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Saturday, August 13, 2022
Sports: Falls native is new head pro at NOTL Golf Club
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A little over a week into his new job as head pro at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Golf Club, Keith Vant has yet to have a day off – and he doesn’t expect much rest for the next little while.

“The days are really flying by,” the Niagara Falls native said in an interview Monday.

Vant, 29, a graduate of Niagara College’s professional golf management program, is busy getting the pro shop ready for the season, thinking about what activities he might introduce and making plans for the various leagues at the club.

He noted the clubhouse and restaurant reopened on Wednesday and golf superintendent Mike Magwood is hoping the course is ready for play by Monday, April 4 – barring heavy rains or snow.

Meantime, “I have 800 new faces to get to know,” said Vant. The club has about 300 full-time members and another 500 social members.

Vant took over the post on March 15 after longtime pro Billy Simkin resigned to take a post as head teaching professional at Peninsula Lakes Golf Club in Fenwick. Associate pro Ricky Watson also departed but Vant has been in touch with both, seeking advice and insights.

The new NOTL pro comes from Legends on the Niagara golf club, where he was an assistant pro. Prior to that he worked at the International Country Club (now Niagara National) in Stevensville.

“I’m looking forward to meeting the members and finding out what they’d like us to be doing,” said Vant, but cautioned that, with his late start in the job, technological additions like online bookings and other changes might have to wait.

“We’ll probably just be able to do some small things this year,” he said.

His dad Jason introduced him to golf when he was barely a toddler. He’d accompany his father on occasional golf outings and hit some shots just for fun.

Vant played on his high school golf team and was a competitive hockey player as a teenager, until a knee injury and a broken collar bone prompted him to focus on golf.

Unsure what he wanted to do, but knowing he wanted to be involved in sports management, he realized, “I can play golf till I’m over 80” and work at a golf club. “But I can’t play hockey that long,” especially after the injuries.

He has only played the NOTL course twice, he said. But both were memorable – for the weather (windy, off Lake Ontario) and for the circumstances.

In 2015, he played on the day he had written his last college course exam.

And in 2019, he golfed with his parents and an uncle. That turned out to be his uncle’s last round of golf as he died after heart surgery the following St. Patrick’s Day.

With all that the new job entails and only returning assistant pro Cam Zeppa to help manage things, Vant is not sure how often he will get to play this season.

But he’s eager to get a few rounds in.

Meanwhile, he and Zeppa are busy contacting suppliers and trying to make sure the pro shop is well-stocked once the season gets under way.

Like last year, the COVID hangover is still affecting supply chains.

There’s a lot to do and suppliers are doing what they can to expedite the merchandise.

But the NOTL golf crowd will probably cut them some slack. After the chill of winter, everyone’s just keen to get out and hit the links.