Last fall, I played in a state tournament with Bill Dranginis, who retired in January from a varied career that included, among other things, running his own golf-accessories company and coaching high school swimming and track. He has won nine club championships over a period of five decades, including seven at two clubs not far from mine, and he has been inducted into two local golf halls of fame. Here he is with his daughter, Ashlie, who teaches seventh-grade math, on a Donald Ross course about an hour from where we live:
He called recently to say he’d just returned from a shopping trip to Florida. “I had planned a one-month excursion to try and find an affordable winter home and a golf course that I could enjoy at a reasonable price,” he said. Here's another photo of Dranginis, with his brother, Dan, the year they won their flight in the member-guest at Dan's club, Congressional:
During his Florida shopping trip, Dranginis looked first in Fort Myers, and found a pair of courses he liked a lot, both of them owned by the city: Fort Myers Country Club, which was designed by Donald Ross in the early 1900s, and Eastwood Golf Course, which was designed by Robert von Hagge and Bruce Devlin. “Playing those two would have cost maybe $2,500 to $3,000 for the winter,” he said. “That was good, but I couldn’t find a condo in my price range.” Here's Ross's original layout for Fort Myers:
Dranginis then spent a week each in Delray Beach and Fort Lauderdale. “I found a nice course in West Palm, called Madison Green,” he continued. “Lots of water and tight driving areas, slope 145 at 6,300 yards. They were having a membership drive: $3,000 for 18 months, starting in December, including carts, range balls, and club storage.”
That was ideal, but he still hadn't found a place to live. Then a real-estate agent who was the sister of a friend of his told him about a 55-and-over community called Century Village -- which the comedian Red Buttons used to be the television spokesman for.
“She had bought a condo there two years earlier for a good price,” he said, “but she didn’t think there was anything like that available now. And there was a downside: no mortgages allowed, so you had to buy the units outright.” Still, the place had tempting amenities: 14 outdoor pools, an indoor pool, tennis, bocce, shuffleboard, sailing, a billiard room with six tables, basic cable, first-run movies.
He decided to look, and a different real-estate agent showed him around. “I saw six units,” he said. “The first was a one-bedroom, and it was very clean. The asking price was $20,000. I offered $19,000, and got it. It’s 15 minutes from Madison Green. I can’t wait for next winter.”