Townsville Golf Club general manager Mitch Bligh
Townsville Golf Club general manager Mitch Bligh

HE’S a direct descendant of Vice-Admiral William Bligh, is fluent in German and is the boss of Queensland’s oldest golf club.

Four years ago, Mitch Bligh took on the role of general manager at Townsville Golf Club and is justifiably proud of his work and the club’s progress after it was smashed by floods a few years ago.

“When we went through the flood it was a horrible time for the club,” Bligh said.

“The course was pretty much destroyed and it was a challenge getting it back up and running, but we have turned the corner.”

Golf course designer Bob Harrison and Karrie Webb designed 13 new holes with five more to come in the near future.

“The feedback we have had from the region about the new holes and changes has been excellent and that’s rewarding,” Bligh said.

“Everybody is raving about the changes.”

Born and bred in Townsville, Bligh was introduced to the game by parents and grandparents.

“I used to caddie for my grandfather (Joe Hooper) when I was 12 years old,” he recalled.

“That was in the early 1980s and he paid me $2 for 18 holes.”

Bligh’s pathway to golf club management came via studying for a business degree and the PGA.

In 2001, aged 31, he became a trainee professional and qualified as a full PGA member in 2003.

“I then went to Europe to work as a full-time golf coach at the Golf and Wellness Hotel Resort in Germany,” Bligh said.

“I spent 10 years teaching full-time and learning the language.

“I went to Germany thinking everyone in the world spoke English, but no-one spoke English in that part of the country (the former East Germany).

“Their second language was Russian so I had to learn very quickly how to give golf lessons and communicate in German.

“So I grabbed a David Leadbetter book in German and started to teach in German and could do a good golf lesson within three months, but it took 18 months to learn more of the language.

“I could give a golf lesson, but I couldn’t order groceries,” Bligh laughed.

“But it doesn’t matter where you go in the world because golf clubs and members are the same.

“They all enjoy a beer and love their golf.”

During Bligh’s stay in Germany a replica of William Bligh’s sailing ship, The Bounty, arrived for a sailing exhibition.

And because he is a direct descendant (fifth generation) of William Bligh he was asked to do a television interview on the ship speaking in German.

“It went well and they loved it,” Bligh enthused.

After a decade, Bligh returned to Townsville where he worked for Drummond Golf before taking on the role of golf shop manager at the golf club.

“Then the club approached me to take on the general manager’s role and here I am,” he said.

 “It’s been a challenging few years for us at Townsville Golf Club and I’ve seen a lot of different aspects of the management role.”

In 2007, the golf club decided to redevelop some land for a housing development that would allow it to secure its financial future.

“We are two-thirds of the way through that and have more to do,” Bligh said.

“One of my roles is to come up with the best solutions for the undertaking of that development and develop more revenue streams for the golf club.

“Golf clubs can’t just survive from the membership playing golf anymore so it is important to find additional revenue streams to ensure the club’s financial future.

“We have five more holes to develop and a new clubhouse precinct to build and develop.”

A new driving range and mini-golf facility is also on the drawing board, which the club hopes to roll out later this year.

“The additional facilities all add to what the golf club wants to achieve,” Bligh said.

He is passionate about junior golf and committed to getting more juniors playing the game.

“My 11-year-old daughter Zahra is now playing golf at the club and loves it,” he said.

Established in 1893, Townsville Golf Club remains a favourite with the local community.

“We have a Bob Harrison/Karrie Webb-designed golf course and the weather up here is great for playing golf all year round,” Bligh said.

Despite not having the opportunity to play golf as often as he’d like, Bligh is still capable of getting it around in par.

“I play once a month, which is all I have time for now,” he said.

“But I’m not alone. I talk to other managers and there is always a lot to do running a club and golf course.

“Golf is such a wonderful sport and it has given me an interesting journey.

“It can take you all round the world, which is a message I tell the club’s juniors,” added Bligh who is passionate about junior golf.

“You don’t have to be a really good player to get a great life experience from the sport.”

About David Newbery

Chief writer David Newbery has been living, breathing and writing and editing golf for more than 30 years. His extensive knowledge of the game comes from covering golf around the world. Hired by Inside Golf in 2009, David previously worked as the editor of The Golfer for 25 years and before that worked for numerous daily newspapers in Australia and overseas. The Brisbane-based journalist describes his golf game as “a work in progress”, but has had the privilege of playing golf with some of the game’s best players including nine-time major winner Gary Player. David enjoys travelling, reading, music, photography and spending time with family and friends – on and off the golf course.

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