A Winning Fundraiser

by Rebecca Howerton

 Jul 04, 2019 at 8:41 AM

Providence members team with club to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand

When Trina Blankenship agreed last year to organize the annual ladies tennis charity event at Providence Country Club, she didn’t know how much work it would be, but she knew which nonprofit she would choose as beneficiary – Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

Her husband, Charles, is vice president of human resources for Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, which has an ongoing partnership with the charity. When the couple attended the organization’s 2018 Lemon Ball in Philadelphia, Blankenship became aware of the full scope of its efforts to change the lives of children with cancer.

“I was blown away. Alex was a little girl who had cancer and started a lemonade stand to raise money to help other children with cancer. Her family started the foundation in her honor, and they’ve done an amazing job,” Blankenship said. “We heard from doctors who benefited from their funding for cutting-edge research, and families they helped with travel costs and medical expenses to get their child the treatment they needed. It was pretty incredible.”

Blankenship knew she would need help to make the most of the member-guest tennis event, so she called her friend Sharon Dolan to ask if she would co-chair.

"Sharon promptly told me no,” Blankenship said. “But within an hour she had read about Alex’s Lemonade Stand online and she called back and said, ‘I’ll do that.’

The pair worked diligently canvassing for sponsorships and donations for silent and live auctions. From tournament entry fees to Jell-O® shots, it all added up: In just four hours last August, 64 women played a round-robin tournament and raised over $17,000 to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand.

“We tried to think of ways to raise money that would go straight to the charity. Toward the end, we asked for donations and gave examples of what different amounts could do to help with childhood cancer,” Blankenship said. “When the totals came in, we were stunned.”

The event was so successful, it was recognized as the United States Tennis Association North Carolina’s 2018 Charity Tennis Event of the Year at its 2019 Awards Ceremony in Pinehurst, N.C.

“We had no idea; it was a total surprise, ”Blankenship said of the award. “It was a lot of work, but it was extremely satisfying. We’ve passed the baton; the organizers for this year’s tournament will support Make-a-Wish Foundation.

William Noblitt, director of tennis at Providence Country Club, said Blankenship and Dolan did an amazing job organizing the tournament and coordinating the efforts of members and club staff who volunteered their time.

News of the event was so inspiring that this year, sister property The Country Club of Asheville hosted a fundraiser for Alex’s Lemonade Stand June 1–2.

“As part of McConnell Golf we are always looking for ways to support different charities and give back to our community in meaningful ways,” Noblitt said.

Read More

Scene Change

by Casey Griffith

 Mar 22, 2019 at 7:00 PM

Updated dining spaces at Providence CC bring members together.

Think of your favorite place to hang out. What makes it feel so good? I’m guessing it’s a few familiar faces, inviting décor, and a comfortable setting that suits your lifestyle. When done right, a space lends a sense of belonging, a homecoming, to all who enter.

A Gathering Place

To achieve this, the dining rooms at Providence needed to be reimagined. As General Manager Howard Murphy explains,”We needed a larger social gathering place at the club.”

“On busy Friday nights, we couldn’t accommodate casual diners in the bar and there wasn’t a great place to grab a drink midday, or meet with a larger group for happy hour.”

The original spaces hampered flow between the bar and larger dining area and, while cozy, a club with 800 members needed more than four giant barstools.

The dining area’s name has changed to reflect its new life. “Table 16 signifies a modern dining offering, and it’s 16 because that is the year John McConnell purchased the property,” Murphy explains.

“The adjoining Preston Room comes from Mr. McConnell’s middle name.” The project was personal for the owners, more than just by name. Dr. Rebekah McConnell led the interior design effort.

Table 16 is anchored by a beautiful 20-foot, 16-seat central table that just so happens to be located in the exact same space as the original table number sixteen. Serendipitous, don’t you think?

While the modern, open space creates the perfect setting, the food is what brings members through the door and Executive Chef Jason Neal keeps them on their toes with inventive fare.

