U.S. WOMEN'S AMATEUR FOUR-BALL
Streamsong Resort An Unlikely Success Story
May 24, 2016 | Bowling Green, Fla.
By Ron Driscoll, USGA
Streamsong Resort was a hard sell.
Rich Mack, the executive vice president and CFO of the Mosaic Company, remembers how much of a longshot the project was when he decided to take the plunge into creating the golf resort that is hosting the 2nd U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship.
“It was the height of the global financial and credit crisis,” said Mack. “The world was quickly going to hell in a handbasket. And we’re calling people and telling them, ‘We think we can build a pretty cool golf resort in Central Florida. Are you interested?’”
Mack, who was the general counsel for Mosaic at the time, had similar difficulty convincing course architects to sign on to a project in the golf-saturated Sunshine State.
“It took a little bit of arm-twisting to get [course architect] Bill Coore here,” said Mack. “He came out, a little begrudgingly, and within 10 minutes he had his flip phone out, trying to get a signal so he could call Ben [Crenshaw, his design partner].”
What Coore had discovered, courtesy of Mack and Mosaic, was a sleepy region of central Florida nicknamed “Bone Valley” for the richness of the deposits left by the marine life millions of years ago. Phosphate mining began in the late 1800s and evolved into a process called beneficiation, which extracts the rock phosphate and leaves sand behind. That sand, enormous stockpiles of it known as tailings, is what Mack wanted Coore to see.
“They were going to use this sand to cap the sites where they had mined,” said Rusty Mercer, Streamsong’s director of golf agronomy. “It was gathered here through the 1950s, ’60s and ‘70s, and over time, the wind blew and grass grew all over it. In one sense, it’s a completely manmade site, but in another, over that long period of time, nature played a role in shaping it.”
Mosaic, which was founded when Mack’s employer, Cargill, merged with another company in 2004, owns or controls about 360,000 acres here, of which Streamsong makes up a small fraction.
“Once we talked to Bill about our vision for the property and our philosophy, it was probably one quarter of a beer later that he was ready to sign up,” said Mack, a former college golfer at Morehead State in his native North Dakota who has played in six Minnesota State Amateurs and routinely attempts to qualify for the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Mid-Amateur.
“I grew up playing a nine-hole course,” said Mack. “I’m 48, and I still think I have a magical run ahead of me. I’m not sure it’s going to happen, but I damn well believe it.”
In 2013, the resort opened Streamsong Blue (designed by Tom Doak) and Streamsong Red (Coore-Crenshaw), and the 216-room lodge followed a year later. Along with accolades from golf publications, the resort earned recognition that put it on the map for top-notch players.
“In 2013, when the USGA announced the first two Four-Balls and Women’s Four-Balls, the sites were Olympic, Winged Foot, Bandon Dunes and Streamsong,” said Mack. “I’m sure a lot of people said, ‘Streamsong? Where is that?’ To be one of the first golf courses to host this championship, which is consistent with our philosophy, we are really appreciative of the USGA taking it to such a new venue.”
Streamsong is not resting on its initial notoriety. Not far from the clubhouse for Red and Blue, Streamsong Black is being sculpted out of the sandscape. Scheduled to open in fall 2017, the Gil Hanse design will be as distinctive as the two existing courses.
“It’s a great endorsement for us to be working with this group of designers, who are very discerning in terms of who they work with,” said Mack. “The Black Course will be a little less jagged, a little more rolling – you’re instantly going to know you’re not on the Red or the Blue. It’s going to have a Royal Melbourne feel to it.”
Streamsong Black will likely play as long as 7,700 yards from the back tees, with a practice facility that Mack describes as second to none. “We could host any event that you could imagine there, and it would not interfere with what is going on at the other two courses,” said Mack. “I believe that we are eventually going to be a four-course facility, but we want to sequence them and integrate them in a successful manner.”
Mack is adamant on one point regarding the future of Streamsong.
“People ask, ‘Are you going to host a PGA [Tour] event out here?’” said Mack. “We’ve never entertained the idea, or had a serious conversation about that. But the moment we heard about the chance to do something with the USGA in furthering the game and promoting amateur golf – particularly with women – it’s just a perfect fit for us.”
Streamsong has found a niche as it bucks the plethora of golf already available in Florida.
“We’re trying to reinvent what Florida golf is all about,” said Mack. “We want people to walk, even during the summer months, and we don’t allow carts from September through April. The main driver here – and what will always be the main driver – is the golf.”
Mack tells the story of Doak working with the clubhouse architects to establish the height of the building so it would not intrude on the sightlines of Streamsong Blue. What the golfers don’t see is as important as what they do see.
“People wonder why we didn’t put the lodge on the course, and we thought it would hover over the course and take away from the golf experience,” said Mack. “The only peek you get of the course from the clubhouse is the putting green and the ‘bye hole’ (the 37th hole, designed by Doak to settle a match).”
The obvious comparison for Streamsong is with the resort that hosted last year’s inaugural Women’s Amateur Four-Ball, Bandon Dunes.
“It’s very flattering for us to be mentioned in that company,” said Mack. “I give [Bandon owner] Mike Keiser tremendous credit for having the initial vision, and we’re very good friends. But we’re in a completely different environment and a different season. There are a lot worse comparisons we could have, but we try to have our own identity, our own DNA.”
It’s a DNA forged in the geology of a region that’s as distinctive – and disparate – as Bandon Dunes.
Ron Driscoll is the manager of editorial services for the USGA. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.