For greater than 50 years, Boca Rio Golf Membership has been the area’s hyperlinks of selection for billionaires and film stars, entrepreneurs and executives. Opened in 1966 by Pittsburgh industrialist (and Boca resident) Abe Deitch and a handful of financiers, this non-public enclave rapidly garnered a popularity for its difficult, bunker-heavy course—designed by eccentric architect Robert Von Hagge—and its vibrant social scene.
The 200-acre facility has hosted public figures from Frank Sinatra to Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas to O.J. Simpson, a month earlier than his homicide trial. On the 18th gap of his first recreation at Boca Rio, Arnold Palmer supplied $6 million for the membership, and the unique homeowners turned him down. Tommy Armour, its first golf professional, ranked it among the many “5 biggest golf programs on the earth.”
Members reward the membership for its customized, hyper-attentive service and fraternal environment between members and workers. Additionally it is identified for a colourful historical past rife with Wild West antics. When the membership was being constructed, a clerical error led an unscrupulous realtor to improperly pay for the land and declare it as his personal. This opportunist landed on the positioning by helicopter, and because the legend goes, Arnold Kurzinger, Boca Rio’s first company secretary, brandished a pistol to scare him away.
To find extra in regards to the life behind the greens at Boca Rio, I sat down for lunch on the clubhouse with Basic Supervisor Luciano Farias, Membership President Paul Shapiro, Locker Room Supervisor Carlos Gomez and longtime board members Jay Bechtold, Elliott Wallace and Mickey Silverman. Information was about to interrupt that the membership, which for many years has loved its discretion as a course “hidden in plain sight,” will for the primary time host a serious golf occasion, the inaugural Gainbridge LPGA tour championship, in January 2020. The longtime members and workers mentioned this and rather more.
ON BOCA RIO VALUES
Gomez: I had simply moved from New York. My first week working right here, somebody stole my automobile, a Trans Am. I had a bicycle, so I began to come back to the membership on my bicycle. I might decide up the bagels on the way in which to the membership, and in the future it was pouring. We had one member right here, and when he noticed me within the locker room, he stated, “Are you loopy, driving on this climate?” I stated, “somebody stole my automobile, so it’s the one transportation I’ve proper now.”
He went out to lunch with a few members, and got here again and stated, “Right here, go and purchase your self a automobile. I used to be six days working right here—and was handed $eight,000 money. I stated, “how am I going to pay you again?” They stated, “Don’t fear about it.” That was the beginning. I fell in love with this place.”
Farias: “We had a member who stated, “Simply take this bag, and rely what’s in it, and get again to me.” There was $350,000 money. And I’m a child, 20 years outdated. After I counted the cash about 10 instances, I stated, “It’s $350,000.” He stated, “Take $10,000 for you, and provides me the remaining later.”
ON THE HISTORY
Shapiro: “Abe Deitch purchased this piece of land, and so they employed a golf course architect named Robert Von Hagge. He was not a “von”—he was not Germanic royalty—however he gave himself that identify. Von Hagge went to fulfill with Deitch and a few others, and he exhibits up carrying a gold cape. The [founders] needed a course, mainly, that none of them might play. They weren’t nice golfers, most of those guys. They needed a very arduous course that they may convey anyone out to, and anyone who got here as a visitor would say, ‘wow.’”
ON THE WAY THINGS WERE
Bechtold: “Abe Deitch was the unique president of the membership. If he stated black was white, that’s what it was. He set the principles.”
Shapiro: “If you happen to complained, Abe would take you into his workplace, attain underneath the drawer, take his checkbook out, and say, “That is simply the unsuitable membership for you.” He’d write you a verify to refund your initiation payment, and it was over.”
ON CELEB SIGHTINGS
Bechtold: “Sylvester Stallone got here out twice, two days in a row. He simply needed to be away from crowds. Nobody’s going to come back up and ask in your autograph on the 18th gap. Nobody right here treats them like a star, as a result of now we have so many.”
Gomez: “Willie Nelson didn’t come to the clubhouse— he’d are available in, play golf, depart. He gave me an image along with his autograph. He was very quiet. He cherished the truth that no one approached him.”
Shapiro: “Willie is an unbelievably avid golfer. He would play daily of his life if he might. He has his personal course at his home, and on ‘60 Minutes,’ they confirmed an image of him enjoying. He’s carrying cut-off denims with a T-shirt, smoking a joint the entire manner across the course—not your common Rio golfer!”
