For the better part of the past decade, Sue Martin has been involved in the restoration of the city-owned Bobby Jones Golf Club. Through changes in city management and elected commissioners and multiple iterations of plans for the property, Martin has been a constant as general manager of the city's Parks and Rrecreation Department and Bobby Jones project manager.
On Thursday, with the golf course closing in on a November opening of the restoration of the original 18-hole Donald Ross layout, Martin spent her last day as a city employee. Just days earlier, the temporary clubhouse was delivered, a three-piece modular building. A crew was scheduled to place and begin assembly of the building this week, one of the final milestones to mark the completion of the project.
“It's exciting because I’ve worked on this for about 10 years,” Martin said just hours before beginning her retirement. “We went through the ugly phase where we killed off everything and dug up everything. Now it's a golf course, and the nature park is coming along, too. It's so exciting to see brand-new bunkers, the big greens, nice tee boxes and the unbelievably large driving range with 75 hitting bays.”
Rather than restoring the 36 holes there as initially planned, 153 acres of the 261-acre site will serve as a wetlands and nature preserve to receive and purify the runoff from what was a floodplain. The course often was forced to close for days at a time after heavy rains to allow standing water to drain.
The work is funded by a $20 million city bond, a $3 million Southwest Florida Water Management District grant for wetlands improvement that requires a 50% local government match, and a $487,500 Florida Department of Environmental Protection grant.
Across Circus Boulevard from the Ross course is the adjustable par-3 course designed by golf course architect Richard Mandell, who is overseeing the restoration of the Ross course as well. The short course is currently being grassed. Auxiliary buildings such as two on-course bathrooms and a service building for the practice range are under construction, and construction of a starter building at the short course will begin soon.
Although she will no longer be a city employee, Martin said she plans to be in attendance for the grand reopening of the golf course.
“The Lord willing and if the creek don’t rise, I’ll be there,” she said.
Now with modern storm water management on the course and the wetlands preserve, if the creek does rise the water will have somewhere to go.
Andrew Warfield is the Sarasota Observer city reporter. He is a four-decade veteran of print media. A Florida native, he has spent most of his career in the Carolinas as a writer and editor, nearly a decade as co-founder and editor of a community newspaper in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.