Sarasota News Leader

01/31/2014

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High School grad and winner of major pro- fessional championships. It would provide graduated tees, lengthening all the holes for the strongest players but replacing the old "ladies' tees" and "senior tees" with starting points to make the distances more attractive to mixed-gender and mixed-age foursomes. The last initiative is named for John Gillespie, first mayor of the town and arguably the Scot who created the state's first golf course. It would be for the instruction of all ages — at all skill levels — in the art and science of golfing. BUT THE REALITY IS … "It would be nice to have a long-term view, but I think this place needs a short-term plan," said meeting attendee Barry Gordon follow- ing Pierson's pitch. "The bathroom has been out of order for some time." While the unisex, handicap-accessible bath- room in the clubhouse works, the men's and women's facilities are in a portable trailer outside. "My main criticism is the condition, includ- ing the bathrooms. And the cost," said Mike Mitovski. "The main reason I've stayed with Bobby Jones is the personnel. The pro shop has improved, and the restaurant has improved greatly." "I've watched this course evolve over the past 45 years," added Dan Smith. "The biggest impact was in the 1980s, when Fruitville Road was widened and Bobby Jones was forced to retain its [storm] water. I would suggest a little capital money to deal with drainage. It would go a long way to get the turf back to what it was 25 years ago." One woman said she was "amazed" at the cost to use the facility. She noted she had paid $23 the day before to play nine holes. "At that time of day, I can get 18 holes at The Meadows," she said. "This is still a city course." Jeffcoat responded that the course is oper- ated as an enterprise fund, but all the money it generates goes back into the city's general fund for redistribution. "From the capital standpoint, the only capital dollars [for course improvements such as a clubhouse] that were voted on were a part of the sales tax surcharge. It's the only source," he said. "No Visit Sarasota [i.e. tourist bed tax] money; no property taxes." "Why would we hold a big event that makes a lot of money if the profit goes into the general fund?" asked one member of the audience. Jeffcoat responded, "These are policy deci- sions at the commission level. I can't say what's right or wrong." Another man suggested corporate sponsor- ships, and Pierson said the "Friends" group is researching that. "We're looking at a couple of models to put before the City Commission," he added. "Maybe we can consider a reve- nue bond for part of this, the clubhouse or the Ross or Azinger or Gillespie courses. And there is a county fund for sports tourism. If we can convince the county that Bobby Jones is a regional draw, we can apply for that money." For a more complete picture of Pierson's four initiatives, visit the website friendsofbobby- jonesgolfclub.org. % Sarasota News Leader January 31, 2014 Page 54

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