Join Us for Dinner 

“I try to bring trends to the club and keep things fresh,” says Neal, “We offer the classics, but add a twist – like transforming shrimp and grits into a grit cake with tasso sauce. That’s how we build a following.”

To support the larger casual dining area, the bar menu has been extended to midnight on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Additionally, tapas-size portions are offered so diners can try and share several items.

“The Bang Bang Shrimp has been most popular thus far,” reports Neal. “It’s perfectly sweet and spicy.”

A shiny new space or not, consistency in the private club realm is paramount day in and day out. So how does a chef foster creativity and keep his culinary team inspired?

“Every Friday, we compete,” says Neal, who has worked in restaurants for 20 years. “If you’ve seen the television show Chopped, the format is very similar. There’s a secret ingredient that the team must work with. There are three dishes each week. The winner is the dish that sells the most. The members get to try something new each week, as does our team in the kitchen. It’s a win-win.”

Familiar Faces 

“Hello, good to see you Mr. Johnson!”

“Hi! You as well ... what’s on tap?”

“There’s a seasonal from Olde Mecklenburg that I think you’ll like. Wanna try?”

This is the conversation Clubhouse Manager Steve Windham wants to hear more often. With a larger bar, he’s expanded beer and liquor selections as well as added nearly 80 wines. To spark dialogue between patrons and staff, Windham decided to try simple chrome beer taps.

“It’s important that we’re able to keep up with trends,” he says, “We want to offer members their favorites but also give them the opportunity to try something new.”

Providence member Otis Davis enjoys the expanded wine list. “We look forward to Wine Down Wednesdays at the club,” he says. “The half-off bottles are a great excuse to explore.”

It’s these offerings that help solidify the club’s role as the social hub of the neighborhood — a space for families, and a meeting place for friends and colleagues before or after heading across town for a sporting event or show.

“While the first-class facilities were the primary reason we joined, the staff really makes the club special,” says Davis. “I brought the whole family for Thanksgiving and our server Alayne was just fantastic. Our experience that day really made me proud to be a member.”

For club traditions to live on, keeping facilities in tune with member needs is crucial. Providence’s broad-sweeping improvements have delivered diverse spaces for everything from wine and tapas, to card games, to yoga and kids’ activities. And to that we say, “Cheers!”

Read More

A Matter of Course

by Brad King

 Mar 22, 2019 at 3:30 PM

Fresh off a $3 million renovation, the course at Providence Country Club debuts to rave reviews.

In Late August 2018, McConnell Golf unveiled the renovated golf course at Providence Country Club in Charlotte just seven months after work began and ahead of schedule.

To the original Dan Maples layout, Kris Spence Golf Design moved and added sand traps, reconfigured several holes, and transitioned the greens to Champion Bermuda. Kevin Reardon, director of golf at Providence, says Spence took a previously flat, straight golf course and “really put some character into the place.”

On the par-3 sixth hole, the Greensboro-based architect altered the direction from the tee to bring a lake into play. On the par-5 10th hole, a bunker in the center of the fairway near the green was eliminated in favor of other traps to the side, which Spence named “principal’s nose” and “catcher’s mitt.”

Spence maintained the delegation of holes — five par-3s and five par-5s. In addition, he added about 30 yards to lengthen the course to slightly more than 7,000 yards.

McConnell Golf’s goal with the renovations was to create a course that would please its membership.

“The members have a course that they can be proud to show their friends and guests that is significantly different than their neighbors in the Charlotte market,” says McConnell Golf founder and CEO John McConnell.

Providence members are enjoying the recent course facelift.

Patrick Reynolds has been a member of Providence for 15 years. He is a 5 handicap and has played every one of  McConnell Golf’s properties. Reynolds calls the renovated course “familiar, yet refined.”

