McLean closes namesake academy at PGA West

Jim McLean Golf School, a fixture at PGA West's TPC Stadium Course (above), abruptly closed April 30 after 16 years of operation.

Jim McLean Golf School, a fixture at PGA West's TPC Stadium Course (above), abruptly closed April 30 after 16 years of operation.

La QUINTA, Calif. – Teaching professional Jim McLean abruptly closed today his namesake academy at PGA West Golf Club after 16 years of operation.

According to McLean, his decision was the culmination of a sometimes contentious relationship with Paulson & Co., owner of PGA West and its sister property, the La Quinta Golf Resort & Spa. Together the two facilities contain nine golf courses.

Rumors about the future of the Jim McLean Golf School had been circulating ever since its headquarters building at PGA West was torn down in the summer of 2011. The building was demolished because it had been constructed in the early 1990s without a permit from the city of La Quinta.

“I couldn’t operate a golf school under those conditions,” said McLean, whose students faced a half-mile cart ride to watch golf-swing video or use a bathroom. “The school was effectively taken down at that point. It was a devastating blow. We run a high-tech golf school, and we couldn’t do it under those circumstances.”

Facing intense opposition from homeowners, a new headquarters building for McLean was not built. McLean said he “grew increasingly frustrated.” Including instructors and inside staff, McLean had 22 people working for him in 2012 as full-time employees or independent contractors.

After the headquarters building was torn down, McLean signed a new one-year contract for his school. “Morally I felt I had to protect my people,” he said. “I have some fabulous people, and I couldn’t just leave them.”

Now, though, said McLean, who pulled out before the end of the contract, “It is impossible to continue. They (PGA West) made things tough on us.”

Calls and emails to Paulson & Co. were not returned, and Mike Kelly, PGA West executive director of golf, said he was prevented legally from discussing the situation. Said Kelly: “Until we can get this resolved with Jim, it would be premature to talk about it.”

McLean and Kelly, however, confirmed that neither side had taken legal action.

“Some hotel people think you make a boatload of money when you run a golf school,” McLean said. “They may not understand how many expenses are involved.” The school produced $1.3 million in revenue in 2011, according to McLean. He added: “It used to be a lot bigger.”

McLean acknowledged he has “received a few feelers from other facilities” in the greater Palm Springs area.

Excluding PGA West and La Quinta Resort, McLean operates 10 golf schools around the world.

Although McLean has been at PGA West for 16 years, he has been at Miami’s Doral Golf Resort & Spa even longer – 21 years.

“We have been working things out with the (Donald) Trump group since they bought Doral,” McLean said. “There are no problems. This is my fifth owner since I’ve been at Doral, but everything is running smoothly. We had a fabulous year at Doral.”

Some of McLean's instructors will continue to teach at PGA West for an undetermined period of time.

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