PORT ARTHUR —
More and more, it looks like the return of golf to Pleasure Island is mostly a matter of when, not if.
Port Arthur’s Renaissance Group, which is gambling on a gambling bill passing the Texas Legislature, has signed a contract with Peoria, Ill., based Turf Solutions Group to do an $800,000 renovation on The Palms at Pleasure Island golf course ravaged by Hurricane Ike in September of 2008.
Work on the course is expected to begin in early March, with mid November targeted for a re-opening. Tentative plans call for two holes on each side of the original layout — No. 3 and 4 on the front, No 14 and 15 on the back — to be altered. Other changes will involve the narrowing of some fariways to cut down on irrigation, and allowing more raw vegation to come into play.
Another noticeable change would include the relocating of the driving range because the former range sits on land that would be the back portion of a proposed hotel.
“A lot of things are happening and it’s mostly postive,” said Kevin Johnson of the Renaissance Group. “It’s amazing the interest we’re getting. The options and opportunities that are leaning our way have been really encouraging. People who have come here to look at the course and see the Island understand the potential to do something pretty special.
“Plus, we are feeling comfortable with the way things are starting to line up on the gambling issue. Nothing is guaranteed, but the signs are favorable and we feel we are well positioned. As far as the golf course, there is no turning back. It’s going to happen.”
Among the irons in the fire for the Renaissance Group are strong negotiations with a big name golf company to possibly be part of a joint venture that could provide a major marketing boost.In addition, talks are ongoing with Tony Hernandez and Associates of Pasadena, Calif., for a master-planning concept of the entire golf and casino project.
There are also discussions with a builder in Scottsdale, Ariz., about contstruction of an adjacent sports facility.
As far as the golf course, Johnson said the plan continues to be a venue that would be comparable to the pre-Ike devastation of The Palms. If everything falls into place on landing one of three hoped-for resort casinos on Pleasure Island, additional funds would be used to upgrade the golf course to the level expected at destination resorts.
“It’s an exciting time for us,” said Johnson. “This is something we’ve talked about for almost nine years and now things are starting to fall into place. Again, what has been so encouraging is the reaction and interest from people who have come in from the outside and seen what’s here.”The first official on-site activity will apparently be an invitation only Super Bowl-watching party set for a week from Sunday. The Renaissance Group wants to show off a refurbished clubhouse which it plans to rent out for special events.
There’s been no word if they plan to sell 49ers and Ravens souvenirs.
CHIP SHOTS: Port Neches-Groves sophomore star Braden Bailey gets the distinction of having Golf Notepad’s first reported hole in one for 2013. Bailey, playing with PN-G teammates Jarrod Brown and Deny McDaniel last Thursday at Babe Zaharias, aced the 165-yard, 2nd hole with an 8-iron. It was Bailey’s first hole in one . . . Mike Brown of Groves scored the first ace of the new year at Belle Oaks on Sunday. Brown, using a 24- degree hybrid, sank his tee shot on the 168-yard, 3rd hole. It was his third ace, with the first two having come in the Dallas area. Mike Tarver and George Adams were the witnesses . . . Brandon Soileau of Groves won a shootout with two other members of the PN-G golf team to claim Boys 16-18 at Babe Zaharias in the opening stop of the Southeast Texas Junior Winter Tour hosted by The First Tee of the Golden Triangle. Soileau shot an ever par 72 to edge Jarrod Brown and Braden Bailey by two strokes. Other flight winners were Kris Robbins of Nederland (83 in Boys 14-15), Karlei Hemler of Groves (85 in Girls 16-18), Peyton Weems of Lumberton (82 in Boys 12-13), Jack Burke of Orange (39 in Boys 10-11, 9 holes) and Micah DePew of Kountze (30 in Boys 7-9, 6 holes) . . . Bill Worsham finished plus 5 to win the Monday Seniors at Belle Oaks. Rufus Mier was second at plus 2 and Jim Brown third at plus 1. Ron Somerville won closest to the pin on No. 15 . . . In the Friday Seniors at Belle Oaks, Brown won with plus 3. Worsham and Norm Shannon tied for second at 0. Shannon was the closest to the pin winner on No. 8 . . . In the Super Saturday Game at The Babe, played in a 2 ball format, the team of Paul Flores, Larry Johnson, Charlie Scott and Pete Reobroi won the front in plus 3. On the back, the foursome of Steve Picou, Rick Pritchett, Jim Cooper and Maurice Ross won with minus 2 . . . Lamar ex Shawn Stefani made a PGA Tour cut for the second consecutive week in the Humana Challenge and walked away with $10,808 after finishing T72. Stefani shot rounds of 68-69-69-70 for a 12-under 276. Stefani is playing again this week at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego . . . Chris Stroud, after opening with rounds of 69-66 at the Humana Challenge, would have made the cut most weeks on the PGA Tour. The Humama cut, however, comes at 54 holes because of its pro-am format over three courses, and a third-round 74 sent Stroud packing. He’s taking this week off and plans to return to the tour at next week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open . . . The Golf Channel has launched what it’s calling the Ultimate Match Play Championship, putting together a 16-player NCAA tournament bracket pairing up the game’s all-time greats. The top four seeds, in order, are Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan and Bobby Jones. Viewers are encouraged to go to www.golfchannel.com to check out the opening-round pairings and vote on the outcome of matches. There are lots of holes in the concept, such as the course these imaginary matches would be played on, the equipment, the ball and so many other variables in an ever-changing game, but it’s a fun idea. First round matches include No. 1 Nicklaus against No. 16 Phil Mickelson, No. 2 Woods against No. 15 Seve Ballesteros, No. 3 Hogan vs. No. 14 Nick Faldo, No. 4 Jones vs. No. 13 Lee Trevino, No. 5 Sam Snead vs. No 12 Billy Casper, No. 6 Arnold Palmer vs. No. 11 Gene Sarazen, No. 7 Byron Nelson vs. No. 10 Tom Watson and No. 8 Walter Hagen vs. No. 9 Gary Player.
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