It was 9 a.m. Monday when golf course owner and sports bettor Bill Walters called. I knew the week was getting off to an interesting start when his name appeared on my phone. Walters was calling to discuss the impending sale of Royal Links Golf Club and other items.
Walters said the golf business hasn’t been kind to him lately. Despite public opinion and media reports he never agreed with about receiving sweetheart deals from local government two decades ago to build Desert Pines and Royal Links, Walters said he lost millions over the life of the projects.
He also said he lost money when he recently sold water rights to Discovery Land Company. He had purchased the rights from Las Vegas Country Club in 2009 when he had a hunch that water rights would be a good investment.
Walters sold Desert Pines in 2014, and the deal to sell Royal Links closes Thursday. The only Las Vegas golf course now remaining in Walters’ portfolio is Bali Hai Golf Club, and he said it’s for sale or could be redeveloped.
Walters is selling Royal Links to Shelby Futch and his Scottsdale Golf group for an undisclosed amount, but he said a different buyer would have paid an additional $600,000. He said he rejected it because the buyer wouldn’t guarantee that most of the workers would keep their jobs. Futch is a founder of the John Jacobs Golf Schools and was inducted into the Arizona Golf Hall of Fame in 2013.
“We are paring back our golf investments in Las Vegas because the golf business isn’t what it used to be,” Walters said. “There is too much supply and too little demand, and our operating expenses are going up double digits. That isn’t a good combination in any business. I’ve made a lot of money and lost a lot of money in deals over the years, but those are the facts about the so called ‘preferential treatment’ I got on these course deals.
“Businesswise, these are the worst decisions I’ve ever made in my life, but at the time, they looked good. I knew the risk going in, and that’s all part of it.”
Walters is under investigation for insider stock trading, but said he couldn’t discuss the case.
SHRINERS TIP OF THE DAY
Walking the entire course is an enjoyable way to watch the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open at TPC Summerlin. Fans can get close to players and observe as they maneuver around the course. Walking also allows fans to stop at various hospitality areas.
INSPIRING THE PROS
One of the most emotional moments of tournament week is the annual Shriners Hospitals Experience attended by PGA Tour players and hosted by Shriners patient ambassadors. On Wednesday evening, ambassadors Marius Woodward and Karolina Nogue led players through stations designed to help them learn more about the day in the life of a child at Shriners Hospitals.
Scheduled to participate were defending champion Smylie Kaufman, former UNLV player Charley Hoffman, 2010 Shriners champ Jonathan Byrd, 2003 Shriners champ Stuart Appleby and William McGirt.
BEST COMEBACK OF THE YEAR
Kaufman shot 10-under 61 in the final round last year to win the Shriners Open. It was his first PGA Tour win and was the largest come-from-behind victory of the 2015-16 season. Kaufman finished more than two hours before the leaders, but his score held up and he overcame a seven-stroke deficit.
STARS ON, OFF COURSE
Nine former major champions are playing this week: Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Keegan Bradley, Stewart Cink, Lucas Glover, Davis Love III, Graeme McDowell, Webb Simpson and Jimmy Walker.
The golf notebook appears Thursdays. Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt is a two-time author who has covered golf in Las Vegas for more than two decades. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or @LVGolfInsider.