“No one will come to Providence and not recognize the course, but the new green complexes and the bunkers are a fantastic upgrade,” says Reynolds. “The course is like an old Ping putter that has been updated and refined. Spence and McConnell Golf changed it from an old Anser, to a shiny Scotty Cameron Newport. The course is definitely more difficult than before. The driving lines are easier, but you must maneuver around the bunkering. The green complexes can be diabolical with the numerous pin placements. The shop has been kind to us, but there are some pins that you just can’t get to if you miss the greens. There is a much higher premium on hitting greens in regulation.”

The fact that Providence Country Club is a member of the McConnell Golf portfolio also assisted in elevating its status among local golfers. Its roster now boasts 800 families, and club membership is in high demand.

“The membership roster swelled while we were closed,” says Reardon. Providence member Tom Richards says that overall, the renovation is quite an improvement on what he felt was a good golf course before the renovation — but one hampered by small issues beyond just the maintenance problems that prevented him from telling folks it was a great golf course.

“I used to tell people, it was the easiest hard golf course you’ll ever play,” says Richards. “Now, it truly is a harder course, but still fair. I now have to look at the course from the green backwards versus just blindly hitting a tee ball. It’s important to know where the pin is on the green, as that will dictate the placement of the tee shot in some cases. I’m not saying I’m skilled enough to do it, but I do think about it. On the par 5s, the second shot used to be a no-brainer decision with any club you wanted to hit. Now, your second shots into holes 8, 12, and 18 require distance control and accuracy — or you can put yourself in a really bad situation.”

Richards adds that visually, the course is much improved. He admires the way Spence’s team built and remodeled the bunkering, which has enhanced the look of each hole from every tee.

“This new strain of Bermuda is very playable with less grain than the older styles,” he says. “Putts roll very true and chipping requires a whole new level of thought and strategy versus just flying a chip to the hole and stopping it on the old greens. The new contouring of the greens is subtle enough that they can be cut to roll incredibly fast. Next summer should be very interesting.”

In September, a group of Charlotte-area sports journalists and avid golfers tackled the freshly restored layout and came away with rave reviews.

“Kris Spence has done exceptional work in the Charlotte area recently, most notably at Cedarwood and Carolina Golf Club, but I was especially impressed with the changes he made at Providence,” said Taylor Zarzour of Sirius XM Radio. “The green complexes fit the layout of the course perfectly. I particularly like what he did on the par-3 fourth hole. There is now a speed slot on the right portion of the green that can carry your ball to the hole or send it over the green. And the fall-off areas surrounding the greens are significant. The par-5 eighth hole has a steep ridge on the left portion of the green that now requires more accuracy. The entire golf course requires as much precision as any in town, and now the greens complement the rest of the course perfectly.” 

Longtime golf writer and editor Mike Purkey, now a regular contributor to Business North Carolina magazine, said the group played from 6,600 yards and found the golf course to be “manageable, but you had to hit good shots.”

“I’m sure from the back tees it’s a test,” said Purkey, a single- digit golfer. “The results are striking. Spence has created a course with instant character. It was a pleasure. The staff was terrific. The golf course is much, much improved. Golfers of every level will find Providence a good test while still being fun to play. It is a terrific addition to McConnell Golf.”

Longtime Charlotte Observer columnist and Global Golf Post contributor Ron Green Jr., said of Spence: “He understands the artistry and challenge inherent in quality golf courses, and his work on Providence Country Club has elevated the course across the board. Spence saw what Providence Country Club could be and he’s taken it there, giving the course a new look and feel while accomplishing the most important goal — making it more fun to play.”

Reardon and his staff are helping members adjust to the new course. “We’ve emphasized members working on their short-game as chipping, pitching, and putting has become very different than it was before the renovation,” he says.

More fun to play, indeed.


Read More

Serving up Success

by Meredith Donahue

 Mar 21, 2019 at 10:03 PM

William Noblitt has big plans for Providence Country Club

William Noblitt Knows Tennis. Earning All-ACC Honors during his time at N.C. State University, the record-holder is considered one of the greatest tennis players in school history. But beyond his talents as a player, he understands the needs of his members and has ambitious goals for his tennis program.

