Fore sight Featured

7:03am EDT November 4, 2003
Greensburg Country Club is set to celebrate its 100th anniversary next year, but its chance to reach its centennial was nearly snuffed out by a clubhouse fire.

A fire in 1999 destroyed a third of the clubhouse, led to water and smoke damage to most of the rest and put the survival of the club in jeopardy. But instead of viewing the fire as a setback, the club's 400-plus golf and social members and its leadership eyed at it as an opportunity to upgrade the facility.

"We just had someone hand $1.7 million to us," Pete Sesti, the club's president told the membership. "Match it and we can have the best facility in Western Pennsylvania."

It took six months of decision-making and planning, and 18 months of construction to finish the clubhouse. In the meantime, the club lost its social members, although it was kept its golf course open and retained golf members.

A makeshift kitchen was rigged in a tent, and the swimming pool cabana was boarded up to serve as an office. During the process, the club lost several key employees, and factions within the membership argued over how the club should proceed, bogging down the process.

A group of members displeased with the direction that the leadership wanted to take the club in threatened to sue to get their way.

The club got some key assistance during the process. Irwin Bank extended a line of credit and a cash advance before the insurance settlement arrived so the club could keep operating. One member, a former Mellon-Stuart Construction Co. employee, kept tabs on the construction.

Sesti's family kept his two Delmont businesses going so he could spend time at the club throughout the process.

By the time the planning, haggling and construction were over, the club had installed a $1 million irrigation system for the golf course, added a 400-person ballroom and a formal dining room and done a complete renovation to the rest of the clubhouse. Meeting rooms received upgraded audiovisual capabilities and the kitchen was completely redone.

Sesti says the club is booked for events for all but two Saturdays in 2004, and club members are using the facility more frequently than before.

While the leadership could set the direction of the club during the recovery process, Sesti says, the most critical component in keeping the club going was getting the right management in place.

Says Sesti: "The biggest thing is to select the people to build the team." How to reach: Greensburg Country Club,