PGA of America has plan to revive West Palm Beach's closed city course

Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

PGA of America has plan to revive West Palm Beach's closed city course

Courses

PGA of America has plan to revive West Palm Beach's closed city course

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WEST PALM BEACH – PGA of America is proposing to reopen West Palm Beach’s closed city course as a nonprofit community resource that promotes golf education, leagues and diversity programs and serves as a public course devoted to “pure golf” without sacrificing any of its 196 acres to housing.

With the city’s latest effort to nail down a redevelopment deal ending unsuccessfully, PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh, a longtime Palm Beach County resident, has urged West Palm Beach leaders to let the organization restore the course, run programs there and still have it affordable for city residents, he said in an interview Monday night.

“The city has to make a fundamental choice,” he said. “Do we want this to be about real estate and finances or about golf? … We just want it to be golf, not another development.”

The city has been trying for almost two years to find a company to bring the course back to life. The course, a focal point for recreation in the South End, cost the city millions to refurbish in 2009 but the greens and clubhouse fell into disrepair.

By 2015, Mayor Jeri Muoio had the clubhouse demolished, asserting it was too moldy to repair. By September 2018 the city closed the course, to save on maintenance costs while starting a selection process for a developer. There were consultants and requests for proposals but none of the proposals took root.

Most called for housing to be constructed around or within the course. The most recent proposal, by Texas golf instructor Mike McGetrick did not. Rather than rely upon construction profits, McGetrick proposed to run the course though a nonprofit foundation, but failed to come up with financing before the city’s deadline expired last November.

PGA of America’s Waugh offered to work with McGetrick but came aboard too late for the deadline, which the city refused to extend. But with that selection process ended, Waugh approached James and individual commissioners about having PGA of America step in, with unnamed investors, with McGetrick aboard.

PGA of America, whose goal is to grow interest and participation in the game, has been based for more than 50 years in Palm Beach Gardens. It has been housed in a two-building complex adjacent to PGA National Resort since 1981. It has plans to move its headquarters in late 2021 or early 2022 to Frisco, Texas.

The organization owns a number of golf properties including a 54-hole resort called PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie along with the PGA Center for Golf Learning and Performance in Port St. Lucie.

At a mayor-commission work session Monday, James acknowledged the offer but said other companies also would be invited to submit proposals and have staff reach out beyond the South End to see what residents citywide would like to see at the course.

South End residents have long expressed a preference for sacrificing as little of the course as possible to development, and doing so without selling any public land.

Former City Commissioner Shanon Materio, now president of the South End Neighborhood Association, said Wednesday the city should acknowledge that the site was given to the city on the grounds it remain a golf course.

“For over five years, the golf course has remained in disrepair while the prior and current city administrations failed to complete the most basic of reviews by issuing a legal opinion regarding the question, can anything other than a golf course even be allowed on the property,” she said.

“The land was given to the city for a single purpose, a municipal golf course. Not for housing, not for hotels, and not even as a city asset.”

 

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