Homecoming of Sorts for Harper Matthews,
First Woman Pro Shop Manager at ESY&CC
Assuming the position of Pro Shop and Sports Manager at Eastern Shore Yacht & Country Club was sort of a homecoming for Harper Matthews, who lived in a house a chip shot away from the fourth fairway for the first five years of her life.
“I can remember walking up to Todd (Wilson) when I was only 3 and asking for a bag of balls,” recalled Matthews, 24, one day recently as nearly 40 sports campers were gathering for a photo.
“I am really excited to be here and share my love of the game with the next generation of young golfers while making the opportunities for sports here the best possible experience for our members.”
Matthews said she was taught everything she knows about golf at a young age by her father, Rick Matthews, a regular at the club. “The only thing he didn’t teach me was how to get out of bunkers. His advice was, ‘Don’t get into them.’ ”
At age 5, Matthews left the Shore with her mother, Peggy, after her parents separated. She lived on the Outer Banks for a few years and then settled near Ashland, Va., where she played field hockey and lacrosse at Lee-Davis High School, now known as Mechanicsville High School.
She was recruited to play field hockey at Shenandoah College, but after one year, realized she loved golf more and joined the golf team, eventually becoming the captain. Her major was exercise science with a minor in coaching.
She carries a 7 handicap from the ladies’ tees, but plays the whites most often, where she is a 12, although she senses that working around a golf course doesn’t necessarily mean she will be playing more golf. “There’s a lot I want to do,” she said. “I want to organize the pro shop, get a junior golf program underway and provide the level of service expected by the members.”
Matthews also enjoys pickle ball, a new feature at the club, and tennis. There’s also the swimming pool and a fitness room in the new sports center for members to use.
She hasn’t given much consideration to being the first woman to be the pro shop manager in the 60-year history of ESY&CC. “Honestly, I have never thought about being the first woman. I’m proud to be the first, and I’m confident I won’t be the last,” she said.
Matthews, who has two older sisters, Kelsey and Haley, said golf etiquette is very important to her. “My father taught me to let faster players play through, always wear a collared shirt, fix your divots, rake the sand traps after your shot and do not twist your feet on the green and leave a mark. It really bothers me when I see a footprint on the green. We have an amazing maintenance crew here at the club that keeps the course in fabulous condition, and we need to support their efforts.”
Matthews said having longtime ESY&CC employee Todd Wilson in the pro shop has been a tremendous help. “I can recall Todd being here when I first started playing golf, and to have his knowledge is really important to me.” Wilson first started at the club in 1997, left for a few years and then returned, and now has 15 years of service at ESY&CC.
Matthews also credits golf teaching pro Jay Williams with helping her in the first few days of employment, “He has held this job at several clubs and has been around golf courses his whole life,” she said. “His wisdom will really help. I was worried about doing all these many things I want to do, and he said make sure you focus on one thing, fix that, and move on.”
Under the leadership of General Manager Monika Bridgforth and with a new sports center and a new clubhouse after more than two years without one due to a December 2017 fire, ESY&CC has seen its membership increase from 217 to 432 in the past 14 months. In addition, Bridgforth has scheduled a host of activities for all ages, including musical entertainment, exercise classes, youth camps in various sports, sailing camps for all ages, social golf and tennis, and fun activities in the pool. There are various levels of membership, with dues structured to meet a range of budgets.
Matthews said she realizes she is joining the club as it is growing, with more and more families, many with young children, joining the club. “I see some longtime members here who used to babysit for me when I was growing up on the Shore,” she said, “and I want to serve them the best I can while also making the club experience inviting for younger members so that they become lifetime members.”