Gomez: “Donald Trump was right here having lunch in the future, and he was carrying a cap. We had a troublesome supervisor who informed him to take away his hat. He stated no. He requested, ‘Do I’ve to take away my pants, additionally?’ He stated, ‘No sir, simply the hat. If you happen to don’t prefer it, you may depart.’”
Bechtold: “It doesn’t matter who you have been; you needed to comply with the principles.”
ON TURNING DOWN ARNOLD PALMER’S OFFER TO BUY
Silverman: “They didn’t care in regards to the cash. They needed the membership for themselves. Arnold Palmer was going to present them an enormous revenue; these guys have been extremely wealthy and rich. They couldn’t care much less about earnings.”
ON THE SOCIAL SCENE
Gomez: “Each season, a few members would throw a celebration for the older members—enormous events. One time, the doorway was made to seem like an airplane, and the invites resembled passports. Every room of the clubhouse was a distinct nation. I noticed tigers and monkeys within the African room. All the pieces was black-tie then.”
Shapiro: “All the pieces modifications with the instances. If you happen to got here right here within the mid-‘90s, we served dinner three nights every week. Males all wore fits and ties. Ladies dressed to the nines, with all their jewellery. However all the principles have modified. … You stroll into the best eating places in New York, and individuals are carrying shorts and a T-shirt.”
ON THE FUTURE OF BOCA RIO
Silverman: “The rule all through their historical past was, they didn’t care in the event that they bought new members. And what occurred is numerous the older individuals handed away. Now we get numerous native people who transfer down right here and don’t know we exist. We’re sort of in a change. The entire golf world is like that. It’s nonetheless this boutique-ish sort of membership, however it’s altering to youthful and youthful.”
Wallace: “We have been deliberately underneath the radar. No person knew about us. It was on a need-to-know sort of foundation, and the who’s-who of the East Coast have been members right here. As Mickey talked about, with the demographics of golf altering, and with the economic system, numerous programs closed. We’re doing effectively; our membership numbers are up from the low. I see a time within the not-too-distant future when there shall be a ready checklist once more.”
We employed a branding firm to do a deep dive, and so they got here up with the time period ‘quietly iconic.’ The course is that manner; the membership is that manner. You don’t know should you’re sitting subsequent to a billionaire; there’s no ‘sustain with the Joneses’ mentality in any respect. When you are available in, you’re right here for the love of the sport.”
Wallace: “It’s in our DNA to be a really philanthropic membership. It was a requirement to be a member to be at a sure stage of contribution on an annual foundation. In immediately’s dollars, it could have been over $100,000 a yr. We nonetheless have a requirement.”
Shapiro: “Lots of people are coming down for the winter, however they’re coming from Cleveland, Philadelphia, Boston, New York, wherever. And so they’re very concerned in philanthropic actions of their communities. However they arrive down right here, and their charities are nonetheless again up some place else. The concept was, let’s do one thing that simply focuses on wants in Boca Raton. We have now a committee that goes out and receives grant requests. We have now given to 75 native charities; the most important reward we give yearly to anyone group is the hospital.”
ON THE 2020 LPGA TOUR EVENT, JAN. 20-26 AT BOCA RIO
Shapiro: “Morgan Pressel, one in all our honorary members, loves the course. Morgan’s husband was president of a advertising and marketing firm which places on 4 LPGA occasions a yr. It was recommended to the advertising and marketing firm that they ought to have a look at Boca Rio. There has not been an LPGA occasion in South Florida for fairly a while. Because of that, they got here out and seemed on the course, and stated, “wow.” That’s the way it began, and it’s been increase momentum, a lot in order that the LPGA got here and approached us to have their opening occasion subsequent yr. It will likely be the weekend proper earlier than the Tremendous Bowl, which is in Miami.
“It’ll be televised on the Golf Channel. I believe it’s numerous enjoyable to see the woman golfers, as a result of none of us can relate to the male golfers anymore. They hit the ball up to now that they’re enjoying photographs from a spot that you just’re by no means going to play. The ladies nonetheless hit the ball additional than most of us, however they play a recreation that’s rather more comprehensible to the typical particular person.
“I don’t see this as a daily prevalence, however I believe it’s a really thrilling factor for the members. We’ve bought this gem, and we wish to brag about it.”