An Independence, Kan., man who closed on the purchase of the Miami Golf and Country Club last week said Tuesday that the key to turning the facility around is improving the golf course.
“The most important thing here is not the restaurant or the bar, but the golf course,” Richard Orr said. “That's what we're concentrating on first, making this course a better place to play.”
Since purchasing the club, Orr has added four employees and all are working on improving the 18-hole course. Among those recently hired by Orr is Dwight Johnson, a former head groundskeeper at the club and at Shangri-La in Delaware County as well.
“With all the rain we've had this year, the fairways are in the best shape I've seen them,” Orr said. “The greens, though, are in awful shape and the traps need a lot of work. As far as I'm concerned, the traps are just dirt and mud.”
Orr said greens have been invaded by Poanna grass, which grows well in the spring and fall but succumbs to heat in the summer.
“Right now it's just brown spots on the greens,” he said. “We'll use a pre-emergent herbicide on it in the spring and that will take care of it. Then we'll be back to the nice bent grass greens that players prefer.”
Orr has been negotiating the purchase of the club with former owner and longtime member Doodles Hamilton for more than a year. He declined to reveal the price he paid for the property.
Orr said membership has declined to just 104 members.
“Membership has dropped away and I think a lot of people have become discouraged about the club,” he said. “I'm hoping some will come back and that we can add some new members as well, but it's going to take a while to get the quality of the club back to where it should be.”
Orr, 72 and a 12-handicap, is a University of Kansas graduate with a degree in chemical engineering. He has a background in the food business, having worked for Corn Products and General Foods.
Along with a partner, he became the franchise owner for the western United States for Marie's Salad Dressings and Dips Company. Orr and his partner sold the business back to the parent company about three years ago. Not long after, Orr decided to move from his southern California home back to his birthplace, Independence, Kan. Soon after moving, Orr, a widower, bought a home on the Eighth Fairway of the Independence Golf and Country Club.
“I know they say you shouldn't go into a business unless you know everything about it,” he said. “I'm coming to this as an amateur golfer and I have my thoughts about how things should be done. I think I know what golfers want and if I don't I know they'll tell me.”
Orr said crews are continuing to cut rough and will be applying insecticide to the course Thursday. He said crews would also be applying liquid fertilizer to greens later this week.
“With the greens, there is not much we can do during the months of July and August, but we'll begin applying seed in the fall and I hope by May we see a lot of improvement,” he said.
He's also looking at improvements to the club's restaurant and bar and said he has talked with two individuals interested in the dining and drinking facilities.
“You can look at the clubhouse carpeting and see that maintenance has not been a priority,” Orr said. “We'll be looking at new carpeting, replacing some windows and doing some painting, but right now we're concentrating on the golf course.”