The Village People The World Golf Village has been slow to get off the ground but quick to get on the natives' nerves

July 16, 2001
July 16, 2001

Table of Contents
July 16, 2001

The Village People The World Golf Village has been slow to get off the ground but quick to get on the natives' nerves

No curtain. The stage is mostly bare. There is a stand of tall
pines stage left, the frame of a house under construction stage
right. The STAGE MANAGER enters. He has a New England accent and
wears an old-style golf shirt, with a hard collar. The time is

STAGE MANAGER: Welcome to the World Golf Village, St. Johns
County, Florida. Our village is located 10 miles north of St.
Augustine and 42 miles south of the Jacksonville Airport,
terminal to main entrance, a clear shot straight down I-95.
Someday, they say, 18,000 people will live here, on 6,300 acres.
There'll be three or four golf courses, a pharmacy, a dry
cleaner--every kind of amenity. That's all in the future. So far,
it's only the pioneers, the Phase Oners. There are a Publix
supermarket, two courses, the World Golf Hall of Fame and a whole
mess of plans. Don't have an exact population count for you, but
254 houses are completed, and, if the houses average three
occupants, that's 762 people, not counting the Murray boys. Bill
and his five brothers have opened up a Murray Bros. Caddy Shack
restaurant here. They say 50,000 cars pass the Village, on
average, every day on I-95. That's what they say.

This is an article from the July 16, 2001 issue Original Layout

A sixtyish man named Red Haire drives a truck west on
International Golf Parkway. The World Golf Village is on his
right; the cattle ranches he has worked all his life are on his
left. He turns his head to face the bulls and to avoid looking at
the development. He fiddles with the truck radio.

RED HAIRE: It'll always be Nine Mile Road to me.

STAGE MANAGER: There goes Red, Red Haire, who's lived around
here for 47 years. He doesn't have much use for the Village,
Red. Still calls it by its old name, Gibbs Hammock. Taught his
son Johnny to hunt and fish on this land. How to kill a wild
boar. Now he buys his pork chops at the Publix. He could buy
golf balls there too, aisle 6, but he's got no use for golf. His
son, neither.

Four o'clock. The girls are startin' their after-school shifts
at the supermarket. Tiffany Steinbach, she's a sophomore at
Bartram Trail High. That's her on register 2. Good money. Six,
seven dollars an hour. Tiffany's stepfather is Johnny Haire,
Red's boy. She lives out in the country in a double-wide, with
Johnny, her mom, Gretchen Haire, little sister, Elizabeth, and
Red. Cassie Webster, she's a freshman at B.T. She's bagging on
the express line. Cassie's one of the few kids attending Bartram
who lives in the World Golf Village, in a three-bedroom with her
brother and her mom, Jamie Fitzgerald. Jamie's divorce got final
just today. She's not proud of that, not proud that her marriage
didn't work out, but it's the truth nonetheless. Every life has
its dramas.

TIFFANY: You going to the prom?

CASSIE: No. You?

TIFFANY: No. A beat. Why don't you ask--

CASSIE: Are you kidding? He is such a loser.

STAGE MANAGER: Thank you girls, thank you. Poor Cassie. She says
it's dull for her, living in the World Golf Village....


STAGE MANAGER: That's her mom over there, talking on the phone.
She's a nurse, works the night shift. Let's give a little listen.

CASSIE'S MOM: She walks through her house, phone in hand....Oh,
no, I wouldn't move. First of all, I love the house. I feel very
safe here; it's very beautiful, the people are kind. Anyway, I
couldn't get what I paid for my house. I spent $250,000 for it.
Why would anybody pay me $250,000 for my house when they could
buy the same house, but brand new, for the same money. Buying
this house was probably the biggest financial mistake of....

STAGE MANAGER: You get the idea. Thank you for your candor, Ms.
Fitzgerald, thanks very much indeed. In the interest of balance,
let me introduce you to Mr. Jim Davidson, a developer of the
World Golf Village, one of its founders, matter of fact.

JIM DAVIDSON: He walks through his office, phone in hand....nine
years of work before we even broke ground, and now it's bigger
and better, literally, than we ever could have imagined it. Our
signage, our entrance treatments, our lighting, our
eight-foot-wide sidewalks, they're being copied all over North
America. At eight feet, you can bike on 'em, you can walk on 'em
as a family, you....

STAGE MANAGER: Thank you, Jim. We'll get back to you if we need
you. Seven o'clock. Look at the dusk light. I ask you, Ever seen
a more beautiful sky? Johnny Haire should be getting home about
now. Took a slide from work--he's in pest control, a route
supervisor--and caught himself a freezerful of sand trout and
croaker today.

