ROTHESAY – Jason Porter started as a “backshop boy” at Riverside Country Club when he was 12 and worked there into his 20s. He grew up in a house off the 4th hole and would play a few holes on his way to and from work. So it’s no surprise that being the new General Manager after being away more than 20 years is a “dream job.”
“When I was a junior I would play [holes] 15, 16 17, and 18 then I would work my morning shift,” says Porter. “I’d normally play 18 holes after my shift and then come in, have French Fries and go and play [holes] 1, 2 and 3 when I’d go home. In the summer months, I would spend all day on the golf course.”
This familiarity makes this opportunity even more special to him.
“It’s the club that has always held a special place in my heart,” says Porter, who recently joined Riverside after serving as Director of Golf with the Algonquin Golf Course for the last 12 years.
“I know a lot of the members and I’ve maintained many relationships over the years – especially being in St. Andrews as many would come to play the Algonquin. I am excited to be part of Riverside again and I look forward to helping it move forward into the future.”
Porter started to work at Riverside in 1982 in the back shop. He was promoted in 1990 to assistant golf professional under longtime Head Professional Jim Connolly. “Jim was my mentor and he guided me to become the professional I am today,” says Porter.
Jim’s son Don grew up around the club as well. He worked in the back shop at the same time as Porter and they played some golf together. Don is now the Head Professional, occupying the same position as his father, who passed away in 2017.
“Jim was always my mentor. I dearly miss him but I’m so happy to be able to work with his son Don,” said Porter. “Don is the spitting image of Jim – personality plus. I am just so excited to have that opportunity to work with Don and to mentor him like Jim did with me.”
Porter worked for a time as a Head Professional himself. In 1996, after he finished his five-year apprenticeship under Jim, he left Riverside to become a Head Pro at three separate courses in Nova Scotia. He spent 15 years there before moving back to New Brunswick to be General Manager of the Moncton Golf and Country Club. He was there for three years before moving to St. Andrews.
Porter is now eager to apply what he’s learned in the decades away from Riverside to enhancing the experience of members of the club. For someone who so obviously values his relationships with staff and members, and the culture of the club going back decades, it’s perhaps no surprise that he places a premium on customer service.
I want to develop a culture with the staff of service excellence,” says Porter. “I want to make sure there’s nobody better at service than us. There’s a book that I swear by that’s called Raving Fans. I want to make our members ‘raving fans’ of what we do.”
To accomplish this, he says the club needs to offer a better overall golfing experience that includes catering to all types of golfers. He says it’s not just about the game anymore, it’s about offering choices to members. Catering to their needs and wants and showing them value for their dollar.
Some preliminary thoughts are to offer more choices for families, couples and juniors. He plans to start a couple’s night where couples would play a round of golf and have entertainment following play. He is also working on a family night to get the whole family out to play a few holes and enjoy some food and entertainment.
Golf is a tough game for children (and adults), he says, and there are strategies for making it more fun and less discouraging to learn.
“There’s are things like big holes, so you go from a normal sized golf hole to a hole that’s probably 5 times the size,” he says. “This can help make the game faster and more fun. It’s great for a member fun event and for family events as the game becomes a little easier and the scores lower.”
Porter also plans to host off-season events that provide more value to members. That could mean bringing in a comedy act for an evening or organizing an event like the Indulge festival, where members can sample great food cooked by local chefs. He says there’s already a trivia night that’s popular with women in the club.
“The board has already started the ball rolling, which is fantastic,” he says. “We just have to make sure that we choose more events that our members are going to enjoy.”
Most of all, Porter wants to do the little things that make “raving fans” of the membership.
“It could be something small like meeting a member in the parking lot, or using the member’s name when you come in contact with them,” he says. “[It could be] knowing members’ anniversaries, birthdays or special occasions and acknowledging them in some way. Sometimes it’s just the small things that can make such a big difference.”
“This is their golf course and I want them to be proud that they are members of Riverside.”
You can learn more about becoming a member of Riverside on the club’s website.