Avestra to Manage Whispering Woods Golf Club
Avestra, the growing golf course management company headed by Woody Davis, added Whispering Woods Golf Club to its portfolio Thursday in a move that should benefit everyone involved.
A crowded room of Whispering Woods members listened intently as Davis outlined plans that he hopes will improve the fortunes of the financially troubled club. There was no opposition voiced and most members seemed encouraged by the transition.
"We're going to manage this facility for the ownership," Davis told the gathering. "They've had some problems and gone through some things here."
Those "things" have included the death of club manager Martha Tattersall in a tragic parking lot accident, a fire that destroyed the clubhouse and cart-housing area, a dam that failed and has caused insurmountable problems, a drought last year that almost destroyed the fairways, and the rising costs of maintenance in recent months.
Whispering Woods, an excellent layout designed by Hall of Fame architect Ellis Maples, is owned by Fairway Partners, a group in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Stuart Taylor, a veteran and much respected golf professional who has worked at the Country Club of Whispering Pines and Woodlake as well as some other facilities, is a 10-percent owner and served as Director of Golf and head professional.
"We've been having problems for some time," Taylor said. "It's just awful tough trying to be a stand-alone facility the way the economy is now. We've been bleeding red and the partners in Myrtle Beach have just had enough."
There had been talk of a move by the partners for some time, and when Jim Hart, one of the owners and general manager of Whispering Woods, took a new job recently, the bringing in of Avestra was facilitated.
Although Avestra is a relatively new organization, it has been fueled by success in its acquisition of Foxfire Resort, the Country Club of Whispering Pines, Hyland Hills Golf Club and Southern Pines Golf Club. Whispering Woods is the seventh course now being operated by the company, which headquarters at Whispering Pines.
"This is a two-year management deal," Taylor said. "Fairway partners will retain ownership, but Avestra will run everything. Mr. Davis has asked me to stay on, at least for awhile, and I'll be doing whatever is asked of me."
Davis made it clear that he wants Taylor to remain involved.
"Nobody could have done a better job here than Stuart," he said, "and he's going to be invaluable to us. He has many friends in this industry and we're elated he's staying with us. We're excited to get someone with his experience and knowledge in the business.
"What we're going to do is to make Whispering Woods a quality facility. That's not going to happen overnight and we're not going to make any major changes immediately, but we'll improve as we go along.
"In golf, things don't happen overnight. You may not notice a lot of the things for a while. But the process will be ongoing.
"We're basically going to do what Stuart and the owners were doing, just better."
Taylor seemed relieved that the seven-plus year fight for survival on his part was ending.
"It's still going to be a challenge," he said, "but I think this is the best opportunity for Whispering Woods, myself, my family and our members. What Avestra is doing is stopping the bleeding."
There is speculation that the move will eventually lead to Whispering Woods becoming a part of the Country Club of Whispering Pines complex as it was originally. But that's a discussion for the future, according to Davis.
"The way we look at the facilities, Whispering Woods is the third leg of a three-legged stool," he said.
"When Mr. A.B. Hardee (the late Whispering Pines developer) put this course here, it was done for a reason. It has its own purpose its own identity. It's important for everyone to be successful, and we think that includes getting everyone back under one umbrella.
"This is a wonderful course outstanding. That's been a key to all our properties, that they're good golf courses.
"Our plan here is for members to play golf, have fun and let us have all the headaches. We hope to do everything for the best of everyone and we're expecting a seamless change.
"Yes, we're going to spend money here, and at first you may wonder what it's being spent on. But I promise you that things will be done every day. Southern Pines Golf Club is an example of turning a course around visibly, but that happened pretty quickly because of the timing involved. Our goal here is to bring this course to the level it should be.
"And I promise you that if for whatever reason, we have to close this course for a few days, the members will be given tee times at our other courses. You will never be without a place to play again."
Joe Pepe, a member since 2004, liked what he heard.
"I think the change will do nothing but help," he said after the meeting. "The first thing we're hoping for is an improvement in course conditions and Mr. Davis seems to have that in mind and will be bringing in new equipment."
Al Gaeto, a 13-year member who actually worked on the course part-time for five years, felt much the same way.
"It sounds very good," he said. "But the first thing they have to do is to get the dam fixed and solve our water problem."
Davis agrees that the dam is a high priority item and intends to begin trying to solve the problem by working with county officials.
"I'm not sure of a timeline," Davis said, "but we know that water is essential. Getting the dam repaired is one of our priorities."
Contact Howard Ward at 867-6493 or 690-2211 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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