BOB WEST ON GOLF: Brown delivering on Babe’s changes

Published 9:21 pm Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Changes are on the way at Babe Zaharias Municipal Golf Course that portend
a happier new year and beyond for grumpy, grumbling golfers who have long
complained about the sub-par condition of the course — especially the

George Brown, president of Aquila Golf, which operates Zaharias for the
City of Port Arthur, is already in the midst of multiple moves that figure to
be well received. First of those was a fleet of relatively new riding carts
that became available after his sale of Bayou Din Golf Club last month.

Another change that has already been made is naming Mitch Duncan the
course’s head professional. Longtime head pro Ed Campbell, who suggested that move, will stay on in what he calls “semi-retirement” to work with Duncan for
an indefinite period of time.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The major project, though, will be effecting serious improvements in putting surfaces that have deteriorated to the point of being a bad joke. Brown has already negotiated a deal with a highly respected superintendent from another course to work as a consultant in reworking the greens.

“We have a lot going on,” said Brown. “My major concern is upgrading the
golf course and increasing play. The greens are going to take a while but the
process is underway. Our consultant is a Texas A&M graduate who has a great
reputation with greens. He will make a difference.

“I am really excited about what Mitch Duncan brings to the table. Mitch was
Ed’s idea. He wanted to pass the torch while staying involved on a limited
basis. He wants to stay involved with junior golf and just the game of golf in

Duncan, a Little Cypress native and Lamar graduate, is known mostly for his
work as a teaching pro. But he has an extensive business-side background from
working at Games People Play in Beaumont for nearly a decade. He is currently
in the PGA’s apprentice program, working toward a Class A designation.

“This is a wonderful, exciting opportunity for me,” said Duncan, who will
be 42 in March. “I am thankful to George for offering me the opportunity and
to Ed for his confidence in me, and for sticking around to share his knowledge
with me. I am ready for the challenge.

“We need a culture change to happen, and I know George is committed to
that. Hiring a greens consultant was a step that had to be taken. The main
focus is going to be greens and tee boxes. We’ll get to the point of having
good putting surfaces, but people won’t notice a huge difference until the
spring growing season.”

Campbell, meanwhile, said said he sincerely believes better days are ahead
for Zaharias, and for the golfers who play there.

“I am so encouraged by the way George is on board with the things we need
to do,” he said. “He and I have had some great discussions since he sold Bayou
Din. He’s done everything I asked him to do. This is a win-win deal for the
city of Port Arthur, for everybody who plays here and for Aquila Golf.”

As for his semi-retirement, Campbell said it was time for him to back off a

“I’m 78 years old. I’ve been a Class A PGA pro for 51 years and I’ve been
in the golf business for 65 years. My health is still good. I don’t want to
get away entirely. I want to help Mitch. I’ll be out here in the mornings
during the week. I want to be a part of giving people a good reason to come
out here and play.

“As for Mitch, I think our golfers are going to really be pleased with him.
He’s a great people person and looks and acts like a golf pro. We’ve told him
he’s free to make changes he thinks need to be made. He’s going to be a huge
asset on the business end because of his experience at Games People Play.”

While Brown is pledging to making Babe Zaharias a quality experience for
golfers, he will need some help from the City of Port Arthur. To that end, he,
Duncan and Campbell hope to meet soon with representatives of the city to
outline their plans and discuss areas where they need assistance.

Among the areas where the city can make an impact is repairing bridges,
especially an unsightly, dangerous one on the opening hole, and repairing
busted water pipes that have created a swampy mess in some fairways.


Jobie Irvine of Silsbee has a chance to become the last golfer to make a 2016 hole in one at Babe Zaharias. Irvine put himself in position to make that claim by scoring an ace on the 120-yard, No. 2 on Thursday, Dec. 15. Irvine used a driver for the shot witnessed by Gary Anderson and Don MacNeil. …
In the Saturday two-ball game at Babe Zaharias, the team of Benny Sharpe,
Cap Hollier and Ed Holley won the front in minus 5. On the back, plus-1 won
for the threesome of Adam Noel, Paul Flores and Charlie Leard. …

The Friday 2-ball game at Zaharias saw a tie on the front at minus-2 between the team of Sharpe, Ron Mistrot, Billy Thillet and Bill Draughon and the foursome of Noel, John Jessen, Tony Trevino and James Trahan. The back was won by the team of Earl Richard, Harry Green, Bobby Wactor and Charlie Scott with minus-1. …
The Thursday Senior Plus 55 game at Zaharias was played in a 6-6-6 format. In
First Flight, Larry Stansbury teamed with Richard for a 71 that bested Bob
Byerly-Larry Johnson by three strokes. The team of Mistrot and Green took
Second Flight with a 75, edging Dillard Darbonne-Rick Pritchett by one shot.
Third Flight was won with an 80 by Charles Perez-Mike Hollier. Tying for
second at 82 were the teams of Gary Anderson-MacNeil and Jim Cooper-Paul
Duplantis. Closest to the hole winners were Irvine with his ace on No. 2, Noel
(No. 7), Darbonne (No. 12) and Harrell Guidry (No. 15). …

The Zaharias DogFight ended in a tie at 14 poionts between the team of Gary Whitfill, Ed Holley, Leard and Duplantis and the foursome of Larry Thompson, Lee Bertrand, Thillet and Harold Wilkinson. Closest to the hole winners were Whitfill (No. 2), Thillet (No. 7), Bill Jones (No. 12) and MacNeil (No. 15).

Golf news should be emailed to