The “Foster” Factor
Just As Larry Gannon was “Mr. Happy Valley,” Mike Foster, the head golf pro since 1975 has been “Mr. Larry Gannon Golf Course.” The native Lynner took over as Gannon’s assistant in 1969 when Paul Barkhouse gave the PGA Tour a shot and he’s been on the scene ever since.
“There’s no place else I’d want to be, just as Larry told me the same,” Foster says. Foster and Murphy formed a golf management company 20 years ago, Golf Facilities Management Inc. (GRMI), and began running Larry Gannon under the firm’s name in 2004.
“We’ve been running Hillview for 20 years,” Foster said. “We ran Pine Meadows, Nahant and Mt. Hood for six years each. It’s worked for us and the courses we’ve run.”
But Larry Gannon is where Foster cut his teeth as a pro and where he had flourished all these years. “The course, the members and our public play regulars have all become a second family to me,” said Foster. “It’s always been a family atmosphere around here. I learned from Larry that we golf professionals exist to do what’s best for the players, the course and the city.”
It hasn’t been entirely strawberries and cream for Foster all these years. “When I first took over, the course was in tough shape and the clubhouse building could have been condemned,” he said. “The membership had lost about a hundred members from the prior year. But the Commissioners brought in Steve for the golf course and started giving me the chance to improve the level of golf service and later direct work within the clubhouse building.
After a three-year trial with golf carts, the park commission discontinued their availability in 1974 and 1975, but allowed Foster to bring them back in 1976. He bought nine carts, lost money the first year, but was convinced they needed to be part of the Gannon golf landscape from here on in.
Foster added six carts to the operation in 1977, then received financial support from members Arthur Brown, Walter Marrama and David Dretler to purchase 20 more carts, and the cart business has done well ever since. Foster spent $80,000 building a cart building in 1982. Foster had and 80-cart fleet in 2005.
“In time we became a preferred choice for evening leagues and outings,” Foster said, “and we’re still going strong in those areas.”
Foster, like Gannon, has been a big advocate of the club’s junior program, which features instruction and nine-hole play on Mondays during the summer. In fact, more juniors seem to come from the Gannon golf program than from any other junior program on the North Shore, public or private.
Internally, Foster, like Gannon, enjoyed the fruits of running the concessions, then he saw the logic in moving the operation upstairs as part of the snack bar. But one key ingredient was missing – a liquor license.
“For many seasons we’d go to the Shoemaker Post on Wednesday nights for a beer,” Foster recalled. “Then we decided it was time to get our own liquor license as a non-profit, like Shoemaker.”
Thus was formed the Larry Gannon building Association, started during a meeting in Arthur Brown’s cellar in 1980. The Building Association would serve as the non-profit organization empowered with overseeing the operation of the golf program and the clubhouse. All proceeds would revert back into the golf course and clubhouse budget for the succeeding season.
The park commission gave its blessing, but then the licensing board had to give an OK. The license request was denied in the first go-round because of vocal opposition from the neighborhood. The Building Association waited two years to make a second bid, and this time, with significant neighborhood support for approval, got the licensing board’s blessing.
“Our state representative, Tom McGee, was Speaker of the House at the time,” Foster said, “and got us the license from the State Alcoholic and Beverage Commission (ABC) in 24 hours. We had a portable bar set up upstairs four, five hours later. Within 24 hours we raised $20,000 from a group of members and we had the horseshoe bar operating in another 48 hours.
Jack Imperial, senior member of the Building Association,applauded DeIulis for his dedication to the project. “Frank took extra care in everything he did for us over those years of work,” Imperial said. “Frank and his company have always been there for us. We appreciate that.” “It was a great idea on Jack’s part to extend the deck,” Foster said. “We can handle more people for functions. The DeIulis company did a wonderful job blending the new addition with the old.
All of which has played a role in Larry Gannon doing 50,000 rounds a year. We’re a drawing point for new business in the city,” Foster observed. GFMI is in the second year of a five-year contract with the city. “Steve and I hope to do one additional five-year contract after this contract is up,: Foster said. “That would give me 40-plus years.”