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Wednesday, Jun. 20, 2018
Rob Minnini: The new man in charge of Golf Sudbury
by Randy Pascal

The small handful of locals who follow the Ontario golf industry, in detail, were quite aware of the background of Rob Minnini before his arrival to Sudbury just over a year ago.

For the balance of those who enjoy the game with some regularity in our area, the story of the new General Manager of the Golf Sudbury properties was that of the fellow who had moved up, from Barrie, with his family.

There is so much more than that to the soon-to-be forty year old.

For as much as Minnini is now synonymous with involvement in golf, it certainly did not start that way. Growing up in Bolton as a competitive baseball player, he would not play his first round of golf until his late teens.

To say that he took quickly to golf would be a massive understatement, as much as the game also took to him. “I was close to graduating high school and really didn't know what I wanted to do with my life,” Minnini recalled recently.

“A buddy of mine got me a job at the golf course cutting greens. I didn't know anything about golf, but I knew that my dad didn't like it. I loved cutting grass, loved raking the bunkers, and about the same time, I started playing. I took a liking to it and my first summer, I broke 80 – legitimately.”

While some golfers bemoan a start in baseball in terms of the negative influence it can have on their golf swing, Minnini experienced the polar opposite effect. “One of my strengths in baseball was my hitting,” he said. “It's still hand-eye co-ordination, and in golf, it's a stationary ball.”

“To me, the transition was pretty easy, because I just bent at the waist. I quickly learned that it was the hardest game in the world, but I was pretty good at it.” Working the turf department for two years at the Bolton Golf & Country Club, Minnini began to develop a vision of what his future might be.

“I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do, but I wanted to be involved in sports.” Where many of his friends followed the traditional route of heading directly to post-secondary studies immediately out of high school, the Minnini plan involved garnering a handle on exactly what his career path might be, before mixing in a return to the academic lifestyle.

The purchase of the Bolton course by ClubLink opened opportunities for the energetic go-getter, who jumped at the chance to work at the company flagship property, spending the next four years at King Valley Golf Course. The knowledge that Minnini would gather about golf course management, in general, was matched by his interest in personal growth.

“I was a very confident young man,” he acknowledged. “But one of my best traits is that I learn from my mistakes - and I make them all of the time.” Continuously learning, Minnini would assemble an incremental game plan, one that would allow him to prosper in an industry that he loved.

“I wanted different experiences. I had the public course experience (Bolton), I had the high end private (King Valley), so I wanted a semi-private course that had an established golf pro that I could work with for eight, nine, ten years, and then perhaps take over.”

Enter Westview Golf Course in Aurora, home to one of the busiest venues in the province, welcoming more than 40,000 rounds in a single year at one point during the course of an 11-year stint for Minnini.

His was a balancing act, pursuing his professional golf carding, marrying his required studies at Humber College, all while taking on a gradually more and more involved role at Westview. “I was committed,” said Minnini. “I missed my card twice by one shot. But I finished first in Ontario when I got my card, and that's something I was very proud of.”

By the time 2007 rolled around, the apprentice was ready to spread his wings. “We had a meeting with the owners, they handed me the keys to the pro shop and I would take it from there. I started from scratch, totally changed the whole service of the property.”

“We actually experienced growth when there was doom and gloom everywhere in the golf industry. I tried to build relationships. There may not be enough golfers out there, but they want to go somewhere where they are going to be happy.”

Over time, increasing maturity would add another positive layer, augmenting the skill-set that he would eventually bring north. “Early in my career, I would take things personally, get upset. I am an emotional guy. One day, I just realized that it's not personal, that you've got to listen to people, you've got to think win-win.”

In 2010, Minnini would grow antsy, seeking another step forward. By March of 2011, along with some friends and acquaintances, he would join a group that would puchase Tangle Creek Golf Course in Barrie, a property not yet a decade old at the time.

His involvement with the new venture would provide that inevitable bump in the road, a left turn following so many fortuitous stops along the way. With both he and his wife dealing with career situations that were less than ideal, Minnini would look north, re-connecting with Sam Yawney in the city that was originally home to his wife.

The long-time face of Golf Sudbury, Yawney was looking to step back, prepared to turn over the reigns. “I came up on Thanksgiving of 2015, we started talking at noon and went for about six hours,” Minnini noted. “Although we had different views on certain things, we always seemed to find common ground.”

Eventually, a deal was consumated, as Minnini and family moved to Sudbury last spring. For the new man on the scene, the learning continued. “We're much busier at opposite times than we were down south,” he said. “We're busier during the week here, and not so much on the weekends, because we're competing with “camp” - that's a huge thing here.”

One year in to a five year plan, Minnini points with pride to small steps. “It's going to take a lot of hard work and likely five years to get each of these properties to where I think they should be,” he said. “I never try and change the world in year one. The thing I am most proud of is that we have created a buzz.”

A buzz that means that Rob Minnini will be known, in time, by the Sudbury golfing masses.

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