Monday, July 14, 2003
From Dreams to Reality
As noted in this story in the Lakeland Ledger, Grenelefe golf resort and community near Haines City, Florida, was the dream of one George Phelps.
George Phelps was one of my father's closest friends, and my dad was the original bankroll behind the Grenelefe project, then called Arrowhead Lakes and Country Club. What is now Grenelefe was, like most of Florida back then, a mess of saw palmetto and oak scrub. The first time I saw it, we stayed there, in a house trailer that was headquarters for the dream -- it would've been premature to call it a project at that time. (We had gotten thrown out of our motel here in Daytona Beach, but that's another story. The skinny: What kind of moron motel owner would put a family with three boys in a unit over the owner's apartment, then call up to say the boys were making too much noise on the 4th of July?)
I got to see that space evolve from a nasty piece of land into a model with lots of green sponge and Monopoly-sized houses into a Robert Trent Jones golf course, some of the first time-share condos in the state of Florida, a beautiful club house and pool, and some really nice, understated homes (one of which we were lucky enough to live in for a while). I guess it's been rough for the resort recently, but maybe this new owner will give it back some shine. (Hint: Start by buying http://www.grenelefe.com/.) It'll always be tough for them out there in the boonies with Disney/Universal etc. dominating the pure vacation crowd and with so many other golf/sports resorts available closer to the biggies in Orlando and Tampa.
What really matters to me was learning that one or two or five people could have a vision for something -- in this case some scrubby land becoming a great golf course and resort -- and actually make that happen. It was far from painless -- my dad may have been the only one to come out with his pocketbook intact -- but I learned something about what people could make happen if they'd only have a dream.
Both my dad and George Phelps died before it really took off during the late 70s and early 80s. And it really was George Phelp's dream which he pushed and shoved at up until he died. It's a shame neither of them saw it in its early moments of success.