Four Seasons Resort Dallas has bright future, with or without the PGA Tour

By Mike BaileyFebruary 13, 2014, 5:13 pm

The HP Byron Nelson is already getting a new title sponsor and probably a new venue. Now, the stage where the tournament has been conducted for the last 30 years – The Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas -- has a new owner and a new future.

More interested in filling rooms, most likely, than appeasing the PGA Tour, New York-based investment group Blackstone Real Estate Advisors purchased the property in foreclosure this week for an estimated $150 million.

The timing, perhaps, couldn't be more perfect.

The resort's contract with the PGA Tour will run out in 2018. The tournament's new title sponsor, AT&T, is interested in moving the Nelson to a new Ben Crenshaw-Bill Coore design being built in south Dallas, Trinity Forest. 

It will mark the end of an era for the 431-room Four Seasons Dallas, no doubt one of the most celebrated golf resorts in Texas, but it will also be a new beginning. Soon, perhaps, to be free from the responsibility of playing host to a PGA Tour event, the resort will enter a new phase, much like San Antonio's Westin La Cantera, which hosted the Valero Texas Open from 1995-2009, and still plays off that history.


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Byron Nelson frequented the Four Seasons Las Colinas in his later days, and a statue still stands. 


Located between Dallas and Fort Worth in the upscale business community of Las Colinas in Irving, the Nelson tournament certainly had a good run. Year after year, it was among the top tournaments in rasing money for charity and up until recent years, drew pretty good fields. Much of that was due to the hard work of the Dallas Salesmanship Club, which ran the event, but even more significant was the ever presence of its host, Byron Nelson. He was a fixture at the Four Seasons – out there most every day he could be -- and perhaps the most personable and nicest person I've ever met.

One of the my fondest memories as a golf writer came in the late '90s when I spent the better part of day with Mr. Nelson, having lunch, talking golf swing, discussing his relationship with Ben Hogan and reminiscing about his record breaking streak in 1945 when he won 18 times, including 11 in a row. Over lunch, it seemed he wanted to know as much about me as I did about him. I often had to steer the conversation back to the topic people cared about.

The following January, I found Nelson at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando signing hundreds of autographs at the Cleveland Golf booth. I wanted to say hi, but I didn't interrupt. After a few minutes, he looked up and asked me how I was doing, referring to me by name. I had only met him the one prior time before that. Incredible.

Everybody felt that way about Lord Byron, including Tiger Woods, who won there in 1997, but never came back after he missed the cut in 2005, his ninth appearance. Nelson died the following year, and the field suffered. The allegiance from tour players, to some degree, was no longer there. Now the golf course, a Jay Morrish design that I've always enjoyed playing (We played the Texas Golf Writers Championship there several times) came under more scrutiny. The greens were deteriorating and the original owners, USAA, had gotten out when the getting was good, having sold to commercial real estate investor BentleyForbes in September 2006 for a reported $200 million right after Nelson's death. For BentleyForbes, the timing couldn't have been any worse.

With Nelson no longer around and the tournament fields growing weaker, disapproval of the golf course, which is sort of shoe-horned in between businesses and condos that surround the property, grew.


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In 2007, D.A. Weibring's group was brought in to renovate the TPC Course, and while they did a great job, many of the changes weren't that noticeable with the exception of the 18th hole, which was completely blown up and redone. BentleyForbes also added a number of luxury villas around the course for VIPs and tournament sponsors. It just wasn't enough.

To make matters, worse, in 2008, the U.S. economy tanked after one of the country's worst financial crises in modern history. Soon after, in 2009, the property went into foreclosure after BentleyForbes filed for bankruptcy.

Through it all, however, the Four Seasons Company has always staffed and operated the resort, which included professionals and managers who have been there for years. So there was always continuity and consistency in products and services.

And while the par 70 TPC Course has its share of critics, it's not the only course there. For many years during the Nelson, the private Cottonwood Valley Course, which is open to resort guests, was also used during the first two rounds. With its Texas-shaped green on the first hole, great conditioning and interesting Jay Morrish and Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout, it's as much fun to play as the TPC.

Blackstone is expected to update the facililities throughout the resort. Add to that a world-class spa, great dining, luxurious rooms, golf academy and a large athletic club that includes tennis, racquetball, basketball and other activities, and the Four Seasons is still one of the best resort experiences in Texas.

With or without the PGA Tour.

 

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Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

The Ryder Cup topped his list.

Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

“Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

“The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

More bulletin board material, too.

Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

“I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.

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Ortiz leads LAAC through 54; Niemann, Gana one back

By Nick MentaJanuary 22, 2018, 8:15 pm

Mexico's Alvaro Ortiz shot a 1-under 70 Monday to take the 54-hole lead at the Latin America Amateur Championship in Chile.

At 4 under for the week, he leads by one over over Argentina's Jaime Lopez Rivarola, Chile's Toto Gana and Joaquin Niemann, and Guatemala's Dnaiel Gurtner.

Ortiz is the younger brother of three-time Web.com winner Carlos. Alvaro, a senior at Arkansas, finished tied for third at the LAAC in 2016 and lost in a three-way playoff last year that included Niemann and Gana, the champion.

Ortiz shared the 54-hole lead with Gana last year and they will once again play in the final group on Tuesday, along with Gurtner, a redshirt junior at TCU.

“Literally, I've been thinking about [winning] all year long," Ortiz said Monday. "Yes, I am a very emotional player, but tomorrow I want to go out calm and with a lot of patience. I don't want the emotions to get the better of me. What I've learned this past year, especially in the tournaments I’ve played for my university, is that I have become more mature and that I have learned how to control myself on the inside on the golf course.”

In the group behind, Niemann is the top-ranked amateur in the world who is poised to turn professional, unless of course he walks away with the title.

“I feel a lot of motivation at the moment, especially because I am the only player in the field that shot seven under (during the second round), and I am actually just one shot off the lead," he said. "So I believe that tomorrow I can shoot another very low round."

Tuesday's winner will earn an invitation to this year's Masters and exemptions into the The Amateur Championship, the U.S. Amateur, sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open, and final qualifying for The Open.