|By Al Greenwood, The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
July 27, 2004 - PINEHURST, N.C. -- Pat Corso, who ran the Pinehurst Resort for years before resigning in February, has started a company to manage resorts.
His company, National Resort Management Group, won a 10-year contract in June to manage PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. The contract can be extended another 20 years.
"We are just as excited as we could be," he said. "This is terrific." The resort has been managed by Dolce International, a company that owns and manages conference centers.
Corso said he wants to bring golf tournaments back to the PGA National resort. Although it was host for the PGA Seniors' Championship for years, the resort has not been host to a tournament in about five years.
Corso arrived at the resort Monday and toured the property with his partners, former Pinehurst finance officer Kenneth Baer and Kelly Miller, general manager of Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club and Mid Pines Inn and Golf Club. Both clubs are also managed by National Resort Management Group.
Baer left Pinehurst in March, initially to start a local branch of an accounting firm. He abandoned those plans to join National Resort.
Corso was the president of Pinehurst from 1987 until he resigned in February. Under Corso, the resort went from bankruptcy to hosting the U.S. Open in 1999. Pinehurst will host the open again in 2005.
Corso had overseen Pinehurst and other resorts owned by Pinehurst's parent company, ClubCorp. "That was the key growth group for us. It did very well," he said.
Corso's responsibilities changed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks caused a drop in travel. Corporations had already cut their golf budgets because of the recession in 2001, and by the end of that year fewer people were traveling.
Almost a year later, ClubCorp founder Robert Dedman died. Under the new leadership, Corso said, the corporation cut back his responsibilities to Pinehurst only.
That change led to Corso's resignation. He is now growing a new company from scratch.
Baer will handle accounting and finances; Miller will oversee golf; and Corso will oversee operations, human resources and marketing.
The three are starting a new venture when the golfing industry may be in the early stages of a recovery.
"There are some who say the bloom is off the rose on the golf industry," Corso said. But golfers will always aspire to play at some courses, even during bad times. "Instead of being a commodity, (the course is) an experience." The PGA National has a 339-room hotel, a spa, 19 tennis courts and five golf courses.
Although it's about 80 years younger than the historic Pinehurst Resort, the PGA also has its own heritage and tradition, Corso said.
For years, it hosted the PGA Seniors' Championship before the golf association began rotating the tournament. The resort hosted the Ryder Cup, and its signature golf course, the Champ, has three grueling holes called "the bear trap." "This property has had an amazing string of events," Corso said. "There is just a lot that could be brought out, that could be restored, refreshed and represented to the golfing public that this is a unique place." Blended components
Baer said the new company will try to integrate the components of the resort instead of operating in separate parts as he says other resorts do.
Over the following weeks, the group will develop a master plan for the resort and renovate its pool and the hotel rooms.
Ultimately, Corso would like the company to manage about five resorts.
"Our focus isn't as much quantity as much as to have a few quality resorts," he said. "There are a lot of good ones left that have fallen out of favor that are not as well known as they once were. One of the things we are good at is restoring that reputation."
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