San Antonio golfers working on plan to save Pecan Valley, site of 1968 PGA Championship

January 11, 2012

SAN ANTONIO — Historic Pecan Valley Golf Club in San Antonio may have seen its final rounds played Sunday, but its demise as a course won't come without a fight from some determined and well-connected local citizens who are drawing their inspiration from previous course resurrections.

Host site of the 50th PGA Championship in 1968, won by Julius Boros, and the 2001 USGA Amateur Public Links, Pecan Valley was shut down with seven days' notice by the San Antonio area golf company Foresight Golf Management. It is the first major championship site closed in the United States since Pomonok Country Club in Queens, New York, site of the 1939 PGA Championship, was sold in 1949.

But local stockbroker Chip Puhl, a former golf pro and USGA volunteer, is spearheading a plan to purchase the course and turn it over to the city as a municipal layout. He plans to follow the foundation model, which helped save East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

"We're in this fight until the very end, until we win this battle or there is nothing left to fight for," Puhl said.

Puhl plans to create a new organization called the San Antonio Municipal Golf Foundation to raise money to purchase the course and turn it over to the city. Puhl said he hoped to raise $2.5 million and already has pledges from some wealthy local citizens.

"The money is in place; all we need is a willing seller," Puhl said.

Foresight also operates a successful public course three miles away, The Republic, which Foresight has actively marketed as a replacement for Pecan Valley. In talking points passed out to Pecan Valley employees last week, Foresight said closing Pecan Valley was not an easy decision but the course was too difficult for the average golfer and was not financially viable.

Ed Miller, CEO of Foresight, said he doubted the course would reopen under new management.

"I talked to a few people about it, but mainly I've tried to talk them out of it," Miller said. "We probably wouldn't rule out any alternative, but I don't think golf is the best alternative for that property."

Miller confirmed previous reports that Foresight had gone to the city last fall with a proposal for multi-family housing and a nine-hole course at Pecan Valley.

"The next step is to wait and see what happens," he said. "Obviously we would prefer not to do this, but the cold, hard facts are that having a PGA Championship there 44 years ago does not pay my employees' salaries, it does not pay property taxes or buy a bag of fertilizer."

Texas Golf Hall of Fame Executive Director Reid Meyers, a San Antonio lawyer and influential member of the local golf scene, said he wants to see Pecan Valley survive, but he would like to see a definite plan to bring the course into the Alamo City Golf Trail before supporting the effort. The Trail is an association of city-owned courses, and joining it could help bring paying golfers to Pecan Valley.

"It would be a shame to lose a historic course like Pecan Valley, but the Alamo City Golf Trail has not taken a position on the course," Meyers said. "We will have a board meeting next week and hope to review the options."

Puhl, who is working with several individuals and business leaders, said he hopes to have a completed plan to city officials by early next week. Ruffin Moore, the former head pro at Pecan Valley, hopes Puhl is successful.

"When I left Pecan Valley for the last time, I told them I was leaving them the crown jewels, don't mess 'em up," said Moore, who left when Foresight took over management in 2008. "It appears they have."

Designed by Press Maxwell, Pecan Valley Golf Club first opened in 1963.