In his current role at Providence, Noblitt oversees the club’s 14 tennis courts, including 12 clay courts, and the pro shop. His largest duty however is tennis instruction, at which he indeed excels. The thrill of competition was certainly a factor in his success as a collegiate athlete and that same competitive spirit now helps him teach and inspire others.Noblitt’s favorite part of his job? Doing what he loves every day.

“I get to go to work and share my knowledge and passion for a sport that has been a part of my life since I was six years old,” he says. “I love seeing members improve and always hope to instill that same lifelong love of the sport.”

An average day for Noblitt is a full one. He spends the majority of his time on the courts. In the morning, he’s busy with private lessons, cardio tennis clinics, and ladies’ team clinics. In the afternoon, he’s working with junior players through private lessons and clinics.

Looking back on his first year at Providence, two events stand out. In 2018, the Make-A-Wish Pro-Am fundraiser and Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation’s Ladies Member/Guest were held at PCC. Noblitt was fortunate to work alongside members for these events, enjoying a fun day of tennis while raising funds and awareness for important causes.

Looking ahead, Noblitt has big plans for the future of PCC’s thriving tennis program.

“My goal is to create a fun, enjoyable atmosphere where people want to come out and play, and participate in what we have going on,” he says. “The junior program in particular is something I want to build. I believe that with the facilities we have and the staff in place, we could have one of the best junior programs around.”

A vision for program enhancements, coupled with the addition of new clinic offerings, social events, and tournaments, is a recipe for the continued success and growth of the tennis program at Providence. Heading into his second year at the club, Noblitt serves up a winning program with no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Read More

February Cookie of the Month

by Lauren Thedieck

 Jan 01, 2019 at 10:03 PM

Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Cookies
By Shug Hammond, Line Cook, Providence Country Club

Anything red velvet is my favorite! During the month of February when RED is so prevalent, I think this special dessert will bring something “lovely” to your house... enjoy!

Fun Facts About Shug

  • Length of Service at PCC: Two years
  • Hometown: Plainfield New Jersey
  • Favorite Menu Item: Pan-seared Norwegian salmon, honey Dijon, dill crème fraiche, potato latkes, and shaved asparagus
  • One thing someone might not know about me: I want to try standup comedy
  • One thing I love about my job: I love the freedom to be creative through desserts


1 Egg                                                      
1 ¼ cup All-Purpose Flour
½ teaspoon Baking Soda                       
½ cup Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract                 
½ cup White Sugar
1 ½ cup White Chocolate Chips             
1 ¼ cup Red Velvet Cake Mix
¾ cup Butter

DIRECTIONS: Using a paddle attachment, cream butter and both sugars until smooth and creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add in flour, cake mix, and baking soda until a smooth dough is formed. Then, add in chocolate chips. Let dough chill at least 2 hours. Chilling prevents the cookie from spreading too thin while baking. Bake at 325° for 9-11 minutes. Cookies may not seem fully cooked but will firm up when cooled. Yield:  24 cookies


Read More

Raising the Bar

by Kasey O

 Aug 14, 2018 at 8:28 PM

Providence’s house-infused spirits elevate craft cocktails.

Craft cocktails are all the rage, and mixology has become an art form revered by bartenders. Luckily for McConnell members, we’re fortunate to have some amazing bartenders across our properties.

At Providence Country Club, Food and Beverage Manager Steve Windham and his assistant, Levi Bennett, took their behind-the-bar innovation to the next level. The result? They now produce their own house-infused spirits. “While touring other venues, I noticed that several were starting to play around with their own house-infused spirits,” says Windham. “But this old-school way of infusing liquor is a very long process that generally yields inconsistent results. We researched newer processes, and found that with today’s technology, we’re able to infuse our spirits in-house in less than an hour from start to finish with consistent results every time.”

