New Hampden Country Club Owners Have High Hopes
The esteemed Hampden Country Club, located just over the Connecticut border in Hampden, Mass., was bought by Connecticut businessman Jerry Antonacci at auction on Jan. 10 for $1.4 million.
Antonacci is president of USA Hauling and Recycling in Enfield, and his family owns a recreation center in Somers named Sonny’s Place. The center features a driving range, batting cage and miniature golf.
The 295-acre Hampden Country Club had come under tough times prior to it being sold. The previous owners were hit hard by the recession after buying the club in 2006 and had the quality of the course decline under their ownership. The course was abruptly closed in October of last year and TD Bank foreclosed on its mortgage and filed a 1.6 million lien on the property on Dec. 1, 2011.
Jerry Antonacci brought Hamden Country Club on behalf of his children and nephews. His son Guy has been running the club since the purchase. Guy Antonacci, a former club pro in Florida and professional golfer, has implemented a number of projects for the upcoming season that will improve the club and hopefully return it to its former glory. The Hampden Country Club is on its way up.
“We are making a number of improvements to the club for the upcoming season," said Guy Antonacci. “We are improving the banquet hall by painting its ceiling. Our restaurant currently only has four beers on tap, so we are adding more beers to the menu. We are also making renovations to the kitchen of the restaurant.”
“We are going to take a number of measures to improve the actual course," said Antonacci. “We have bought electric golf carts with GPS for our members to use. Brian Silva, who works for Agriscapes, is going to redesign all our bunkers and address the drainage issues the course has experienced.”
“Finally, we will establish a relationship between Sonny’s Place and Hampden,” he said. “Members of Hampden will automatically have free membership at Sonny’s.”
Billy Downes is the club pro at Hampden Country Club and has served there for four years. Downes was an important viewing party to an ownership group that overextended themselves and was unsuccessful in attracting customers due to a number of factors. With the takeover by the Antonacci’s however, he believes the club can again become one of the top courses in the region.
“It’s been exciting seeing the improvements Guy and his family have made,” Downes said. “Under them the condition of the course has definitely improved. I feel like they’re absolutely capable of making Hampden one of the top courses in the area again. People are very excited about their arrival.”
Indeed, the excitement expressed by Hampden regulars over the Antonacci’s improvements has been palpable. An open house held by the club last week was packed with more than 100 club members who displayed enthusiasm and confidence in the recent improvements. Antonacci is believes that the success of this improvements can quickly help to restore the club’s luster and will attract members.
“Members are attracted by our enthusiasm,” he said. “Our goal is to bring back the club that used to exist and restore its status as the premier course in western Massachusetts.”
Guy Antonacci has valuable experience has a professional golfer on the Hooters and Nationwide Tours, as well as being a club pro for clubs in Florida and in the East. This career gave him an outstanding understanding of the game and allowed Antonacci to travel to exotic locales while making valuable connections, experiences that will hopefully be useful for Hampden’s future. But he was ultimately called to joining the family business and the job of running Hampden Country Club.
“I decided to come back to help out with our business and this opportunity just fell into place,” he said. “I was so lucky. It is a dream job. I’m looking forward to getting a chance to prove myself.”
This year will be a reloading campaign for the Hampden Country Club. The improvements to its infrastructure and course will be some of the first steps in the club attracting members and retaining their loyalty. The road to rebuilding the club will be a long and winding. But if Guy Antonacci and his collaborators stay committed to Hampden’s improvement projects and are flexible in their efforts, Hampden Country Club may just yet become one of the premier clubs in the region again.