MINDEMOYA—This was once a Hodgson family farm, before Jack Seabrook turned it into a golf course. The golf course was later purchased and taken over by Seabrook’s son, John. Manitoulin Island’s oldest golf course, Brookwood Brae, and the adjacent Pirates Cove Cottages have now been sold but will remain in the family.
Logan Middleton entered talks to buy the businesses of his uncle and aunt, John and Cheryl Seabrook, in January and the deal was completed on May 1. Mr. Middleton is the son of the late Brad Middleton and Deborah Seabrook. “Nothing has to change much,” he told The Expositor. “We keep it in the family.”
Mr. Middleton, who grew up in Sudbury, is now a financial analyst and lives in Toronto. He is also a golfer and takes his two boys to the driving range every Sunday these days. “My wife, Emily Thiang and I used to play golf every weekend before our sons were born,” he said.
The purchase of the company was “pretty spontaneous,” Middleton said. “Cheryl emailed me in the winter and asked if I would change my week at Pirate’s Cove. She said the deal they expected fell through. John had already told me that the golf course and cabins were for sale. He discussed it with his wife and she agreed to the purchase, as the Middleton family stays there every summer and there is a family connection.
Jack and Marian Seabrook built Brookwood Brae in 1964. “Dad sold Massey Harris tractors and was a machinist,” John recalls. “He was getting trades for his work all the time, like sheep, and he kept the animals on the farm until the fall.”
The farm had belonged to Ben Becks, Mr Seabrook added. “He was married to my aunt Priscilla, the sister of my grandfather Joe Hodgson. Eventually my grandfather inherited the farm and my father bought Pirate’s Cove Cottages, which were built in the 1950s.”
“The joke was always that Brookwood Brae was built as a golf course because my dad didn’t think there would be a lot of work,” Mr Seabrook said. “My dad had a bad back and nobody knew anything about golf.”
The original clubhouse was made from a box from a dump truck with a wooden structure built on top of it. There were about six golf carts. “The fridge was in the middle of the pavilion and for 25 cents you could buy a chocolate bar and a soft drink,” Mr Seabrook said. This pavilion was located in the middle of the existing car park. “Then Dad built the old clubhouse and I built the first part of the new clubhouse in 1983,” he said. There have been a few additions since then. In 1992 he demolished the old building and rebuilt it, and purchased Pirates Cove Cottages.
In 1993 Mr Seabrook moved the barn behind the first green and built the two bridges. All of the greens on the current course were originally in different locations and the golf course initially had only eight holes.
“There are millions of stories on the course,” Mr. Seabrook said. “A guy did an article about me in a golf magazine years ago. I was a 21-year-old kid who owned a golf course. And I didn’t know anything about it. But all kinds of people got involved. and helped.
At that time, green fees were two dollars. “We couldn’t go to three bucks or we wouldn’t have anyone to play,” he noted. “Dad had maybe 50 members when he started the course. I remember the first year the membership fee was $50 for the year. I had people from Mindemoya who paid a membership every year, who had never played golf. This venture has been super well supported by members of the community: people like Pick Wass, who owned the Wagg’s store, and Martin Taylor paid for years and never played the course.
Ownership of Pirate’s Cove Cottages passed to John Seabrook’s great-uncle and aunt, Alma and the late Allan Tustian, and eventually John Seabrook purchased it, restoring the entire original farmhouse to one property.
Mr Middleton currently has no plans to move to the island or make any changes to what the Seabrooks have done with the course or current employees. “My plan is to do nothing and change nothing,” he joked. “If it makes money, I will continue to invest in the course and the chalets to improve them each year.
There is a general manager in place. “Charlie Hopton basically uprooted his family in Sudbury to move to Manitoulin Island. He will be the general manager and his wife Kristina has restaurant experience in Sudbury, so she will work at the clubhouse. Laurie Beaudin mainly takes care of men’s and women’s evenings and weekends. She basically takes care of all the important stuff when Steve (Shaffer) isn’t around.
“John has kept the course in top condition for so long,” Mr Middleton said. “We have Blair Kalmikov, who will take over for John whenever he wants to retire. Something tells me he’ll be around a lot longer than the year he’s talking about, and I hope that’s the He did a fantastic job with the course.
Mr Seabrook said he will continue to run the business as his own for a year, and his wife Cheryl also helps out in the clubhouse.
“Logan told me I could always make the improvements I wanted. But we are looking for people to help with the grounds,” Mr. Seabrook said. “We have a good core of staff, but not enough to do everything. necessary work.”
Because they’re understaffed, they “can’t do the fun stuff”, Mr Seabrook said. Once the school is out, there will be two summer students working there.
The golf course is very busy. “COVID-19 was the best thing for playing golf,” Mr Seabrook said. There were 102 golfers on the men’s night on Wednesday night last week and 45 ladies for the ladies’ night.
“Logan had called me and said I thought I could buy the business,” Mr Seabrook said. “I was talking to someone else at the time but I sold it to Logan and I can’t imagine a better deal. It would be better if (Logan) bought it to work here. So far he has bought it for someone else to run. No, I’m not going to give up. I won’t be working every day, but I love doing projects. I stopped mowing the grass. But I will be there, as long as I can.
“Logan has always wanted a piece of Manitoulin Island,” Seabrook added. “He has a good chunk of it now.”