The truth about the golf club agreement

Published 10:56 am Wednesday, December 19, 2018

by Barry Porter

I wish I did not have to write this article, but the mis-information, mis-characterizations and downright untruths being spread about the agreement have necessitated that I do so. I am certain that some of the opponents will challenge and misuse the information below. I only ask that you check out the facts and be aware of opinions and misstatements masquerading as facts.

The first issue that I will address is that the payment to Cypress Cove is not a donation or a gift. The County negotiated a renewal of a Recreational Services Agreement with Cypress Cove to provide the following services:

1. Recreational Golf Services to the golf teams of Southampton High School and Southampton Academy at no cost to the schools.

2. Recreational Golf Services to any golf classes conducted by Paul D. Camp Community College and any golf team sanctioned or promoted by PDCCC at no cost to PDCCC.

3. Recreational Golf Services to the First Tee or any other club or approved youth group who serve Southampton County.

4. Access to the golf course for Southampton County Residents at a discounted fee. The fees (including green and cart fees) charged are $27.50 per 18-hole round on weekdays and $32.50 per round on weekends. Additionally, County students and County youth may play for $10 per round (which does not include the use of a cart.)

The services provided to the schools include practice balls, use of the golf course for practice and priority use of the golf course for their matches.  Last year the value of these services exceeded $14,000. In the past, the golf course has provided these services for a nominal cost, but it can no longer afford to do so. In the absence of this agreement, it would have to substantially increase the fees it charges to the schools.

Several people have suggested just eliminating the golf teams because so few students participate. I believe that this proposition is grossly unfair to the kids who do choose to play golf. Not every student is big enough, strong enough or fast enough to play football, basketball, volleyball or any of the traditional high school sports. Some of them (including some of the kids who do play football, baseball, etc.,) discover golf and excel at it.  There have been at least five students I know of who have earned college scholarships because of golf.  Contrary to what the opponents would have you believe, most of the kids who play golf are not rich kids, and these scholarships are very important in making college more affordable for them.

Other critics suggest that the parents should pay all these costs as they do in all the other sports. All I can say to that is that I do not know of any parents paying fees to provide a football field, a baseball field or a gym for indoor sports. This agreement provides the equivalent of a football field for the students (both male and female) who chose to play golf. The cost of equipment, shoes, etc. is still the responsibility of the participant (or parent.)

Additionally, unlike most high school sports which offer only limited participation opportunities after graduation, golf is a sport that can be played for much of one’s life. I played football, basketball, baseball and ran track at Southampton and enjoyed every minute of it. Lack of opportunities as well as injury concerns after graduation forced me to retire from these sports. I was lucky enough to be introduced to golf while in my 20s. Before I started playing it, I thought it was a silly little wimp’s game. I soon found it to be a very challenging, extremely frustrating (at times) and quite athletic sport.  It quickly filled the void I had from having to give up my high school sports. 

Most people, like me, only discover golf in adulthood. Many County residents do play golf and others may be inclined to try it if an affordable opportunity is available. This agreement provides that opportunity. Cypress Cove is a private course and was closed to the general public until the original agreement with the County in November 2017. This year, County residents played about a thousand 18 hole rounds of golf under the agreement. The renewal of that agreement with a reduction in cost (from $30,000 to 25,000) to the County continues to make the golf course available to County residents at a discounted fee. I encourage County golfers to continue to use the course and suggest to anyone who may have an inkling to try it to do so. You may discover that you like it.

I constantly hear is that Cypress Cove is a private organization and the County should not give money or support a private organization. To the contrary, the County does it all the time. Every business and most, if not all the charities and community groups the County deals with, are private organizations. Southampton County Historical Society, the Blackwater Regional Library, the Community Concert Association, the Rawls Museum, the Western Tidewater Free Clinic and others are all private organizations. Yet, the County gives money to these “private organizations” money every year without any strings or requirements for any services. 

Most agree (including some of the opponents of this agreement) Cypress Cove is a valuable community asset from a recreational and economic development perspective. Would it survive without our agreement? I do not know the definitive answer to that question. I do know that it would probably be more of a struggle and that our agreement last year did help them in a challenging time. I do know that If the golf course were to fail, the consequences would be extremely harmful to Southampton.

In the 2017 tax year, Cypress Cove paid $22,000 in Real Estate, Personal Property, Sales, and Meal taxes to Southampton. Not only would the County lose those revenues, it would see a substantial reduction in property values in all properties surrounding and near the golf course. Conservatively, the County would lose at least another $25,000 in tax revenue. Yet, this result may not be the worst impact to the County.

In 2018, the Social Services Child Abuse initiative, The Chamber of Commerce, Bronco Credit Union, Southampton Academy and Paul D. Camp Community College held Fundraiser Tournaments at Cypress Cove. These five tournaments raised over $73,000, all of which has been or will be used for worthy causes in our community. Other smaller tournaments were held, but these were the big five.

A recent letter to the editor in The Tidewater News incorrectly quoted me as saying that Cypress Cove made a lot of money on these tournaments. That statement could not be farther from the truth. What I said was that the above organizations made a lot of money from these tournaments and that the money would be used in our community for worthwhile causes. After expenses and lost revenue from closing the course, I would be surprised if the course does any more than break even on these events.

I and three other supervisors voted to approve the renewal of the agreement with Cypress Cove Golf Course because we believe the services it assures for Southampton residents are important and the $25,000 fee for doing so is an extremely reasonable cost. We understand the importance of the golf course to our community and think that supporting it is in the best interest of the County, just as we think that supporting many other local businesses is also in the best interest of the County.

Another recent letter in this paper stated that “at least two of the county supervisors are either members of the country club or members of one of their boards,” implying some improper actions. I have made it clear from the beginning that I am a member of Cypress Cove.

I continue to pay my dues even though my health issues have precluded me from using the facilities for the last three years. I do so, not because I enjoy wasting money, but because I strongly believe in supporting an asset that is vital to health of Southampton County.    

Other than myself, I do not know of any other members of Cypress Cove on the Board of Supervisors.  I do know that not any of the other three supervisors who voted for the agreement are members and that I am not on any of “their boards.” As for my participation in the discussion and vote, I did seek and received legal advice from the County attorney with respect to any conflict of interest on this issue.  This advice stated that I did not have a conflict of interest because I did not receive any benefit from the agreement which was greater than that of any other resident of the County. Had the advice been different, I would have recused myself from the process.

Anyone has the right to disagree with any decision of the Board of Supervisors and to express that disagreement. However, no one has the right to make up their own “facts” and spread mis-truths about it.

BARRY PORTER is the Southampton County supervisor for the Franklin District. Contact him at either 562-9862 or