Flames ripped through the Ledgeview Golf Course clubhouse early Tuesday morning, destroying most of the building and incinerating decades of history at a course known for developing some of the best golfers in B.C.
But despite the blaze, course operators are vowing to play through the loss, and golfers were hitting the links Tuesday morning even as fire crews remained on the scene.
Emergency crews received reports of flames at the clubhouse just after midnight, and despite the efforts of firefighters, the building was quickly engulfed.
Phillip Dodd, the president of the Ledgeview Golf Society, which operates the course, said Tuesday the building appears to be a “total loss.” Nevertheless, he stressed the course remains open, and the city and society were set to discuss a temporary replacement later in the day.
While the building was covered by insurance, many of the items lost catalogued the course’s 50-plus-year history. Items included trophies, scorecards, records, and items cataloguing the careers of some of the golfers who refined their game at Ledgeview, including former PGA Tour veteran Ray Stewart, 2005 NCAA champ James Lepp and current PGA Tour pros Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor.
“There was a lot of stuff there that had our history,” Dodd said. A few items were salvaged from the first floor of the building, included golf bags belonging to Stewart, Lepp, Hadwin and Taylor, along with a photo from Taylor’s first PGA win.
The building was originally a house that belonged to the land’s previous owners, which had been converted into a clubhouse in the late 1970s or early ’80s.
Hadwin, whose father worked at the course, and Taylor, who worked in the shop during high school, both expressed their sympathies for the loss.
“It’s a sad day for Ledgeview,” Hadwin told The News. “To have something like this happen is a major setback, and hopefully … it will get rebuilt better, and generations to come will share in what I got to see of Ledgeview.”
Taylor echoed those thoughts, noting that “you can’t replace” the historical items.
Mayor Henry Braun called the fire “a tragic loss for the community and for Ledgeview Society.”
Although investigators were still working to determine the cause of the fire by press time, Hadwin and others noted that crews had responded to another fire in the area just two days earlier.
Abbotsford Police Const. Ian MacDonald confirmed that on Saturday at 3:38 a.m., emergency crews had responded to a fire in bushes outside the course. Police believe that fire, which did little damage, was “suspicious.”
MacDonald said that incident increases the possibility that the blaze was intentionally set.
“We have to view everything independently, but certainly to have something suspicious like that take place just a couple days in advance of something like this, I think that’s a natural place for people’s minds to go, including investigators.”
Thoughts have already turned to what will replace the building.
The course is managed by the Ledgeview Golf Society, which rents the land from, and shares profits with, the City of Abbotsford. The city’s precursor, the District of Matsqui, had bought the course for $1.1 million in 1980. In 2012, the financially challenged club received $115,000 in one-time funding from the City of Abbotsford, and the society restructured itself in 2013. The latest contract signed last June sees the society pay the city either half of net revenue or $40,000 each year, whichever is greater.
Earlier this year, the city signed a “mutual benefits agreement” with Kinder Morgan Canada in which the city would receive $1.3 million to replace the clubhouse with a more modern facility. The agreement, which created some controversy, would proceed if Kinder Morgan Canada’s proposed pipeline expansion is approved by the federal government. The pipeline cuts across the golf course, and construction would affect 10 holes.
The agreement did not stipulate when a new clubhouse would be built.
“We weren’t in a rush,” Braun said Tuesday. “That may change a little, now that the clubhouse is gone.”
(Second video above by Ryan Stelting)