- Associated Press - Sunday, February 11, 2018

SOUR LAKE, Texas (AP) - Ronnie Pfleider wasn’t sure he would be able to go back to his “second home.”

The Beaumont Enterprise reports the course at Idylwild Golf Club, which Pfleider co-owns, was left in shambles after Tropical Storm Harvey.

The storm destroyed equipment, mangled bridges and cut off areas of the course. Pfleider didn’t know what came next.

Three months later, following a resounding response to letters sent to course members and Pinewood Estates residents, he had his answer.

“We’re part of this community,” Pfleider said.

After five months of renovations and rebuilding, Idylwild will reopen its back nine holes sometime in late February or early March. It’s sign of progress for residents in Pinewood, many of whom are still rebuilding themselves.

The course has emotional and economic value to residents, though that might not even be the neighborhood’s biggest draw for potential buyers. Still, as a large portion of homes in Pinewood sit vacant, residents say the course’s reopening gives them confidence that the neighborhood will soon follow suit.

“Knowing the golf course will be back, I have no problem investing in this place,” resident Rodney Sheffield said.

Pfleider estimated about a third of the homes in Pinewood are empty, with residents waiting for available contractors or potential buyers looking for a project.

Pinewood still resembles a construction site, with debris lining the roads and contractors filing in and out of the subdivision. Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers are a common sight.

“We get more contractors than we get residents, said Nancy Bishop, an assistant manager at Pinewood Market.

Angela LeBlanc was one of Pinewood’s lucky residents. She was able to find a contractor right away and got started on her renovations. She had 54 inches of water flood her home.

In the meantime, the family has lived in a motorhome parked in the driveway.

“It’s been 16 weeks, I have it marked down on the calendar,” LeBlanc said.

Others didn’t have that option.

“I know some people here that have had to live in their homes while the work goes on around them,” LeBlanc said. “That’s a tough situation to be in.”

With such a large number of vacant homes, Re/Max One real estate agent Kerrie Reynolds said she has noticed an influx of investors looking to rebuild homes and flip the properties as soon as possible.

“Homes here are selling very quickly for multiple reasons,” Reynolds said. “I listed one on Monday and it had two offers in two days.”

Rebuild, sell or both?

Pfleider is rebuilding the course and his home. He lives in Pinewood and was flooded along with almost every other resident in the subdivision.

“There probably wasn’t one home here that didn’t take on at least some water,” Pfleider said.

Pfleider rebuilt his home while he stayed in a Beaumont apartment. He plans to be back living in Pinewood by early March.

The course’s co-owner, Pinewood resident Ray Moore, chose another option. He rebuilt his home but plans to sell the property.

That dilemma is facing many of the subdivision’s homeowners. The decision to stay or go has a lot to do with age, Pfleider said.

“The younger people are rebuilding,” he said. “Most older folks don’t want to deal with everything that comes with that.”

Re/Max’s Reynolds said she has seen buyers in a younger demographic looking for homes in Pinewood.

“We’re definitely getting a younger crowd and more families,” Reynolds said.

Those younger families are interested in one thing, Pinewood resident Tim Jones said.

“The Hardin-Jefferson School District is the prize jewel of Pinewood,” Jones said. “People want their kids in those schools.”

While the golf course is a big draw for buyers, it’s second to the schools, Reynolds said.

“The schools are probably the primary reason that people move out to Pinewood, and once their kids graduate, they stay there,” Reynolds said. “A lot of our sales comes from the schools. It’s a huge draw.”

Idylwild had been damaged by flooding before, but nothing like what Harvey wrought.

The course’s maintenance barn was destroyed, along with all the golf carts and mowing equipment inside. Each golf cart cost about $6,000, Pfleider said.

Mangled bridges near holes five, six and seven still make it impossible to reach certain areas on the course’s front nine.

A new clubhouse built last March flooded halfway up the windows. The club’s irrigation system was under water and needed new motors. Twenty-five years of files and course records inside the clubhouse were lost.

Pfleider estimates loss and damage of $250,000.

“We’ve flooded before, but this was the worst by far,” Pfleider said. “I think the only thing we haven’t had yet is a tsunami. People don’t realize what it takes to run a golf course.”

Renovations began once the course was deemed safe. Pfleider said it took four weeks to simply clean debris off the course.

The public course hosts about 25 events throughout the year. Pfleider said he’s been in contact with administrators from most of the those events about returning, even if not on the same scale.

“We hope to see a lot of those events back,” Pfleider said. “If it goes the other way, that’s something we’ll have to discuss. It’s a big part of what we do.”

Under normal circumstances, the Hardin-Jefferson golf team uses Idylwild as its home course. Needing a new place to play, coach Lindsay Miller, said the team now practices twice a week at Tyrrell Park in Beaumont. It’s more than a half-hour drive for most of the players, Miller said.

“It hard doing that twice a week,” Miller said. “We can’t wait until Idylwild reopens. As soon as it does, we’re there.”

Miller and several of the team’s golfers live in Pinewood. Some were forced to relocated temporarily or permanently because of flooding, Miller said.

Hardin-Jefferson usually holds three tournaments at Idylwild each year. That won’t happen in 2018.

“I’d love to have those at Idylwild, but we need a course with 18 holes,” Miller said. “That’s the main problem.”

Pinewood residents have multiple attachments to Idylwild’s success.

Reynolds said the value of Pinewood homes is partially tied to the course’s existence.

“There definitely is a connection,” Reynolds said. “We have a lot of people who play golf out there. If the course didn’t reopen, I think it would have a substantial effect on people’s interest in the subdivision.”

Emotionally, the course is a point of pride for residents.

“People here love the course, they go play together,” Jones said. “It’s something people take pride in.”

The emotional ties between residents are just as strong. Sheffield said residents try to recommend contractors who can be trusted. Other residents simply offer their help with labor.

LeBlanc keeps an eye on her neighbors’ vacant homes.

“We’re a big, 400-plus house family,” LeBlanc said. “We’re always looking out for each other. That’s the way we are out here.”

Sheffield, who has lived in Pinewood for 19 years and works in Sour Lake, has been living with his son’s family in a Beaumont townhouse while his home is rebuilt.

Although he’s actually having fun spending more time with his loved ones, Sheffield has no doubts Pinewood will be back to normal in the near future.

“In three or four years, this will all be just a conversation because everything will come back,” Sheffield said.


Information from: The Beaumont Enterprise, http://beaumontenterprise.com

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