With the physical improvement projects complete, Legacy Golf Club's owners shift gears.
In 1997, Gordon Gregory had another key duty in his job as an outside service manager for the newly opened Legacy Golf Club.
He was directing helicopters onto the course.
“We would put three on our event lawn and six or seven on the back [of the driving range],” Gregory said. “People were coming in from all over the country. Every day we had celebrities.
“It was gorgeous … top of the line. It was a public course, but it was like a private setting. It was the best thing around here.”
Then 15 years later, everything had changed.
Gregory heard the comments, that the Arnold Palmer-designed course had turned into a “dog patch.”
“I was saddened,” said Gregory, who through 23 years with Legacy has seen its ups and downs. “I heard the comments, but I couldn’t say anything. I still loved it here, and I loved the people. I knew what it could be, what it should be. I knew if someone had a good plan, it would work.”
Four years after Jon Whittemore and Kevin Paschall bought the club in November 2015, Gregory said he is proud to come to work again. In addition to the $3.4 million they spent to buy the club, Whittemore and Paschall have spent almost $2 million to bring it back to it previous standards.
“They have an incredible product,” said Steve McMillen, the executive director of the North Florida PGA. “The [Arnold Palmer] design will test your skills. And now the greens have had two years to come in, and they are very good.”
As the club heads into 2020, Whittemore and Paschall said the Legacy improvement project shifts into another phase.
“We’ve done a lot of physical plant improvements,” Whittemore said. “Now we have the luxury of focusing on the people side. We want to elevate the customer service.”
Hiring a new club professional in Wendi Patterson is part of that effort. “K.C. Bartlett, [the assistant pro], and Wendi are our out-front people,” Whittemore said. “That’s important to us.”
He said that as Lakewood Ranch continues to grow, the new residents will be testing the market to find a good golf home. Now that Legacy’s aesthetics are revamped, he wants his employees to make a great first impression.
He did note that other physical improvements will continue, even if they aren’t as noticeable as the $950,000 injected into the course a year ago. The parking lot was sealed in November, for instance. He said work continues to improve the fairway bunkers.
A bar renovation is being planned, and they are contemplating a covered patio that would allow patrons to enjoy a drink while looking out on the course. The course’s own barbecue pit is now in operation.
Legacy has 45 employees with more on the way to increase the service level. It has also created a new position of a food and beverage service manager.
Paschall said the course is in “impeccable” shape. He said Legacy will be holding more important state-level events, or higher, such as the LPGA-PGA Team Championship it hosted in October.
“This course is back … in the best condition we’ve seen it in years,” Paschall said.
McMillen said the course will be a good test for tournament golf.
“Put the tees all the way back, then fasten your seat belts,” he said.
Whittemore said Legacy will be adding an annual membership component that will have levels ranging from $750 to $9,000. He said it involves a higher level of service. He said the program would be capped, perhaps about 150 golfers.
Both Whittemore and Paschall stressed that they are around for the long haul, as opposed to the many owners and management companies the course has seen in the past. Before the current owners, the course had three owners in the previous 18 months.