Top dog calls it a day
FROM the demands of being secretary-manager of the Lismore Greyhound Club to travelling around America trying to make a name for himself as a country music singer.
It is a major career change but one John Scholten believes he will enjoy.
Scholten recently quit his role as greyhounds boss after 33 years of service to the Lismore club.
From humble beginnings it is fair to say he built an empire and will leave a lasting legacy.
And he was prepared to take a few risks along the way.
"We moved from hosting meetings on a Saturday night to a Tuesday night in the mid 1980s because that was the only night we could get TAB meetings," he said.
"A lot of people didn't feel that would work at the time but the move has been vindicated.
"Now we have over $1 million in prize money to hand out every year and back then we only had $40,000 available for the entire year.
"We lobbied the TAB hard to get fulltime coverage from them.
"We got granted one meeting in the first year and now we have 52 of them ... one every week.
"Greyhounds have always been in my blood ever since I first bought one in 1970."
Scholten played a leading role in his club going from a grass to sand surface, installing a licensed restaurant on the premises and a Tuesday night at the Lismore greyhounds became a popular event on the Northern Rivers.
That is especially the case with local sporting clubs who hold fundraisers at racing meetings and this has happened for over 20 years.
All throughout his time at the helm, Scholten's other love has been country music.
Last year he played gigs across the USA with Kasey Chambers' father Bill to promote an album he recorded in 2010 called Shadows of the Heart.
"To make a living out of music is something I've always wanted to do over the last 10 years," Scholten said.
"It's hard to do though, the thing you hear about starving musicians is true.
"So I'm not really going to retire, this will be a self-funded trip."
Scholten plans to play at the Kerrville and Woody Guthrie festivals this year and has already recorded eight songs for a new album.
He will leave the Lismore Greyhound Club with a bright future.
"We've come a long way since 1978 when we paid out $800 in prize money and that was across a whole night," he said. "Now we average $20,000 across a night.
"We've got a great future but the threat of floods is something we always need to look out for.
"A lot of greyhounds people have moved to the North Coast because of the great opportunities present at racetracks at Lismore, Grafton and the Tweed.
"It's harder to get crowds nowadays but that's the case with all other sports too.
"A lot of people prefer to stay at home and bet on the computer rather than come out and watch the action and that's been our biggest battle."
Scholten said the Lismore Greyhound Club is held in high regard by greyhounds aficionados across NSW.
"We went from being just another country club to being in the top five or six in the state," he said.
"And I'm very proud of that legacy which I've left."