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Mingo Bottom trio: Owners share fond memories of golf course

Photo Provided From left, Mingo Bottom Golf Club general manager Billy Dotson along with owners Carolyn King, Sandy Shears and Ann Boyce pose for a picture in front of the Memorial Wall near the first tee box.

ELIZABETH — Golf isn’t so much just a game for the boys these days.

Even though it’s estimated nearly a quarter of all golfers are female, the percentage of women golf course owners pales in comparison.

Mingo Bottom Golf Club isn’t part of that vast minority thanks to owners Sandy Shears, Ann Boyce and Carolyn King.

“In 2004, that’s when we all bought it. Dad (Clyde Cale) passed in 2003 and we sold it in 2004. I just bought a quarter of it,” explained Boyce, last year’s women’s senior club champion. “Dad, he wanted to start it to bring people into Wirt County and give them money to help Wirt County out.

“He was hoping to have something for the kids to do and grow up and stay out of trouble and stuff. He loved helping out Wirt County. Of course, he never did play it, but he seemed to enjoy watching people play. He was good at about anything he did.”

The trio took complete ownership following Earl King’s death in 2017. Boyce lost her husband John the year prior and Phil Shears passed in 2014.

“I played with Earl when they had the couples league and I enjoyed that. It was on a Friday evening,” King said. “They still have it, but when he quit I did too. The girls have been asking me to play with them and sometimes my health doesn’t permit me.

“I’ve put it off and haven’t got back into it. I enjoy being out here and helping out whenever, every chance I get when we have the tournaments and different functions and I always take part.”

Prior to the golf course opening with the front nine in 1996, Shears wasn’t a golfer.

“I didn’t play until Cale’s opened the course and I started playing a year after it opened. I had no desire to play,” Shears said.

“I went out with Phil to play and I kind of liked it and then the next day Phil came home with some clubs. What choice did I have? I really enjoy playing.”

When it comes to the business side of things, Boyce noted “really, we just make all of our decisions together. Billy (Dotson, general manager) runs the course for us so we don’t have to worry too much about anything. He’s a really friendly person. We don’t really have to do much of anything.

“He does most of it for us, which is a good thing because John and I bought into it. It was my homeplace and I just loved it so we bought into it. Right then we said we didn’t want to have to work or help. We’d rather hire the people who need the money to work. Of course, we had the farm up here, the kids and we didn’t want to have to go to work and keep working outside.”

Always an avid golfer, Dotson’s job duties might keep him busy.

However, it’s the owners who keep him on point.

“I don’t know of any other golf courses around owned by all ladies,” Dotson said. “They are great to work for. We all have the same goal to make the golf course better. If they (Earl, Phil, John) are looking down I know they are pretty proud of what they see.

“We want to keep making it better. As far as working for the three ladies, it’s a piece of cake. They more or less told me to take care of the golf course. It’s almost like they are letting me be a part owner here.”

Shears, who like her fellow owners are thankful for their dedicated employees, stressed “I don’t know what we’d do without Billy. When our husbands passed, when Phil passed, we went to Billy and asked if he’d run the golf course.

“He said he was 90% sure he’d take it. He always tells us that. He always does a great job. We’re very comfortable putting it in his hands. We’ve got a great staff of about 14 employees.”

Complications for the course due to the COVID-19 pandemic have been fairly minimal.

Boyce, who said her father was quite proud of the Tigers’ 2002 Class A state title, admitted the social-distancing guidelines at times have caused issues with a shortage of riding carts.

“Down on number 13 I had to go chase those cows,” Boyce recalled of her younger years. “It’s a par 3. I had to go get those cows to bring them all the way back up (by No. 18).

“They’d go down in the shade in that corner and wouldn’t come in to get milked and we’d have to walk down there and get them. I have great memories there and I really enjoy it.”

The women’s club champ also stressed “I got lucky there and did pretty good on the back nine. It was unbelievable because Peggy Morrison, she’s won like 11 or 13 years in a row.

“I was six strokes behind going on the back nine and I came back and won by one stroke. It was really hot, really hot. It was a great day and it probably will be the only time I win it.”

From all appearances, things are going as well as can be expected for the trio.

At the same time, they each have their own memories and feelings about how special their situation is.

“It’s unusual to have it happen the way it did with all three of the husbands dying not that many years apart,” King noted. “Of course, Earl and Phil were pretty close friends and they got together and talked about the golf course before they bought it.

“They thought it’s a good thing for the county and they wanted to try to keep it going so they got together and got some more people together with them and we still got it today. I hate to give it up because it was just one of those things they wanted to do. We want to keep it going as long as we can.”

What Shears is trying to keep going is having King play a few more rounds of golf.

“For me, it was tough at first about the first year after he died,” Shears said. “I was hardly here at all and I thought I needed to get back out there and start playing.

“We play as much as we can and everything is going well now. The golf course looks great. We’re just trying to get Carolyn to play more.”

Boyce, who nearly lost her father one year while he was mowing the hillside between holes four and five, is grateful for her blessings.

“That memorial tournament this last weekend, we were coming up on four and five,” Boyce explained while golfing with her son. “We were talking about how dad used to mow that. Boone said grandpa used to mow that hill?

“He turned that tractor over one time. He was lucky to make it out. He got out of it, didn’t get hurt at all. It rolled over him. The Lord saved him from that for sure. The guys golfing thought he’d be dead.”

One other thing Boyce strongly conveyed was the fact Mingo Bottom had “dedicated workers down there. You couldn’t ask for a bunch of better men that are working there.

“They really do an awesome job of keeping things done. Vonda (Jones) runs the kitchen. She does a great job in the kitchen. Brian Valentine, he’s our maintenance supervisor, and he’s been there from the beginning.”

Aside from being the host site for a West Virginia Golf Association Senior Series event on June 11, Mingo Bottom will conduct the Mountain State girls high school invitational tournament for the third straight year.

“We usually have about 50 girls from about 35 counties,” said Dotson, who also will watch the new Callaway Junior Tour Rookie League break ground on June 6. “Who would think this used to be one of the biggest dairy farms in West Virginia. We used to consider ourselves the best kept secret in the Mid-Ohio Valley, but the secret is getting out.

“We’re getting busier every year. These ladies are out working as hard as everybody else for these tournament and people don’t realize they are the owners. Everything works out really well. We just have a good bunch of people here. One of the big keys for us are the people we have working that take pride in what they do.”

Contact Jay Bennett at jbennett@newsandsentinel.com

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