News

Succession planning in the air at Williston Golf Club

Jeff Murray, fourth-generation owner of the Williston Golf Club, is starting to think about retirement in the coming years. OBSERVER PHOTO BY JASON STARR

Fourth-generation owners hope to keep the club in the family

By Jason Starr

Observer staff

As it nears its 100th anniversary, the Williston Golf Club is starting its transition into a fifth generation of ownership. 

Club co-owner Larry Keefe is dropping to part-time this season as course superintendent and his nephew, David Keefe, is ramping up his responsibilities to eventually fill Larry’s role full time. 

“I know most of the ins and outs, but I (will) probably shadow him a little bit more this year on a day-to-day basis,” David said.

Retirement is also on the horizon for club co-owner Jeff Murray, who, like Larry, is a great-grandchild of the course’s founder, Frank Talcott. While Larry has been responsible for keeping the 80-acre course consistently playable, Jeff has run the business side of the operation, from payroll to book-keeping and clubhouse/pro shop operations. 

Talcott built the course in 1927 on farmland north of Williston Road as a nine-hole amenity for himself and his friends; it has been passed down to family members in successive generations since then.

“It was a little personal project he had — he and his buddies playing golf,” Jeff said. “Back in that day there weren’t a lot of golf courses … It’s been a work in progress from my great-grandfather all the way to today. Hopefully the next generation will continue it on and do what they think is best.”

Talcott’s son, George, took it over in the mid-20th century. Then George’s daughter, Shirley, and son-in-law Ben Murray operated it in the latter half of the century, redesigning the course and adding nine holes to make it the full 18-hole course that is seen today from the top of Golf Course Road.

George Talcott, left, the original builder of the Williston Golf Club course, poses with his golfing buddies circa 1930.
COURTESY OF WILLISTON GOLF CLUB

Jeff, the son of Ben and a fourth-generation owner, lives in a cabin on the course where he grew up. Now, though, he winters in Florida and is starting to think about who will take the reigns of the course when he steps away. 

“It’s my turn to think about succession,” he said Tuesday from the clubhouse deck, where preparations are underway to open the course for the 2022 season later this month.

Jeff has no children, and Larry’s two daughters have teaching careers to consider. 

“When the time comes, maybe they are looking for a career change, and this is an option. If not, we’ll explore other avenues,” Jeff said. “They are certainly going to get the first shot at it. We will try to keep it in the family.”

David, who has worked on the course since he was young and lives in a home on the property, will be “instrumental in carrying it forward,” Jeff said. 

In an interview Tuesday, David said he’s committed to keeping the course operating into the future. He also has two teenage children who are no strangers to course operations and who project as the sixth generation of family owners.

“I’d like to keep it in the family because it’s been here so long and you don’t see a lot of that these days anymore,” David said. “It’s a pretty unique situation we have here … My intentions are definitely to keep it the way it is and hopefully my kids will keep it going too.”

Comment here