Patrick Ford’s admirable and absurd quest to save Bloody Point Golf Course was documented by ESPN’s Outside the Lines two years ago.
The financial meltdowns, the voodoo curses, the never-ending fight against nature — all the gritty details of his struggle were laid out in a stunning 8,000-word account titled “Staying the Course.”
Author Wright Thompson introduced Ford as a lovable, hard-working golf professional holding on against all odds at doomed Daufuskie Island Resort & Breathe Spa.
The resort went bankrupt. The loan to continue operations until a new buyer stepped in ran out. Salaries were cut. The power was turned off. The phone stopped working. Leased equipment started breaking down. There was no money to buy pesticide or fertilizer for the fading course.
For 12 months, Ford held out hope as potential buyers surfaced and faded away. His final hope was the Oct. 21, 2010, auction of Daufuskie Island Resort. In front of a jam-packed ballroom at the Hilton Head Marriott, the auctioneer announced there were no bidders.
Ford finally buckled.
“We finally just said, ‘What are we doing?’” Ford said. “It was two years of the bankruptcy, I had shoulder surgery and I wasn’t getting paid. There is a line when it’s not worth it.”
Ford and his wife, Tai, packed up and moved to the Sunshine State, accepting jobs at Burnt Pine Golf Club in Destin. Two days after the ESPN article was published, Ford’s cell phone rang.
The call was from Brian McCarthy, a longtime Daufuskie Island property owner and CEO of McCarthy Group Florists. He had just won the golf course, pool, clubhouse, spa and tennis courts at a Charleston courtroom auction with a lowball bid of $1.64 million.
“He said, ‘I just bought Bloody Point Golf Club. What is it going to take to get you back?’” Ford remembered. “I was like, ‘Oh boy.’”
He wanted to be more than the “glorified T-shirt folder” he was in Florida. McCarthy was offering more – a chance to help redesign the neglected course. After Ford and his wife weighed their options, they decided to return.
“I would not recommend moving to and from a bridgeless island twice in six months,” Ford joked.
Ford returned to an unkempt course that he said was overrun with eight-foot weeds and coyotes. After two months on the brush hog, he helped redesign the course with Bob Spence of Love Golf Design.
“Bob and I would get up on the first tee box and would discuss what stays and what goes,” Ford said. “We did that from 1 through 18. We got rid of at least 30 percent of the bunkering out there. We reshaped the greens a little bit and moved some tees.”
Many other improvements were made, both on and off the course.
A ferry embarkation was built between 17 and 18, opening the door for Bloody Point to start its own ferry service. The spa building is being transformed into a seven-bedroom cottage for stay-and-plays. Eagle’s Nest restaurant, two tennis courts, an ocean-front lot with a pool and plans for a tiki bar will compliment the 9,000-square-foot clubhouse.
McCarthy’s son, Kevin, is Bloody Point’s owner and COO. He knows the island well, having married his wife Julianna (VP of sales and marketing) on Daufuskie. Dan Hendry is the superintendent, Michael DeMarco is the chef, Rod “Rocket” Rossman is the bar manager and Ford’s wife, Tai, is the member and resort services manager.
As for Ford, his official title is general manager.
“I’m head professional, director of golf, general manager, maybe waste management and pool cleaning,” he joked. “Everything that we can do to cut cost and generate a little bit of revenue, we have to do to keep what happened from happening again.”
While the course is not back to 100 percent, it is open to local play. Green fees range from $79 to $95, not including marine transportation. The grand opening welcoming the general public is scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend.
And yes, it will continue to be called Bloody Point. The club has been getting recommendations to change its handle since being listed among the country’s 10 worst club names back in the '90s. To management, honoring the island’s history is more important than any silly top 10 list.
In 1715, the southernmost point was the site of a violent battle between Yemassee Indians and settlers. The point was said to be left covered in blood and the local tribes eventually lost their land.
Daufuskie’s plantation era followed the Revolutionary War with 12 farming plantations producing Sea Island cotton. After the Civil War and the eradication of slavery, oystering became the main industry until pollution from the Savannah River closed the oyster beds in 1951.
Electricity came in 1953 followed by telephones in 1972. In the 1980s, land was purchased to develop residential oceanfront communities. The golf course at Bloody Point was originally designed in 1991 by Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish with grand ambition. After a challenging 22 years, Ford feels it can now be a beacon of light for the entire island.
“Everyone thinks Daufuskie is a little defunct, and it is,” Ford said. “This is our chance to make one little portion of it successful. Hopefully it works and the success will transcend throughout the island.”