When Stacy Francis was a young kid growing up on Hahnville’s Courthouse Lane he was not allowed to play at nearby Fashion Golf & Country Club because of the color of his skin. Instead, he shagged balls for golfers to earn extra pocket change.
Now, the 50-year-old has set his sights on turning around the only nine-hole course in St. Charles Parish.
“As with everything, times changed and who would believe that eventually I would be in charge of managing it?” Francis said.
Though the Sanders family owns the land where Fashion Golf has resided since 1961, Francis leases the land and owns the assets of the club. Even before he officially took over management of Fashion less than two weeks ago, Francis had already made significant improvements to the course and property.
He paid out of his own pocket to purchase fill for the parking lot because of the numerous pot holes that littered the area. Dead trees have been knocked down on the course itself and Francis cleaned off heavy brush and rubbish behind the tee box.
“All along the back of the course we also knocked down brush to get to the back of the property line,” he said.
Francis’ proudest accomplishment so far is the work he has done on the driving range.
“We had some debris, containers and even leftover debris from Katrina like downed trees and junk golf carts,” he said. “I slowly took back that driving range a little bit at a time. I want it to be a full-service range.”
Francis said he also wants the course cut at fairway height throughout the entire property because he says that when golfers hit a ball off the tee, they should be able to see where it lands.
Of course, he has spent a lot of time rehabbing the course’s greens.
“If you’ve got good greens, people are going to come,” he said.
One thing Francis doesn’t have to worry about is installing a drainage system.
“This course is one of the best draining courses I have ever played anywhere,” he said. “After a monsoon with two feet of water on this course, the next day you can probably play 90 degrees on this course.
“The slope from the front to the back is between five to seven feet from what I’ve been told.”
But Francis’ main goal is giving young players around the area an outlet to play golf. He didn’t have a chance to do that when he was younger, and has actually only been playing golf for 11 years. However, he took to it quickly.
“My goal was always to be a good golfer,” he said. “I kind of accomplished that in a short period of time.”
Francis first got involved in golf thanks to his brother, Clarence Jr. Though Francis was always a good athlete, excelling in football at Hahnville High School, it was Clarence who made him the golfer he is today.
“Even though I started playing at a late age, Clarence took the time to put a club in my hand and he was a great teacher,” Francis said. “Clarence was one of those guys who is good at everything.”
Clarence passed away five years ago from colon cancer, but Francis said golf brought the two together.
“He is my inspiration,” Francis said. “Without him, I would have never gotten involved in golf and had this wonderful opportunity.”
Once Francis got a taste of golf, he did everything he could to be around the game. In fact, he has served as the locker room manager for TPC Louisiana during the Zurich Classic for the last eight years. He got the job after winning a customer service contest.
“When I found out they were building the golf course, I wanted to find out what it was like to be around the pros,” he said. “Landing that locker room gig was huge.”
The TPC held a customer service contest shortly after they opened. Francis and several others were told that they needed to give the guests a memorable experience, one so memorable that the golfer would send an email to TPC bragging about the customer service.
“They figured that the one who had the most customers send emails would be the best one to handle the professionals,” Francis said. “I won and now I’ve got great stories for the last eight years. I’ve sat down with David Toms, Rickie Fowler and Michael Allen, it’s been incredible.”
Now that Francis has seen what a difference the game of golf has made in his life, he wants to draw younger players into the game – just like his brother did with him.
“We have zero programs in the parish that I am aware of for juniors,” he said. “The opportunity in St. Charles Parish on the west side of the river to tap into some of the youth is important. Recreation funds a lot of different sports and golf isn’t one of them.
“So my goal is to tap into that market and see what we can do to get the junior golf program going.”
Francis also hopes that offering exposure to golf will help increase membership at the club. Before Hurricane Katrina, there were 280 members at Fashion. Now, there are around 100. But Francis sees potential because Fashion’s low rates are a big draw.
“Everyone can’t afford to play the TPC of Louisiana and not everyone wants to play an 18-hole course,” he said. “The potential has always been there because of the affordability.”
Currently, membership at Fashion is $45 a month. The club will also hold a fundraiser on July 28 with all money raised going towards equipment and course rehab.
“Right now, I feel that the conditions of the course need some improvement. I don’t have the capital right now to do all of my ideas, but going forward I am getting a lot of golfers that want to volunteer to try to get the course in great condition,” Francis said. “We are getting a lot of help and we are excited about the opportunity to take this thing to its maximum potential.”