Practice Tee gets new owner, plans for new features

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MANCHESTER — Dust off your golf clubs and get ready to start swinging because change is coming to The Practice Tee.

Hunter Caler purchased the driving range, located on Hunter Park Road in Manchester Center, from its previous owner John Lombardi. Caler is currently studying to earn his degree in Business Administration with a focus in Professional Golf Management at Methodist University in North Carolina.

Caler grew up in Manchester and says he started playing golf seriously in the seventh grade. While at Burr & Burton Academy he played on the varsity golf team during all four years of high school and worked at The Ekwanok Country Club.

Why does he love playing golf? "The challenge of it. It's evolving," he says. "You can't get bored with it because you won't master it."

Caler has been a coach for the PGA Junior League, a golf program that focuses on making golf a team activity rather than an individual sport. He also ran the instructional golf program at a six-week junior camp in Fairfield, Connecticut.

"I want golf to be fun for everyone and I want to become a better teacher," Caler says in regards to one of the reasons he purchased the driving range.

With this in mind, Caler will be using he's coaching skills by teaching lessons and offering a complimentary family or individual golf lesson to those who purchase a membership. Memberships also include unlimited range balls and $2 off a bucket of balls for member's guests. In addition to teaching lessons, Caler plans on doing club repairs; like regripping, reshafting and shortening and lengthening clubs.

While Caler is excited about the challenges that come with operating his own business, he also sees the purchase as an opportunity to improve the facilities. Caler envisions a lively, enjoyable golf experience that will question the traditional beliefs that golf should be quiet and played only during the day.

Part of his vision includes creating an interactive driving range by using targets that will make sounds when they are hit by golf balls. Caler also plans on adding night golf, which means golfers will use glow in the dark golf balls that soar through the air like a shooting star after they are hit from the tee.

Outdoor speakers will be installed to play music during the week. And if you happen to be the only person there practicing your long game, you can choose the music you'd like to listen to. On Sunday afternoon's the speakers will be tuned to a tour event while the event is being shown on the television inside the clubhouse.

As business grows Caler plans on hiring a part-time employee to help at the counter and retrieve balls from the range. The Practice Tee plans to open for the season during the last two weekends in April; if the weather cooperates. It will be open daily the first week in May, which coincides with the VGA (Vermont Golf Association) Spring 4 Ball Golf Tournament being held at various golf courses in the area.

As a golfer who has found frustration with the game, Caler gives these words of advice, "Always smile. It's just golf. It's not the end of the world if you hit a bad shot."

For more information regarding pricing and services, or to schedule a lesson with Caler, go to hcgolfllc.wixsite.com.

Anne Archer is a regular Journal contributor.

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