From refrigerated trucks to young bucks

7/28/2013 10:03:00 AM
Golf PGA France du Vaudreuil   (European Tour)
Golf PGA France du Vaudreuil (European Tour)

Jean-Claude Forestier has built a business empire based on the refrigeration and transport of food around Europe, but now he is turning his hand to elite level professional golf as the owner of PGA France Golf du Vaudreuil, the host venue on the Challenge Tour this week.

Mr Forestier is the head of Petit Forestier, a company that has carved out an iconic niche on the continent in its leasing of refrigerated trucks to individuals and businesses alike.

This week however, the great and good of the Challenge Tour are playing round his latest prized asset, and he couldn't be happier watching them duke it out on the venue that he has worked so hard to get tournament ready.

"The fact is that I wanted to have a course to be prepared, in terms of condition, to receive a tournament at Challenge Tour level," said Forestier. "So I spoke to Alain de Soultrait, the Director of the Challenge Tour, to see if he had an agronomist around to check the condition of the golf course, and this way if a tournament were to be cancelled then we could step in and receive such an event.

"I'm a golfer. I've been playing the game since 1982, so I started quite late, as I was a squash player before that. However when I developed a bad back, my osteopath suggested that I should play golf, and it was very good advice as I started playing right away, and I have never stopped.

"A few years ago I decided to check what the value of a golf course might be, and I had a few offers to buy some other courses, but I was interested in buying this one. So I contacted the founders here at Le Vaudreuil, and I asked my family if it was a good idea to have a golf course - which it is not (laughs) - but it was OK."

The refrigeration and transport of food stuffs is very different to golf, but Mr Forestier is clearly very passionate in both areas, and sees this week's Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge as the ideal way to showcase his venue, as well as improve the way in which it is run.

"They are very different businesses, but I am very passionate about both," admitted the seven handicap golfer. "Renting and leasing refrigerated trucks, and also playing golf and running the course are very diverse, but the course is still a business to me, and I am passionate in both cases.

"I have no regrets. It is a nice piece of land, and the whole estate will be in good shape in the years to come, so to host a tournament this week is a good way to improve the condition of the course itself and also the performance of our staff. This is a very good test for our operations teams who are running the course and hotel, the Golf Court Short Game Academy, and also our restaurant.

"We want to host this tournament going forward, so I am trying to bring some history to Normandy, and I hope that Le Veudreuil will become known in the future for its tournament and for the condition of its course all year long."

It was at this point, when speaking to Jean-Claude, that Welshman Garry Houston felt compelled to come over and thank the owner for his hospitality and the gift bag that was given to every competitor at the end of the first day, showcasing local delicacies from the Normandy region.

This produced the following exchange, which acts as proof as to how much the field appreciate the venue, and the treatment they have received this week:

Houston: "Thank you very much for the gift."

Forestier: "You're welcome. Did you taste the macaroon?"

Houston: "Yeah, they were beautiful. Really nice."

Forestier: "You have to keep them fresh, but usually they don't last long. They taste very good!"

It is the little touches in life that people appreciate, the unexpected things that brighten an otherwise average day, and it is clear therefore that Golf PGA France du Vaudreuil is going about things the right way this week.

But that is not the only thing that Mr Forestier is doing correctly within the game of golf, as he also provides support to a number of aspiring and successful French professionals plying their trade in both the men's and women's games.

European Tour players such as Christian Cévaër, Alexander Levy, Anthony Snobeck and Romain Wattel have all been backed in the infancy of their careers, as have Christophe Brazillier, Edouard Dubois, Julien Guerrier and Charles-Edouard Russo, who all played at Le Vaudreuil Golf Challenge.

"There are a few pros who I like and support through the short game academy here at Le Vaudreuil. It is a small support team of ten or 12 - two girls and ten guys - either on The European Tour or here this week.

"The idea is that if the guys succeed on The European Tour or even the PGA Tour, then I'm not of much use. The idea is more to get them started - a first step - so I try to keep that in mind and as soon as they are successful enough to not need my help then they can do without it. I am not looking for a big return, I just like to help out with an initial boost."

Jean-Claude Forestier has made a name for himself as the third generation to run his family business, but his love of golf comes simply from being a fan of the game, and a decent player in his own right.

It is clear when speaking to him that he loves every facet, a student of the game, and this will only be of further benefit to the members of Golf PGA France du Vaudreuil, and the players who receive his support as he continues into the future.

"I love the diverse nature of golf, and my own game is part of that," explained Forestier. "I love the architecture, the history and the equipment. I also have a home in Florida where I practice and train in the winter which usually helps my game, but golf is so wide in terms of spectrum, so I like to read about it and watch tournaments too. I love the atmosphere, I like to be around pros so I can check their games, see the difference in performance from one day to the next, as this is often a mystery to amateurs. It is just such a great game!"

No guesses needed, then, to see why such a successful businessmen would look to diversify his business into the realm of sport; he's a fan. Pure and simple.

It is therefore clear that as long as Mr Forestier continues his love affair with the game of golf, that those involved will benefit no end. And long may it continue.