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Dorie McDonald

Finding Dorie... at Sunnybrae


Jonathan van Bilsen

April 19, 2018

Living in a small town gives us a great opportunity to meet our neighbours, especially when they invest in local business, and through their entrepreneurial skills add opportunities for our community.

One such business leader is Dorie McDonald, owner of Sunnybrae Golf Club, located on King Street in Prince Albert. For the past three years, since Dorie acquired Sunnybrae, she has not only operated the golf club, but has immersed herself in Scugog life.

Raised in Gormley (just west of us), Dorie was the middle of seven children. Her father started James A. Rice Limited, and Dorie was raised in a construction family. Her grandparents were the founders of well-known Rice’s Flowers in Richmond Hill.

Her hospitality career started by scooping ice cream at Sam’s 24 Flavours, a well-known ice cream parlour at Stouffville Road and Woodbine Avenue. High school at St. Joseph’s Morrow Park in Willowdale was a long commute, combined with her part time job at Thornhill Golf Club kept her busy.

Dorie had always planned to go into the hospitality business, and after high school, took her formal education at Ryerson. During that time she worked at Deerhurst, managing the golf course and for a couple of years managed the Clog & Thistle Marina in Owen Sound. After Dorie graduated, she spent three years at Aurora Highlands Golf Club.  From there she joined the family construction business, learning every aspect of it, from the ground up.

In 1988 Dorie married Graham McDonald, a successful flooring contractor. Together they have three sons; Douglas in finance, Bobby in Education Technology and James in the Flooring Business.  Dorie is grateful to have a close relationship with her entire family. Mary Rice, her mother is often at the Club working with Dorie.

After thirty years in the company business and managing Aurora Highlands and Bradford Highlands, the opportunity came up to purchase Sunnybrae Golf Club from the Lee family. As operating golf courses was in her blood, she was enticed. “The prospect of purchasing 175 acres close to one of the prettiest towns I have ever seen was too tempting to refuse,” Dorie explained. Sunnybrae had been operating since 1962, and was started by the McIntyre family. The first order of business for Dorie was to make Sunnybrae a Community focussed, friendly and welcoming operation.

“People have many memories here, and I wanted to make sure that everyone felt welcome at Sunnybrae. Your golf club should be the extension of your living room”.

The Sunnybrae staff of 35 caters to the needs of visitors, clients and guests, sparing no attention to detail. Dorie will never admit how giving she is to anyone in need, as her humbleness is readily visible. She always has time for conversation, volunteer work with many groups and her positive attitude is contagious. She considers her patrons as guests, not customers. “My real passion is the community and helping others”.

Dorie McDonald loves to travel, or we should clarify, her husband loves to travel!  Air travel scares her immensely, but it is the only way to go anywhere. She’s been fortunate to visit many places around the world. She has walked various parts of the Camino three times (for those not familiar with the Camino de Santiago it is an eight hundred km trek, usually done over 30 days.).

What does the future hold for Dorie McDonald?  One goal is to maintain Sunnybrae as a successful golf club with banquet facilities for weddings and events. Another is the development of 39 townhomes at the corner of Hwy 7A and Old Simcoe Road, with one of her business partners. That project is to start in the very near future. Prior to starting this site, Dorie visited all the neighbouring homes and businesses to explain what she was about to undertake, and obtain their approval and address their concerns.

She is also in the process of beginning the groundwork for a Hotel at the Smart Centres site in Port Perry. It is still in the early stages of development.

Whatever Dorie McDonald undertakes, you can be sure it is for the betterment of Port Perry and its residents. Every project will have her complete involvement, with her love of people at the heart of it.

Jonathan van Bilsen is a photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. Follow his adventures at

Jonathan van Bilsen is a television host, award-winning photographer, published author, columnist and keynote speaker. His show, ‘The Jonathan van Bilsen Show,’ on RogersTV, the Standard Website or YouTube, features many of the people included in this column.

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