By Robin Jovanovich and Tom McDermott
When longtime general manager Jim Buonaiuto was hired away by Inwood Country Club earlier this year, the City and the Rye Golf Club Commission didn’t have to search long or far to fill his shoes, even though they were big shoes. Chris Correale who has worked at Rye Golf since graduating from college in 2014 — “my entire professional life!” — learned the ropes from his predecessor, “who kept staff and members in the loop and was a great mentor.”
Equipped with a public relations background, the Iona College graduate has the gift of easy conversation and excellent communication skills. Even with the golf season in full swing, he gave us his undivided attention when we interviewed him at length last week. He operates on the door-open policy.
Correale was excited to report all the good things happening at RGC, in response to the dramatic revival of golf since the start of the pandemic, and thanks to the constant support of the Commission and longtime staff members.
“We have the same goal: we want members to be proud of the club and we want guests to have a great experience,” he said. “We count on our members to help us identify what our needs are and how we can improve and expand our programs.”
He points proudly to the fact that: the club is home to both Rye High School Girls’ and Boys’ Golf teams; Rye Recreation Seniors can use the pool for free three times a week; they have two junior PGA teams and three divisions of WGNA teams; they have a fleet of 64 new golf carts (old ones were wiped out in Hurricane Ida) which have GPS; their young executive program is growing; and they are at the tail end of the golf member waitlist. He noted that Club Pro Kyle Baehler had just been invited to play in a US Open qualifying tournament.
“We’re in a great spot. Last week we hosted Winged Foot, Westchester Country Club, and Woodway. We remain an affordable club with no assessment fees or minimums and our clinics are open to outside members,” Correale continued. “We capped our golf membership at 679 and offer six member/guest days through the season on Mondays, when the course is normally closed.” The GM reported that, overall, about 70 percent of members are Rye residents.
Pool memberships are still available, and Correale believes they will be filled in short order because Rye Golf has a first-rate swim team, and diving has been added to the program this season; the enormous pool is much more private now that the lush landscaping has grown in; and a great group of parents are committed to the competitive swim program.
“Movie nights as well as holiday barbecues at the pool are back, and we’ll be holding a number of fun events in August, too,” he offered.
The club is flourishing for another reason, a rush of weddings postponed by the pandemic. “We have weekday weddings now!”
Lessings, which provides all the catering and food and beverage service, has fine-tuned the operation. They’ve hired a new executive chef and welcome the public at the bar, at a table, or on the terrace from noon to 10 p.m. Members can look forward to lobster bakes.
Asked about the club’s long-term plan to make changes to the course, some of which have upset the immediate neighbors (even those who belong to RGC) Correale responded: “We’re still in the planning process and continue to work with experts. We have a tree replacement program and have already planted 35 blue spruces along Boston Post Road this spring.”
Eight years in, Rye is now a second home to Chris Correale, who grew up in New Rochelle, lives on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, and enjoys the walk to work from the Harrison Train Station.
“I’m always happy to go to work. I grew up playing baseball, never caddied. Golf found me,” he said with his signature smile.