The battle for the future of Triggs Golf Course in Providence

The city owns Triggs, and for about $287,000 a year, it leases operations to a private company, FCG Associates, which has four investors who each said they made about $110,000 in profit. last year, according to their tax returns. One such investor, Karl Augenstein, an affable eight handicap, has been considered the face of Triggs for 30 years.

FCG’s 10-year deal for Triggs expires this year, so City are initiating a new deal. For the first time in three decades, the Augenstein group has a real opponent who has come up with an attractive offer: the Rhode Island Golf Association (RIGA), a non-profit organization that organizes all major tournaments here and counts almost all public and private golf courses. of course its members.

The bidding war is the talk of the relatively small social circle of Rhode Island golf for three reasons:

  • The folks at FCG and RIGA are longtime friends who quickly become rivals;
  • Everyone is trying to use every ounce of political clout they have in Providence at a time when the mayor, city council president and six other councilors are all leaving office by the end of the year;
  • There is genuine excitement about the kind of change RIGA could bring to Triggs.

“If you love golf and you walk around Triggs and just browse around, it doesn’t take long to realize that this is a special place that deserves better than not being touched for 90 years,” said said Robert Ward, Executive Director. from RIGA.

Augenstein disputes the idea that Triggs hasn’t been affected since it was built, but he admits he’s heard a version of the same statement – “Imagine what Triggs could be if there was more investment” – since he took over.

Triggs was designed by Donald Ross, who is practically golfing royalty around the world. In Rhode Island alone, he is responsible for most of the top courses in the state, at Rhode Island Country Club, Warwick, Point Judith, Misquamicut Club and Wannamoisett.

But Ross died in 1948, and Triggs’ parking lot looks like a test site for American bombs during World War II. The restaurant next to the course has fantastic food – especially its post-tournament barbecues – but the bathrooms are a bit shabby and it’s not exactly the kind of place local residents are happy to visit. Friday night.

The course is quite busy – we’re talking five hour rounds if you’re lucky – but it’s still in fantastic condition. The tee boxes and fairways are always well maintained and the greens are fast. Golf carts could use GPS trackers, but I only think that because my ball almost always gets lost in tall grass or behind trees which I assume were strategically placed for guys like me to stop playing.

RIGA is proposing to pay the city $3.1 million over 10 years in lease fees and make an additional $9 million in improvements, including new parking, a better clubhouse and course improvements. -same.

That’s intriguing on its own, but Ward also has a plan to engage young people across Providence by providing greater access to the course and creating on-course and behind-the-scenes jobs for city residents.

I admit I rolled my eyes when Ward talked to me about sparking interest in golf, a game that is still far too white and stuffy, in a city where 90% of public school students are not whites. But when we played nine holes at Button Hole, the par three course a few blocks from Triggs that is home to RIGA, Ward’s enthusiasm got me excited.

RIGA already works with Papitto Opportunity Connection, a nonprofit foundation whose mission is to support the state’s Black and Indigenous residents and other people of color. He even went on to say how excited he was about teaching the younger ones how grass grows, and there’s no greener place in Providence than Triggs.

“I don’t see a for-profit company wanting to invest the kind of money it really needs, and it really doesn’t make sense for a for-profit company to want to do that,” Ward said.

But Augenstein pushed back, saying that even if RIGA does start using Triggs, there’s a “huge difference” in how much a public course that relies on a daily fee (Triggs charges $70 with a cart for 18 holes on weekends) -end) may spend on upgrades compared to a private club which may charge expensive membership fees. RIGA could have the same challenges, Ward acknowledged, but he said investors would not pocket Triggs’ profits like the current regime.

Augenstein said he was disappointed with RIGA’s attempt to take control of Triggs because “we have always been a great benefactor to them”. He argues that RIGA is qualified to run tournaments, but has no proven track record of running a course itself.

FCG’s proposal is to pay the city just under $3 million over the next 10 years and then make about $3 million in improvements, including parking.

“It’s become a legacy for me, personally,” Augenstein said. “It’s special on every level.”

There is a logical solution to this dispute, although personalities tend to get in the way of logic.

If Augenstein and Ward could come together and form a partnership, Triggs could become one of the great public courses in America. The United States Golf Association would likely show some interest and potentially make an investment that would make the place more attractive to young people in town. Imagine if Tiger Woods was ready to make a stop in Providence.

Of course, such a partnership would require both parties to put their egos and potential profits aside.

“It’s not likely,” Augenstein told me when I asked if the two sides could come together.

What shall we do now?

A deal must be approved by the city’s Board of Park Commissioners and the Board of Contracts and Procurement, two committees that no one pays attention to until some type of controversial contract is awarded. Mayor Jorge Elorza and Council President John Igliozzi serve on both councils.

It’s hard to handicap that result at this stage, but the new contract is expected to start in January. This could be the last big decision made by Elorza and Igliozzi.

Triggs will be 100 when the new 10-year contract ends, and both bidders have a big vision for what that celebration will look like.

Maybe they can settle this in match play at a neutral venue, like Cranston Country Club.

Dan McGowan can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.

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