There was a tournament in Tuscon over the weekend that no one pays any attention to because it goes head-to-head with the Matchplay championship. While no one was watching, Kirk Triplett, a veteran of the Canadian Tour, shot 64-63 to win the tournament. I must admit to having been pleased.
Almost five years ago I had the good fortune to play with Triplett in Mississippi at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic’s pro-am. Triplett turned out to be a class act — a fun guy who wanted to interact with the four hacks in his pro-am foursome. He also talked about the golf course he was working to design. We spent some time talking about this project and when I returned back to Canada, I wrote this column about Triplett’s foray into golf design.
Nov. 22, 2001
By Robert Thompson GolfWeb Columnist
Kirk Triplett plays on multimillion dollar golf courses, but that’s not what he’s dreaming of these days.
After a practice round at the season-ending Southern Farm Bureau Classic, Triplett, who finished 38th on this year’s money list, was thinking about putting the finishing touches on a course that he and some associates are opening in Murfeesboro, Tenn.
Triplett is hoping to buck the trend of $15 million courses with $150-per-round price tags. He thinks there should be more courses aimed at those who think $150 is simply too much for a round of golf.
“How do you bring new golfers into the game when it costs $100 or $150 per round,” Triplett said after the Wednesday pro-am at the Annandale Golf Course in Jackson, Miss.
The notion that golf should be relatively inexpensive is the main philosophy behind the company that Triplett and his four partners have formed. Given Triplett’s thoughts on the state of the game, it should come as no surprise that the company is called “Golf For Everyone.”
That philosophy is also why Champion’s Run, the name of the course that Triplett and his partners have developed, will cost only $22 per round. And that includes the cart. The projected opening is spring of 2002.
Sure, golf is one of the most popular sports at the moment, Triplett said, but there is also a lot of churn in the sport as players abandon the game. If golfers had an inexpensive course that had some of the features and service of a championship course, maybe they’d stay with the game longer. That’s Triplett’s thoughts on the subject, anyway.
So how does Triplett intend to make a course that will hold up to the scrutiny of the public for only $2 million? Simple: He made some calls to friends and formed a golf company that combines their unique skills. The designer, Stuart Moore, had spent years overseeing large budget golf designs before creating two of his own courses in Chile. Three other partners bring different areas of expertise to the project. What they don’t bring is millions in associated costs. Each is simply using their skills and taking equity in the course.
The course name, Champion’s Run, comes from the decision to use a new cold-weather hybrid Bermuda grass called Champion. It withstands the cold weather of the late fall and early spring months and doesn’t require overseeding, Triplett said. Using this strain of Bermuda grass also cuts back on maintenance costs, allowing the group to proceed with their low-cost green fees.
For Triplett, 39, the company gives him a chance to cut his teeth in design. Moore will do the design and Triplett will consult on the project, offering advice on how the course should play.
“What I bring to this is my credibility as a PGA TOUR player,” he said. “And right from the first hole, I was looking to see what I could do to make the course better for the more competitive player, while still making it playable for a newcomer.”
The partnership is investigating several opportunities to work with cities or municipalities to create courses similar to Champion’s Run. Cities have available land, but often don’t have the cash to build public courses. By using the expertise in Golf For Everyone, Triplett thinks his company can build city courses at a low cost, allowing them to remain truly open to the public.
Triplett is clear that he isn’t the designer on Champion’s Run, just a business partner involved in the overall project. But that doesn’t mean he isn’t interested in entering golf design. He’s had significant input on Champion’s Run, at least equal to that of the many players who regularly place their names on courses.
Triplett is interested in developing a company that can give something back to the public players who continue to support the game.
“A lot of players want their names on designs,” he said. “But I’ve always felt I could give more back to the game as an owner-operator.”
Editor’s note: Robert Thompson’s columns on travel and architecture appear monthly on GolfWeb and PGATOUR.COM.