First Tee and “The Patch”…for some, this is a golf course marriage made in Heaven.
“I think it will be an awesome investment for us, short-term, and long term, it will be great for the city of Augusta,” says Mayor Pro-Tem Corey Johnson.
The proposal before Augusta Commissioners will be to turn over the management of the Augusta Municipal Golf Course, or “The Patch”, to First Tee. Supporters say, since the two courses border each other, there can be a sharing of maintenance costs.
If “The Patch” makes money, the city and First Tee share profits 50-50. But, if the course loses money, the city eats all the losses.
“That's a hell of a deal, in my opinion. Let's split the profits, if there are any losses, you got to write the check. To me, that doesn't work,” says Commissioner Joe Jackson.
Paul Simon of the First Tee, told Commissioners it will work, and that the course will make a $370,000 profit in three years IF there's a complete renovation of the golf course, at a cost of nearly $2 million.
“We're looking at the next SPLOST (Special Purpose Sales Tax). Obviously, there's no money available for that, at this particular point in time,” says City Administrator Fred Russell.
“Spending $2 million and possibly splitting the revenue is not something I'm interested in, at this point of time,” says Jackson.
First Tee is a nonprofit organization. It teaches golf and life lessons to hundreds of local kids, and city leaders say that's worth supporting
“If they can increase the number of kids they deal with and look at the success they had there, that would be worth the expense we got there,” says Russell.
The final costs of merging the two courses are not known, but in the end, there will be a cost to Augusta taxpayers.
“For the people who live in Hephzibah, or downtown, that don't play golf…why should they have to share the burden of the $2 million and potential profit splitting. I think, in my opinion, we're getting a little greedy,” says Jackson.
Tuesday's vote is just to proceed with developing a plan for “The Patch” to partner with First Tee. The final details on the costs still need to be worked out.
But the future of the Patch could have already been worked out.
Back in February commissioners turned down a proposal to lease the course to a Virginia Beach company that would have ended up -paying- the city 15-thousand dollars a year.