- by Corpus Christi Caller Times
An avid golfer, Jerry Kilpatrick recalls a time when what is now the Lozano Golf Center included stretches of dry, hard packed earth ? similar to a cow pasture, he said.
But those days appear to be long gone. Fed by a repaired irrigation system and manicured with careful landscaping, the grounds have transformed into a landscape more akin to a green carpet, he said. Edging has cleared the way for previously grass-covered concrete cart passes, and clearing undergrowth and brush has made way for trees.
That work is among the most noticeable of the changes that Foresight Golf ? which signed a 20-year lease with the city in 2011 ? has made, Kilpatrick said. And he now considers Lozano Golf Center and Oso Beach Municipal Golf Course as being in the best shape of any in the area. Others agree, he said.
"Golfers always complain about something," Kilpatrick said. "If it's not the weather, it's the course ... but everyone says they've done a good job, and they really have."
When Foresight first took over in 2011, the courses were in disarray, and many of the facilities and golf carts were in bad condition, said Peter Palacios, general manager of the courses.
"But what we did notice was a very deep history in these two golf courses," he said. "We knew from the very beginning there was a huge potential here to get things right and to improve the facilities overall, not just to the golf course, but also the services and amenities to the customers."
In the three years since taking over the courses, Foresight ? which manages golf courses in San Antonio, Laredo, Lake McQueeney and Houston ? has implemented an array of improvements, including bringing in a new management, repairing the irrigation system, expanding food and beverage options, providing a new fleet of golf carts and renovating restrooms.
Additional improvements scheduled for this year include using capital improvement funds ? supplied through a $1.50 surcharge per round of golf ? to purchase fairway mowers, paint the clubhouses at both courses, renovate the sandbunkers at Lozano and repair a restroom near Hole No. 13 at the Oso Beach course. Other plans in the works include improvements to the practice facility, patching and repairing the maintenance facilities, and adding new sets of markers to the Oso Beach course.
"There are a lot of cosmetic things we'll be doing to spruce up the overall appearance of the facilities," Palacios said.
The council turned over management of the municipal golf courses to Foresight after the city lost about $1.8 million over the course of a decade, primarily in pro shop sales.
In its first full year since Foresight assumed management responsibilities, the courses returned a net operating surplus of $364,251 and 80,607 rounds of golf, according to a 2012 presentation made to the City Council. The amount would have returned $182,125 to the city, under an agreement that state profits will be split between the city and management company.
The following year, revenue increased, as well as rounds of golf at 87,907, but saw a return of the net operating surplus of $317,557. That's because Foresight increased their expenses to add personnel, as well as a PGA instructor, to improve customer services, said Mike Morris, Parks and Recreation director.
Although bad weather dropped the number of rounds played at the two municipal golf courses last year, the courses still saw a profit. Between February 2013 and January 2014, 79,395 rounds of golf were played between the two courses: Oso Beach saw 43,067 rounds, representing a 4,914 decrease, while Lozano saw 36,328 rounds, a 3,598 decrease over the previous year.
Still, that's above the 33,000-round yearly average for public courses, according to city documents.
Parks and Recreation and Foresight officials blamed the drop in rounds on a higher-than-usual number of bad weather days in 2013. In all, there were 51 more bad weather days in 2013 than the previous year, they said.
Despite that, the courses returned a net operating surplus of $248,819 ? down by $68,738 from 2012 ? which was split with the city per the agreement, bringing Corpus Christi $124,209, according to a City Council presentation.
It's thought that while there was a drop in rounds, that additional food and beverage sales, merchandise sales and driving range revenues ? in addition to increasing revenue per round by $2 and hosting more receptions ? helped make up the difference, officials said.
Overall, the agreement has worked out well for the city, Morris said on Thursday.
"We thought it would be good, but it's been phenomenal," he said.
In a recent City Council meeting, company representatives said they felt comfortable that they had won the confidence of the local golfing community, and hoped to work with the city and the Convention and Visitors Bureau to promote the facilities to tourists.
Plans for further discussion on a promotional initiative are in place, Morris said.
It's also expected that the net operating surplus will rise to $400,000 in the upcoming year because of an expected increase in number of rounds, he added.