Golf Course Needs Someone Who Knows How To Operate It
The city-owned Twisted Pines Golf Course is gobbling up money at an alarming rate and is at risk of being shut down.
Mayor Bayne Stone is trying to keep the course open. But unless the city brings on board someone who knows how to operate a golf course, I fear it is doomed.
For almost 60 years that course operated well.
In recent times, John Turner managed the course and kept it afloat. But then, John ran afoul of the mayor, the mayor stopped upholding the lease agreement with John and John left in frustration.
Today, there are only a handful of golfers utilizing the course on a regular basis and the course is falling into a state of disrepair.
At a council meeting a few months ago, Council Member John Bloodworth complained that golfers feel they are being harassed and driven away. At last week’s County Commission meeting one person said the mayor has been driving people away.
The course was closed once before when the County Commission owned it.
During the time I was a member of the City Council, I went out to the course for the first time in years. What I saw made me want to cry.
There were knee-high weeds growing on the greens. The place was a complete wreck.
So the City Council agreed to take back possession of the course and they appointed me to oversee the restoration.
We hired some help and spent months trying to get it usable again, much to the delight of the middle and high school golf teams and coaches.
Then a we got a tremendous shot in the arm when David Haney, former course manager at Beaver Kreek Golf Course in Douglas, asked to be allowed to help get the course back in shape.
He, along with Brice Reagin and Tony Berry, began to make slow, but steady improvement.
David and I worked to form a golf course advisory committee. The council approved it and appointed its initial members, which included me as the Council liaison. Under the leadership of advisory committee chairman Linwood Truitt, the course started selling memberships again and Linwood worked tirelessly soliciting corporate memberships, getting the school board and the County Commission to purchase corporate memberships, organizing tournaments, scrambles, dogfights, etc. And the future began to look bright again.
Later, David was offered a job at a golf course in Statesboro and he left for greener, er, fairways.
I played golf at Hazlehurst course for over 40 years. When David left for Statesboro, the course was in the best shape I had ever seen it. Brice and Tony remained and they continued David’s regimen.
After I decided to step down from the Council, Mayor Stone began overseeing the course.
Before long, Tony and the mayor ran afoul of each other and the mayor fired him.
Not long after that, Brice and the mayor ran afoul of each other and mayor fired him, too.
The mayor brought on Tony Parise to run the course. Before long, Parise ran afoul of the advisory committee and spoke so harshly to them that the members resigned en masse.
Gone with them were the corporate sponsorships, membership fees, weekly golf events, all the tournaments …. in short, the very money-raising events that kept the course afloat.
No efforts were made to bring back those activities. The course began gobbling up money.
Mike and Tyler Williams are among a group of golfers who want to see the course succeed. They have offered to lease the course from the city. It appears from the discussion at last week’s County Commission meeting that former Jeff Davis County resident Pharr Mullis, who is the golf course manager in Douglas, will offer his advice to Mike and Tyler.
And there’s a core group of people willing to help, too.
But they have to overcome a huge obstacle: the mayor. It appears Mike and Tyler have run afoul of the mayor.
Again, any efforts will be for naught unless the city brings on board someone who knows how to operate a golf course …. and can manage not to run afoul of the mayor.
Jeff Davis has been my home since I was five as the adopted son of K.I. and Evelyn Smith.
I have many fond memories of the life that I led in this small community. However, the family oriented community culture has some soft spots. The approach to government needs badly to move into a new reality.
The average income for the city is around 22K. The citizens should thoughtfully consider: (1) Do we really need both a sheriff and city police department? (2) Do the times really call for a group of individuals elected to be county commissioners and then banter about as to whom will be the chairmen?
Jeff Davis County is one of the very few counties that does not have an elected county commissioner chairman and an appointed county manager. Such change in county government can be accomplished via a request to the state rep.; combine city and county government. Elect a county commission chairman. Much like the board of education the chairmen would not have sole power but only one vote. Policy would be set by the entire board in session. An elected commission chairman would have the authority to represent the county in matters with state and federal government. A
s it is now nobody has the charge to represent the will of all of the people. A horse designed by a committee became a giraffe. The citizens of the community can take control of the direction of “their” community and its future. Elect an individual that represents the will of all the people, not the few.
Why would those capable leaders give of their time to serve on a committee of county commissioners? Their time is more valuable in their family and business pursuits. Life can be cruel to both individuals and communities. Jeff Davis stands at the crossroads. Will it move forward or look backwards. Our youth leave for a future somewhere else.
The county slogan, an “Industrial City,” is so out of date. The marker telling you that you are entering Hazlehurst do not else. I guess Hazlehurst is a no name city. The focus is on making the downtown beautiful is a worthy cause but for what foot traffic. The new library was a wonderful gift but what was more in line is a civic center, one operated by private persons. The old Fred’s building should be given thoughtful consideration as a center for the performing arts, concerts, etc. County and city leadership let this opportunity slip away when Norman Johnson put the facility up for sale.
Now is the time to face the future with a unified government empowered by the voters to lead the community into the future with a positive voice that speaks for the many and not for the few. Citizens, “your future is now.”
My family and I were visiting Hazlehurst recently and were shocked at the number of rundown, dilapidated homes and office buildings there are. It’s not just the golf course and the old country club. It seems as though Hazlehurst’s problems run far deeper than the current mayor, and the golf course.