felger pointed out, is that while Brady was throwing to his teammates in Tampa Bay last week, Stidham was attending a wedding in California. … CBS Sports’ Tiki Barber said he knew Johnny Manziel was a bust the day he went to Las Vegas after a walk-through practice and missed his flight back to Cleveland. “That was the beginning of the end,” said Barber. “He had no commitment to wanting to be great.”. … “NESN won’t be broadcasting any of the Sox games from Tampa Bay this year,” emailed Shelburne native Skip Smith. “We were all released from the coverage, something like 7 games.” MLB wants all TV and radio announcers to call road games from home, watching on a TV monitor. … Bettors have to lay $475 to make $100 if they think either the Jets or Giants won’t make the playoffs. … CJ Nitkowski, who pitched for eight teams in ten years, said that after his son was roughed up pitching a Little League game his mother Megan told him, ‘At least you can still live at home. When dad pitched bad, we always had to move.’” … The Fourth of July is baseball, fireworks, patriotic music, beer, soda, cold hot dogs, warm coleslaw and the Stars and Stripes Forever. Wear a mask, avoid crowds, keep your distance and have fun celebrating our nation's 244th birthday.

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached at

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