I pulled over and got tears in my eyes as I reminisced about the many special times I had spent there. It really struck me how much this old place has meant to the community over it's fifty year lifetime.
I can remember many warm Summer nights sitting on lawn chairs on the driving range listening to Jazz On The Green. It was a family affair, and the music wafted through the whole neighborhood, and much of the revenue would be donated to local service organizations. I remember many Christmas parties, and more than a few barbecues around the pool.
If you wanted to have your wedding there, you had to make reservations a year in advance!
I used to meet a friend late at night and sneak into the hot water outdoor therapy pool in the winter. We had many very deep political discussions, mostly about the Chargers last game. And inevitably, we would be joined by other members who also shamelessly broke the rules.
My wife and I have made many friends from our association with the Club over the years. She knew everybody, and everybody knew her because she worked as a special events server there in the early nineties. Friday nights were busy with locals having dinner and dancing to live music. She had so much fun, she would have worked there for free.
As maudlin as this may sound, I think the demise of the course has depressed the neighborhood in many ways beyond the obvious drop in home values. I think the perfect storm of the reoccurring California droughts, the recession in the late nineties, the decline in military spending since the turn of the century, and the complete collapse of the economy in 2007 has been equally responsible for the slow and steady decline in reinvestment, membership growth and profitability of the Club.
Some neighbors have simply given up hope that we would ever get our little piece of Paradise back. They have been tortured by reports of the death of golf, the inevitability of the march of progress, and the attitude that old people should just step aside and get out of the way.
Country clubs must deal with attrition: members age and stop playing. The key is to attract new members at an equal rate. That stopped when the middle class began to shrink and the San Diego building boom began to slow.
In addition, ownership changed at a critical time. The new owners in 2005 had no clue of how to promote the business, how to manage tight maintenance budgets, how to provide superior service. Besides, they were deeply leveraged in other properties and their allegiance was to save them.
So they drained every cent out of the Club that they could.
So I looked threw wet eyes at the stark reality of an old friend near death. I looked around and saw the way the entire neighborhood was built to feature this aging asset. Every property was positioned in a way to benefit from the architectural centerpiece of the golf club facilities.
Escondido Country Club was home to many of us. It was a sibling in our family. There is no way anything will ever take its place without looking and feeling like an artificial appendage.
I said to myself, "we have to find a way to re-energize this place! The only way we will ever recover the lost home values, the resort-like ambience of the community is to remodel what we have! Not reinvent it, enhance it!"
In my mind, the truth is this club could still be saved. Just like Harley Davidson reemerged from bankruptcy a much stronger company. They did that by recognizing the core strengths of the brand. Vesting the employees in ownership, and featuring the powerful allure of the product.
There is just too much history, too much value, too much essential community appeal and need to carelessly toss this community asset overboard.
I went to the party with a reinforced attitude that this is worth fighting for!
We have to win this election! We will win this election! We will rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of this War.
And then, around 9PM the word came down...WE WON!