When Evergreen Point Golf Course opened in 1996, it was a dream come true for Tim Hazelwood and his family.
"It was a beautiful, beautiful golf course," said Hazelwood, who built the club and named it in honor of his mother, Betty Hazelwood, a former state amateur champion who died at the age of 62 in 1991 of a heart attack on the day she played 36 holes. (The full name of the course is Betty Hazelwood's Evergreen Point.)
Indeed, this terrific Jay Riviere/Dave Marr design would go on to host numerous tournaments, including qualifiers for the Greater Houston City Amateur Championship. Hazelwood initially brought in respected PGA pro Fred Marti -- a former college teammate of Homero Blancas from the 1962 University of Houston national championship team -- from Silverbell in Arizona to run the place.
In the city of Baytown, Texas, this 6,900-yard championship layout with water on the majority of the holes was a gem of a golf course. But the course came online during golf's boom, and good times, unfortunately, were not ahead.
Evergreen Point's difficult battle
Located not too far away from the site where Texas won its independence, the Hazelwoods would also fight a battle in the course's 20 years of existence. Although there wasn't much competition in Baytown, very affordable munis were being added in the surrounding suburbs east of Houston. With those courses getting tax breaks and tax dollars, Evergreen Point had a hard time competing against quality facilities that could charge half of what Evergreen Point needed just to break even. Evergreen Point went from 45,000 rounds a year in its first few years to the mid-20s in its last years.
In the end, it was too tough a fight, and Hazelwood sold his course to a developer two years ago. But that wasn't the end of the story, and it still isn't quite yet. The Hazelwoods, however, probably will have nothing to do with the course, whether it ultimately survives in one form or another or not.
City of Baytown has an interest
The closing took two years, but to Hazelwood's surprise when it came time to finally sign the documents, part of the golf course and its assets were simultaneously sold to the city of Baytown. Late last year, the city floated a bond issue that could have converted Evergreen Point to a municipal with the addition of some adjacent land next to the 50 acres it had obtained. The bond failed by 60 votes, so for now, Evergreen Point will not survive as a muni, at least not as an 18-hole course.
And Evergreen Point isn't the only golf course Baytown has lost recently. A year and half ago, longtime private Goose Creek Country Club, where Tim Hazelwood grew up playing golf and his mother was playing before she died, also closed. The city had a chance to take over that course, too, but passed.
The city currently has eight holes, the clubhouse, maintenance facility and maintenance equipment from Evergreen Point. Possibilities include renovating the clubhouse into a community recreation center, complete with a driving range. The majority of the land could become a city park, but it's also possible that the eight holes could be converted into nine by changing a par 5 into a par 3 and par 4, but all that is speculation at this point. What's certain is that the course has been closed since late January.
For Hazelwood, his family's dream has turned into a nightmare. The course had survived three hurricanes and a horrendous drought, he said. The three high schools in Baytown now have to find another place to play, and most of the local golfers look elsewhere as well.
"I'm certainly not ashamed of what we built and accomplished," Hazelwood said. "It's a shame that Baytown has not only lost one golf course, but two.