One of the world’s top golf course architects is ready to attack the greens at Memorial Park.
But Tom Doak, along with the Astros Golf Foundation and PGA Tour, must wait for a group of Houston politicians to clear the course.
A proposal to renovate the popular Memorial Park Golf Course with more than $13 million in private funds, part of a plan to have it host the Houston Open beginning in 2020, remained on the fringe during Wednesday’s meeting of the Houston City Council. Council member Mike Laster, citing concerns about the disbursement of a $1 million event fee paid annually to the city, exercised his privilege to delay a vote on the proposal until next week’s council meeting.
Giles Kibbe of the Astros Golf Foundation, which underwrites the Houston Open, enlisted Doak to lead the course redesign and put together the proposal along with Mayor Sylvester Turner and the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, said a plan had been in place to begin course renovation Jan. 7 and have it completed by October. That would allow enough time for new grass to take hold, mature and meet PGA standards for a tournament held in October 2020.
“It’s a big deal. We’re disappointed,” Kibbe said. “What happened today could potentially keep us from hosting the tournament in 2020.”
The proposal, presented to the council’s Quality of Life Committee on Nov. 28, calls for the event fee to be split between the Memorial Park Conservancy and the city parks department, which operates five 18-hole public courses including Memorial Park. City parks would receive $750,000, with the other $250,000 going to the conservancy.
Turner said after the council meeting that the fee split already had been negotiated and should be considered “a win” for the parks department.
“I’ve learned that if you try to get everything you want, many times you end up with nothing,” Turner said. “This is a big deal for the city as a whole.”
Kibbe said the fee split is up to city leaders and immaterial to the plan devised by the Astros Golf Foundation, which has pledged to fund the renovation project. Still, he said he is open for discussion with council members to address their concerns.
Kibbe said he hopes the proposal will be finalized and approved at the Jan. 9 council meeting. If the renovation timeline continues to be pushed back, the course might not be ready for a PGA event in 2020.
Turner remained optimistic.
“There is solid support around the table for this project – solid, solid support,” he said. “But it’s a legislative process. I would have preferred for the vote to have taken place today, but you’ve got to respect people’s right to have their view. I certainly understand that.
“But the PGA will be held at Memorial, and it will be on time. So I’m very optimistic about that.”