Jerry Chaille, the owner of two Somerville, Mass., cab companies and former auto mechanic, was 42 when he swung his first golf club, one that he got when he traded an old eight-track recorder for his first set of woods.
Today, at the age of 63, Chaille spends most of his time on the links or behind the scenes of his own golf course — the Lochmere Golf and Country Club, a 200-acre facility on Route 3 in Tilton that he began creating 16 years ago after he and his wife Ann moved to New Hampshire’s Lakes Region to retire.
The scenic 18-hole course, with its narrow fairways and undulating greens, was designed by Phil Wogan and George Sargent, and now holds the distinction of being named a Golf Digest magazine four-star facility.
The facility as a whole includes a driving range, practice green, pro shop, function hall and The Greenside Restaurant, run by Chaille’s daughter Linda.
Vic Stanfield, Boston University Hockey Hall-of-Famer and brother of Boston Bruins great, Fred Stanfield, is Lochmere’s golf pro.
“I like to think of us as a public golf course with members,” said Chaille who was recognized in 2005 by New Hampshire Business Review with a Business Excellence Award for Hospitality. “Here everybody is real. Nobody walks around with their nose in the air. If they do they’ll just get it bitten off.”
Nowhere is the lack of pretension more apparent at Lochmere than with its owner. Chaille, clad in a simple golf shirt and trousers, cup of coffee in his hand, talks casually about his transition from auto mechanic to owner of Somerville’s only cab companies. Daughters Sheryl and Karen now operate that 93-unit venture.
Like Lochmere, the cab companies grew from Chaille’s willingness to welcome change and his keen ability to introduce new technology to his industry.
After years spent keeping the vehicles of Yellow Cab running, an industrious Chaille bought the business in 1973. He followed it with the purchase of Green Cab five years later. Today he jokes that the only complaints he and his daughters receive about their cabs - all outfitted with GPS tracking — is that arrive too quickly.
The easygoing attitude is apparent throughout Lochmere and is quickly embraced by visitors like Connecticut resident Jim Martin during his first round at Lochmere on a sunny July morning.
“Everyone here is very friendly and welcoming - the staff and my fellow golfers - it’s been nice,” Martin said. “The course itself is just beautiful, very healthy, and the greens are perfect.”
It’s important to Chaille that all who visit Lochmere share Martin’s impression. A sign on the first tee, which reads, “We take pride in our product,” perhaps says it best.
According to Chaille, that one statement serves as a beacon guiding the evolution of Lochmere, which actually began as a pleasant thought of owning a small mom-and-pop nine-hole course in the vacation spot he and Ann began visiting in 1984.
A lover of softball, bowling and pool, Chaille found himself attracted to the social aspect and casual pace of golf.
“It was a new way to remain active without having to worry about sliding into base,” said Chaille, who thought owning his own course would prove “laid back, leisurely and seasonal.”
When attempts to purchase an established nine-hole course in the area fell through Chaille bought 70 acres and an old farmhouse - complete with its own church - at auction and had his own 10-hole course constructed.
Subsequent purchases of nearly 200 additional acres allowed Chaille to expand his course and his dream.
While many who visit Lochmere Golf and Country Club would find the facility complete, Chaille himself is always looking for ways to improve.
“Progress is very important. You have to move forward all the time,” said Chaille, a grandfather of nine, including Thomas who works summers at Lochmere. “I’m a believer in staying in the forefront of technological advancements in your industry — that’s what sets you apart.”
New mowers now deliver a much finer cut to the greens and the lush areas surrounding them - areas so thick, Chaille said, the old mowers just couldn’t get the job done as well.
Plans for a new water management system also are in their final stages. Once installed, watering time around the course will be shortened, making for a more effective system and happier patrons.
Chaille also is considering ways to get more people to take advantage of his scenic course during typically quiet days.
The introduction of Senior Citizens Day on Tuesdays has proven most effective, he said.
“Tuesday is kind of a hump day up here - people are starting or ending vacations. Since introducing Senior Citizens Day we’re seeing so many more seniors on the course, and they’re really loving it.”
Soon, foursomes will be treated to special prices on Mondays, he said.
Chaille also is in the process of purchasing more adjacent land and hopes to subdivide it into six or seven residential lots with views of the course.
One thing is for certain: The spirit of evolution embraced by a young mechanic more than 30 years ago is still alive in the owner of Lochmere Golf and Country Club.
“There may come a point in time that there will be less to do, but there will always be something to do,” said Chaille. “I’ve always dreamed big, and I don’t see that changing.”
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This article appears in the September 1 2006 issue of New Hampshire Business Review