Liquors are infused with fruits and herbs; most include lime, mango, rosemary, and basil, but the possibilities are seemingly endless. Providence’s new infusing method allows the cocktails to be infused “on demand” in 15 minutes or less. This quick technique allows the bartending crew to set up “infuse your own” liquor stations at member events, where attendees can get inventive with their cocktails. The first event was held on New Year’s Eve, and needless to say, it was a hit. “This infusion program has gained a solid following for us here at Providence,” says Windham. “We are not simply making drinks for our members. We’re creating unique cocktails that they can only find here.”

We’ll raise a glass to that — cheers!

Read More

Renovated Golf Course Re-Opens

by Brad King

 Mar 20, 2018 at 8:07 PM

Charlotte’s Providence Country Club unveils freshly renovated golf course. Raleigh-based McConnell Golf purchased Providence CC in early 2016 and has invested more than $5 million in capital improvements. Greensboro-based golf course architect Kris Spence oversaw the renovation work.

Providence Country Club in Charlotte is prepared to unveil its newly restored golf course on Friday, August 31.

Greensboro-based golf course architect Kris Spence oversaw the renovation work, which began in February and was completed ahead of schedule. The Providence golf course was originally designed by Dan Maples and tweaked in 2006 by Mike Gleason.

Raleigh-based McConnell Golf purchased Providence CC in early 2016 and immediately announced it would spend the next few years providing substantial improvements around the club and renovating Providence’s golf course. Spence was hired to function dually as the architect for the project, as well as the construction manager.

Spence’s comprehensive renovation project at Providence CC focused on bunkers, new and expanded irrigation for better course conditioning, transitioning the green complexes from bent grass to Champion Bermuda grass — reworking the green complexes without rebuilding them, especially the surrounds — along with fashioning new, dramatic views from the fairways. 

“The Providence project was a unique opportunity for me in that I was able to express a wider range of creativity versus most of my restoration efforts,” Spence said.

“Mr. McConnell wanted a golf course that was fun to play, aesthetically pleasing, strategic, interesting with variety, difficult when it needs to be but, first and foremost, one that the membership could be proud of. We delivered on that front.

“It was a great team effort between the Spence Golf and McConnell Golf maintenance guys at Providence Country Club. We worked through some tough weather conditions and pulled it off, I think the members will be pleasantly surprised at the opening day conditions.”

The new bunkers feature a combination of high sand flashed faces and slightly irregular rolled grass edges. “These are some of the most beautiful and functional bunkers I’ve done in my career,” Spence said. “Every bunker serves a strategic purpose or sets an angle moving the hole from side to side. Providence was somewhat flat and straight before,” said Spence. “Now, the holes sashay from side to side around through the bunkering creating tons of options.”

Providence features five par-3 holes. “One of my goals was to make them as different as possible with a wider variance in lengths and dramatically different looks,” Spence said. “The most dramatic among them is the ‘Redan’ style fourth with a back yardage of 240 yards, maybe the best par 3 I’ve designed to date.”

At 800 families strong, Providence’s avid golfing membership played 28,000-plus rounds in 2017.

“Kris Spence has delivered a golf course that is totally unique from the course we had before,” said McConnell Golf Founder and CEO John McConnell.

“I am truly impressed with the new look, as he took a very flat golf course and made it feel much more dramatic to play. All players will immediately notice the visual appeal and new strategy required. I think he retained the playability for all levels of golfers but they will totally be impressed with the new greens and bunkers that have been created.” 

In the past two years, McConnell Golf has performed $1.3 million in renovation work on the Providence clubhouse including an enlarged Fitness Center, renovated Golf Shop, a new bag-drop location and cart staging area, while the entire back lawn of the clubhouse was re-landscaped. Lastly, McConnell Golf added an all-new “Providence Playhouse” kid’s activity center. With the golf course renovation and clubhouse upgrade, McConnell Golf will have invested more than $5 million in capital improvements to enhance the Providence membership experience. 

“I am very pleased with the outcome that Kris Spence has provided,” said McConnell. “We have a course today that our members will enjoy playing on a frequent basis.”


Read More