JOHNNY HAIRE: Got me a red bass, too.


JOHNNY HAIRE: Look at her, Pop! Twenty-seven inches.

RED HAIRE: He's rearranging the contents of the freezer. She's a

STAGE MANAGER: Let me see if I can get Johnny's attention.
Johnny, Johnny?

JOHNNY HAIRE: He looks lost. Yes, sir?

STAGE MANAGER: Tell me, if you would, for the benefit of our
friends here, about hunting and fishing in the World Golf

JOHNNY HAIRE: You mean Gibbs Hammock.

STAGE MANAGER: Excuse me, sir.

JOHNNY HAIRE: Well, I shot me my first deer when I was 13 over
there. It was a whitetail, an eight-pointer. It swam across Camp
Lake, and when it came out it shook the water off, and I killed
it clean. That lake's been partly filled in. It's just a bitty
thing now, right in front of the golf museum, and they got a
putting green right in the middle of it. But only four, five
years ago, it was loaded with bream and bass. Back then, the land
was owned by the Cummer Land Trust, and for $700 a year you could
fish it and hunt it all you wanted. I've done that pretty much
all my 38 years. Before Cummer got the land it was the H.E. Wolfe
Ranch. The Wolfes raised cattle for slaughter. They were rich,
and they used Gibbs Hammock for pheasant and quail hunting. My
grandfather worked for them.

Hunting's been a way of life for us. We'd hunt possum, sell 'em
to the black folks. You'd hear the rattlesnakes moving through
the grass, like beans in a paper bag. Snakes probably took eight
or nine of my dogs. We didn't hunt the gators. You can have them.
We hunted the deer, 'course, and the wild boar. You needed the
dogs for that. See, the wild boar, if it's not castrated, has a
strong taste, very, very strong. So you go out in the spring with
your bulldogs, pit bulls. The dogs hunt down the boar. Then you
hog-tie the boar, castrate it with your knife, split the ear to
mark the animal and let it go. Come back six months later with
your shotgun, kill the boar, slaughter it in the field and bring
home the meat. See the castrated boar's got a nice taste, a
mellow taste to it.

RED HAIRE: I like the pork chops at the Publix better....

STAGE MANAGER: Thank you, Johnny. Very educational.

RED HAIRE:...lot easier.

STAGE MANAGER: Thank you both. A long beat. A rooster crows. If
Johnny had his way, he'd get rid of the roosters, the chickens,
the hens he keeps out there by the double-wide. Just one more
thing to clean up after. But Red likes 'em, so they're here for
the duration, if y'know what I mean.

Morning starts early at the World Golf Village. By the time the
sun rises over I-95, the help working the breakfast shift at the
hotel has long since arrived. Steve LaFrance, one of the course
superintendents, he's here with the first light too. This being a
golfing community--though the Webster kids don't play, neither
does their mom--a report from him would be in order.

STEVE LAFRANCE: We got my course, the Slammer & the Squire,
closed today, for aerification. The King & the Bear is open.
That's the one Palmer and Nicklaus did together. I caddied for
Nicklaus when they opened it. What a thrill.

I try to maintain a uniform course. We keep the fairways at a
half inch. Tees at three eighths. Rough one and a quarter. Greens
are one eighth, run about nine on the stimpmeter. Everything is
Tifway bermuda, overseeded with rye. Probably use 44,000 pounds
of grass seed in a year, 30 tons of fertilizer. We've got a
permit from the St. Johns River Water Authority to use 116
million gallons a year. We had 38,000 rounds last year. I use
number 30 sunblock, when I remember to put it on. Always wear a
cap and sunglasses. We get a hot summer.

STAGE MANAGER: Over here, the Johnsons are inspecting their new
apartment, at Glenmoor. That's our assisted living area, for the
elderly. Mr. Johnson, Charles, he's 81, a retired Navy man, full
commander, fit man, can still break his age on the course from
time to time. His missus, Sue, she plays the piano, and she's
trying to figure out how to get her baby grand in the new

MRS. JOHNSON: I don't play golf, but I play at it.

MR. JOHNSON: At least I can do one thing Tiger Woods can't: break
my age. I play three, four times a week, with my friends. I like
the course I play in Ponte Vedra, but these are good courses

MRS. JOHNSON: We've been married for 55 years, and we've moved 16

MR. JOHNSON: Our joke was, Instead of cleaning house, let's move.

MRS. JOHNSON: You just keep scaling down, leaving your friends.
This is probably our final move. A beat. She smiles, cryptically.
It's depressing to think about.

