The names Donald Ross and Brad Faxon are on the short list of most influential figures in Rhode Island golf history. Ross designed or remodeled some of the Ocean State’s most iconic courses: Newport Country Club, Rhode Island Country Club, Wannamoisett Country Club. Faxon is one of the state’s best players, twice a Rhode Island Amateur champion who won eight times on the PGA Tour.
Now, in perhaps an unexpected way, their paths have become intertwined.
Last month, a group led by Faxon purchased Metacomet Country Club, a private club that dates to 1901 and whose 18-hole course in East Providence was redesigned by Ross from 1924-26. The sale price was $2.2 million, and it has made Faxon, at 57, a first-time golf course owner.
Why now, and why Metacomet?
“It’s a culmination of a bunch of things,” Faxon said. “Sentimentally, it was a place that meant a lot to me growing up. My dad (Brad Faxon Sr.) was a member, still is a member. He was a club champion, I was a club champion. My wife’s parents are members. There was so much about it that we loved.
“A lot of clubs in the state were having more and more difficulty financially keeping members, and Metacomet sadly was in that group. We just were like, ‘Holy smokes, we’ve got to fix this.’ ”
The wheels began spinning last summer, when Faxon was visiting with Bob Ward, the executive director of the Rhode Island Golf Association. “Hey, Metacomet is in trouble,” Ward told Faxon. He also mentioned that John Davis, a well-known and well-heeled local golf supporter, wanted to get involved and save Metacomet.
After discussing the club’s precarious situation with Davis, Faxon joined a group of four Rhode Island businessmen – Steve Napoli, Brendan VanDeventer, Karl Augenstein and Tim Fay – and convinced the previously member-owned club to sell.
“I was lucky enough to find some guys that are much smarter than me who knew how to put deals together,” Faxon said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, and we’re very motivated.”
Part of that motivation stems from the most recent state rankings by Golf Digest. Metacomet, always included among Rhode Island’s top 10 courses, has fallen off the list.
“It’s always been a top-three or -four course, along with Wannamoisett, Newport, Shelter Harbor. Our goal is to immediately get it back into the top 10, and try to get it back in the top five,” Faxon said. “People join Metacomet for the golf course, so we’ve got to make the golf course great again.”
The new ownership group already has walked the course with Jim Wagner, who works closely on golf course designs with Gil Hanse. Some of the work has started; trees are being removed and drainage issues in low-lying areas are being addressed. Renovations to the clubhouse also have begun.
The new owners also would like to find space so the course can be lengthened; from the tips, Metacomet plays to a 6,464 scorecard yardage and a par of 70. The course record of 61 was shot on May 24, 1985, by former head professional Joe Benevento.
Faxon also said that new positions have been created in an attempt to boost Metacomet’s membership. When the closing papers were signed, Faxon said the club had 165 members. He’d like that number to be in the mid-200s.
Ray Corcoran will be the club’s new general manager, with Laura Manning the new director of membership sales. Steve Thys has been hired as the director of agronomy, joining superintendent Dan Golding. Head golf professional CJ Talbert is starting his 14th year at Metacomet.
“I’ve learned that it’s hard to make money in golf, especially these days,” Faxon said. “It costs a lot of money to turn the lights on; it’s a big piece of property that you have to take care of; every day you’re putting a dozen guys on the golf course to cut, fertilize, all the things you’ve got to do. It’s a lot. We think these people will help us with that.”
To solidify Metacomet’s future, Faxon and the new ownership team are also looking at its past. One of the first adjustments they’re making is a name change, back to the original Metacomet Golf Club. A new logo has also been developed.
Other changes might also be coming. Even though Faxon insisted the club will remain private, the new owners are exploring allowing some unaccompanied guest fee play at a premium, and might work in collaboration with some hotels in the city to advertise that access is available.
Primarily, the focus is on returning a club with a reputation for having the best greens and many of the best players in Rhode Island back to full strength. Toward that end, one of the state’s favorite sons is holding the keys.
“I’m not going to run the day-to-day operations. Hopefully I’ll be there in the summer when I’m up there,” said Faxon, who now lives primarily in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. “We’re trying to make this a club where you want to bring your wife, you want to bring your kids. That would be ideal.”
Brad Faxon is part of a group that has purchased the iconic Rhode Island course, Metacomet. Photo: John Mummert. Copyright USGA
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