Deerfield's new management has high goals
Wednesday, May 14, 2014 1:00 PM
GLUCKSTADT - Around 4 p.m. last Tuesday afternoon, Leigh Brannan was ready to give up and go have a cold one.
Brannan, the long-time club pro at Colonial Country Club's Deerfield course and one of the six investors seeking to buy the course from Colonial, was convinced he and his friends were not going to be able to close on the proposed purchase worth more than $1 million.
"About 4:30, they called and said we had reached a verbal agreement," Brannan said Monday, seated behind his desk in the Deerfield clubhouse. "I had already written it off, but was excited again once I got that call."
Brannan has hardly sat still since that moment, already at work trying to bring one of Mississippi's finest golf courses back to its former prominence.
From 1983 to 2009, Deerfield hosted seven State Opens, two state amateur championships, four mid-amateur championships and several PGA Tour and Senior PGA Tour qualifiers. But the Madison County extension of Jackson's Colonial Country Club has been underfunded for years, and it took its toll on the course.
Speaking Monday on behalf of the six-member group of investors who bought the course, Brannan said the aim is to first get the course back up to par, then try to get some of the tournaments back.
"There is still no doubt that it's one of the best courses in the state," Brannan said. "But I don't think it's a secret that it has regressed the past couple of years. It's not terrible, by any means, but we have some work to do to get it back in that top-10, top-5 courses in the state range."
If anyone knows how to do it, it's Brannan and his partners. The group also includes former MRA and University of Arizona star Trey Denton, greens superintendent Bryan Deweese, long-time club members Stacy Hughes, Ed Grantham and Phil Pollack.
Thanks to those six investors, the course at Deerfield was closed just one day - instead of forever - while the deal was struck.
Patrons of Colonial CC's course in Jackson were not so lucky. That course closed its doors due to a bank foreclosure on Sunday, May 2 after 68 years in operation.
Randy Watkins, who owns courses at Lake Caroline and Whisper Lake in Madison and Patrick Farms Golf Club in Rankin County, was rumored to be in negotiations to buy the course and take it public. That deal was nixed when it failed to get two-thirds of the members' votes required by club bylaws.
Watkins didn't want to comment publicly Monday, but did say it was a shame that the course wasn't open for this summer. Brannan shared similar sentiments.
"I won 10 to 12 big tournaments in my career and three of those came at Colonial," he said. "I made a lot of great memories on that course, and I'm sure there are a lot more golfers like me out there who can say the same."
For now, Brannan and Denton, who were both hard at work in the clubhouse Monday, say they are concentrating on Deerfield. They've already more than doubled the maintenance staff - from two to six employees - and bought new balls for the driving range.
They've started accepting members at $250 a month, which includes cart fees, range balls and greens fees. Denton said if everything falls as they think it will, they'll have 200 members by the end of the month.
"We sent out a mailer telling the 260 Colonial members that they are in, and all they have to do is sent us their dues," he said. "If we keep half of those members, we'll be right-at or over 200."
Brannan added that they only plan to allow 400 members and will limit outings so nobody has to wait.
"We don't want it to take five and a half hours for someone to play out here," he said. "Our main goal is to grow our member numbers to a level we can make some money and keep the experience enjoyable and not crowded."