STAGE MANAGER: There's Karen Bednarski, in the golf museum. She
was the museum's original curator. Came here from the USGA. Now
she's a consultant.

KAREN BEDNARSKI: She is holding a gold medal, given to Roberto De
Vicenzo upon winning the 1967 British Open. Through the windows
you can see tourists trying to hit balls onto the island green--$5
for two chances--in the middle of what was once Camp Lake. She
speaks to a visitor. I wanted a British Open medal for the
longest time, but people don't want to give them up. I'd been
after Roberto for years, but he just wasn't ready. Then he came
here for the 2000 induction ceremonies. He called me aside and
said, 'I have something for you,' and he handed it to me, in its
original case. I showed it to my boss and locked it in my desk. I
was so thrilled.

STAGE MANAGER: Karen came in at the beginning, in 1996, when that
pond with the green was a lake, practically, deer still climbing
out of it. In the early years of the Village, everybody had a
little fiefdom. Mr. Davidson was trying to sell houses, somebody
else was trying to sell hotel rooms, somebody else was trying to
sell museum tickets. No cohesion. Now there's a new guy in, Bruce
H. Lucker. He's the chief operating officer for the World Golf
Hall of Fame. He grew up in Queens, a total New Yorker. He was
part of the team that came up with that I Love New York campaign.
Can't break a hundred. But he has a vision for the World Golf

BRUCE H. LUCKER: There was too much a sense of self-containment
in the Village, outside it too. I want to tear down the walls
around the World Golf Village.

STAGE MANAGER: I had the idea that Mr. Bruce H. Lucker and Johnny
Haire ought to get together.

Bruce and Johnny head out of the World Golf Village, in Bruce's
company car, a Buick Park Avenue Ultra. They go west on
International Golf Parkway, the old Nine Mile Road.

BRUCE H. LUCKER: Nights were chaos in New York when I was growing
up. The garbage trucks. Kids making noise....

JOHNNY HAIRE: We would pray for cars to come by just so that we
could say, "Hey."

They arrive at a restaurant called the Outback Crabshack, a few
miles from Johnny's house, on Six Mile Creek. Johnny's been going
there all his life, but the secret's been out for years now.
These days you can buy T-shirts there. Over lunch Johnny tells
Bruce about the time a deer he had shot, on property abutting the
World Golf Village, sought shelter in a Village golf maintenance
shed. Bruce tells of the decision not to license the I Love New
York phrase, to encourage its worldwide use.

BRUCE H. LUCKER: Between bites of a fried oyster. That's
interesting, what you say about paying a fee to hunt the land. It
reminds me that this land was always cordoned off, that you had
to pay to get access to it.

JOHNNY HAIRE: Between bites of grilled corn on the cob. I guess
the only thing that's changed is the sport, from shooting birds
to hunting boar to golfing today.

BRUCE H. LUCKER: Johnny, will you take me fishing some time?

JOHNNY HAIRE: You just tell me when's good for you.

STAGE MANAGER: Thank you men, thank you both. A long beat. Seven
o'clock. 'Nother day at the World Golf Village is coming to a
close. Cassie's at home with her mother and brother. They're
watching TV together. Johnny's at his house, so are Tiffany and
Red. The Johnsons are doing some unpacking. Steve LaFrance has
made it home, only a little while ago. Karen's home. Most
everybody's home. Jim Davidson is in his office, looking at
development maps the size of tablecloths. Golf courses are empty.

A few people are buying some last-minute things for dinner over
at the Publix. Look at 'em. Let's watch this lady, see what she
does. She's got three bags of groceries and a sleeping baby. She
opens her trunk, it pops up, and her eyes go right with it. Now
she can't help but take in the sky. What a sky, all that purple
and pink and blue, the museum tower sticking straight up into it.

Nice town, y'know what I mean?

COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY BILL FRAKES Worldly The towering Golf Hall of Fame stands beside the remnant of the pond where locals once hunted.COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPHS BY BILL FRAKES Life goes on Johnny Haire, with his daughter Elizabeth and his father, Red, still hunts, but no longer in his childhood haunts.TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY BILL FRAKES Swinging Students at Bartram Trail High got decked out for the prom, and the Publix shelves are bedecked with the golfer in mind.TWO COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY BILL FRAKES Home alone LaFrance lights up before starting his day, while the nomadic Johnsons hope the move to the Village will be their last.
"The only thing that's changed is the sport, from shooting
birds to hunting boar to golfing," says Johnny.
Cassie, one of the few kids at Bartram Trail High who resides
in the Village, says life there is "BOR-RING!"
Ever the entrepreneur, Lucker says, "I want to tear down the
walls around the World Golf Village."