A renovation of the Dallas golf course planned for this year that would have closed the property during its seven busiest months was put off when the city auditor discovered that the park and recreation department mishandled the contract. The delay cost the golf course business, while the greens and driving range continue to suffer.
A contract mishap at Cedar Crest Golf Course in Dallas has put the municipal golf course in a tenuous financial position, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Ira McGraw, Cedar Crest’s pro and director of golf since 2008, grew up walking the greens with his mother. When he got the job, he said it was like coming home. But recent years have not been easy for the pro who turned an afterthought into a destination, the Morning News reported.
The course, remade in D.A. Weibring’s image in 2004 at the cost of $3 million, already needs a makeover. It was scheduled to take place this year, necessitating the closure of the course. McGraw was ready to pack it up for the seven busiest months of the season when the city auditor discovered the Park and Recreation Department mishandled the contract, the Morning News reported.
By then, it was too late to salvage the season. Too much business had been chased away; golfers who left surveys informing McGraw that his were some of the worst greens in the city’s municipal golf system. McGraw says he stopped paying himself a while ago in order to cover payroll, the Morning News reported.
He’s “living off savings, cash reserves, debt,” said McGraw, who, like all of the city’s golf pros, is paid via a revenue-sharing deal. A greywater system installed 11 years ago has been killing the greens. The turf needs to be torn up and replaced. The driving range, which didn’t even exist until 2004, is already too small to fit the hundreds of neighborhood kids who’ve discovered the pleasures of a well-struck golf ball, the Morning News reported.
The Park Board approved a $1 million redo in February, about $210,000 of which would have gone toward keeping McGraw and his employees whole while the course was closed during peak season. But in March the City Auditor’s Office raised eyebrows about the contract, because it was a single bid deal, the Morning News reported.
In a report sent to City Manager A.C. Gonzalez and Park and Recreation Department Director Willis Winters, auditor Craig Kinton noted several “exceptions” had been allowed that violated established procedures—including one that allowed the winning bidder to turn in an incomplete package and another that unfairly disqualified other would-be contractors, the Morning News reported.
The contract was pulled off the Dallas City Council’s voting agenda with just days to spare. John Jenkins, the assistant park director who oversees the city’s municipal golf courses, said the park department plowed ahead with the single bid because “we were on a tight schedule and because we were trying to get the contract through.”
The course was supposed to close in April and reopen in October. Golfers were warned of the coming closure, and McGraw said he turned away business. Just last week the city issued another request for bids, and the redo has been pushed into 2016, the Morning News reported.
In the end, city officials say, it’s just as well the redo never happened, because the park department needed to spend upwards of $3 million to repair damage wrought by the spring rains that left courses and parks underwater for months, the Morning News reported.
But for McGraw and his 17 employees, 2015 was anything but a blessing in disguise. “It’s difficult to run an operation when a core of the golfers think you’re closed and another 30 percent don’t want to play because they think you’re a subpar product,” McGraw said. “Golfers have gone elsewhere, even though, hopefully, they plan on coming back. It’s been a disappointing year.”
During his tenure, McGraw’s proved to be quite the draw for Cedar Crest. Two years ago CBS Sports ran a piece documenting how McGraw and his wife Yesenia became guardians of a teenager who lived in a crowded, crumbling apartment complex overlooking the course. That kid, Lester Bell, is now a sophomore at Texas Southern University in Houston and one of two recipients of the 2015 Jordan Spieth Family Foundation Scholarship. McGraw is scheduled to appear in a PGA ad campaign that kicks off next year. As Willis Winters said in February, “We can’t lose him.”
C&RB featured McGraw and Cedar Crest in the September 2014 Products at Work article.
But his 10-year contract is up in three years, and McGraw, who came to Cedar Crest from Prestonwood Country Club, never expected to spend its final years struggling to get by. The number of rounds played has dropped precipitously in recent years, Jenkins said, from 32,411 in fiscal year 2012-13 to 25,815 this year. Some of that can be blamed on the weather, but McGraw says Cedar Crest actually becomes one of the more crowded muni courses during rainy springs since it drains quickly and never floods, the Morning News reported.
Jenkins said the city is trying to find a way to compensate McGraw, who’s been shorted by a mediocre course that’s only getting worse and a contracting blunder, the Morning News reported.
“If I have to pay 16 employees and chose between paying them or myself, it’s not even an option,” he said. “That’s part of the responsibility. People look to you when you’re the leader. That’s what I have to do. But we need to get this over with. We’ve been building this business for 10 years, and it’s been hard. We’re supposed to be at the part of this agreement where we’re seeing the fruits of our labor, and instead, we’ve gone backwards.”