GIVING BACK: Mini-golf tourney helps local gym with expenses

Pictured from left are Fitness Revolution owner Jason McComber, Boots and Birdies owner Yvonne Nichols, Braydon McWharf, Scott McWharf and Terry Nichols. (Provided photo — Yvonne Nichols)

LAKE PLACID — For Fitness Revolution owner Jason McComber, the last six months have felt like being on a treadmill. A mini-golf tournament hosted by his neighbor changed that.

Like thousands of other business owners throughout the state, McComber was forced to shutter the doors of his Lake Placid gym in March under the New York State on PAUSE order, imposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an effort to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Although his team of trainers have been offering outdoor classes since early July, McComber reopened the gym’s doors for inside workouts on Monday, Aug. 31 for the first time since mid-March. The journey to reopening wasn’t easy, however.

As months went by with no word on when he could welcome gym members back, McComber said, “Each month got a little scarier and a little worse.”

“It’s like … you can see the finish line, but you can’t get to it,” he said. “It was like running on a treadmill. It was a series of ‘what do we do, and how do we do it?'”

Cuomo announced on Aug. 17 that gyms and fitness centers would be allowed to reopen starting Aug. 24. McComber didn’t believe it at first, but he still looked into what modifications he’d need to make to the gym to allow him to reopen his business safely.

Those modifications turned out to be substantial. He needed to hire a heating, ventilation and air conditioning firm to install a new air filtration system, and he needed to find a way to improve ventilation in the gym.

“That was a cost that … we didn’t quite know what we needed,” McComber said.

Fitness Revolution is one of several businesses located on the same property on Saranac Avenue. McComber said it’s always felt like his neighbors are family.

With Fitness Revolution facing hurdles to reopening, Boots and Birdies owner Yvonne Nichols hatched a plan to help McComber out.

“We’ve been talking about a tournament for years, as a fundraiser,” she said.

Nichols decided this season was the right time. On Aug. 20-22, Nichols hosted the 2020 Shut Down Putt Down, a mini-golf tournament with proceeds to benefit Fitness Revolution, at Boots and Birdies.

“Everybody wants to be able to support the local businesses,” she said. “This was a way for everybody to be able to support.

“They either belong to a gym that’s struggling, own one themselves or know somebody who does,” she added. “Everybody is trying to help one another, and it’s really bringing out the best in a lot of people that I see.”

Across the three-day tournament, 78 teams of two participated, according to Nichols. The winning team was Team Braydon — Scott and Braydon McWharf — with 78 points on the 18-hole course. There were also prizes awarded for the judges’ favorite costumes and team names, the highest score on a hole, most holes-in-one, and best battle with the elements.

Altogether, 17 local businesses and community members donated prizes for the tournament, including Fitness Revolution, Boots and Birdies, Adirondack Awards, Terry Robards Wine and Spirits, Two Harts, Rustic Roots Salon, Rock Bottom Golf, Wildwood on the Lake, the Palace Theatre, Starforge Sabers, Wyatt’s BBQ, Simpli Nature, Balanced Bodyworks and Blue Line Sports.

Nichols declined to disclose the amount of money the tournament raised. With entry fees at $30 per team, the tournament raised at least $2,340, though teams were allowed to play again for $25 and the business had a 50/50 raffle, so the total could be more. Still, it was enough for McComber to make the necessary modifications to the gym’s air filtration system.

McComber said the showing of support — both by Boots and Birdies, and the broader community — was indescribable.

“I’m a former English major. I can’t even put it into words,” he said. “The idea that a business that was in the same boat I was in, only a few weeks before, being so generous to do something like that. I was so emotional for my wife and I, my family and I. It was a real testimony to the real character of people when we need it most. I have faith again.

“It was overwhelming. When the tournament was over, I said, ‘We got this.’ It’s really what we needed as a family, and as a business,” he added.

Nichols said she hopes to host more mini-golf tournaments to benefit local businesses in the future.