In the movie We Bought a Zoo the father, Benjamin has lost his wife and as a way of starting over for himself and his two children he purchases a house on a large property that includes a struggling zoo in California. The premise of the story is the zoo is in need of renovation so Benjamin goes about refurbishing the zoo with the rest of the zoo staff. The project and expenses are greater than he imagined and the zoo soon runs into financial trouble. The staff must get the zoo back to its former glory, pass a zoo inspection, and get it back open to the public. This movie was based on a real life story of the Mee family and a real zoo in Devon, England known as the Dartmoor Zoological Park.
When I learned of Errol Estate Golf & Country Club in Apopka, Florida and took a visit to meet the new owners their story and the history of the club immediately reminded me of We Bought a Zoo. This once flourishing club with 800 members was built in 1973 and the 18-hole, 6,505-yard golf course was designed by Joe Lee. With an additional nine holes added in 1975 called The Grove. When Errol Estate opened in 1973 the grand opening featured a friendly gender competition match between a PGA team comprised of Tour stars Frank Beard and Charles Coody against Judy Trulock and LPGA legend Kathy Whitworth. The men won the match, posting one-under par 71s. Interestingly the Pro golfers had a stake in the club. Coody, the 1971 Masters champion, also served as Errol’s director of golf, and Whitworth and Trulock owned the Errol pro shop. The history goes back even further with the estate being the home of John Thomas Pirie, a New Yorker who moved to Apopka in 1886 and named the estate Errol after the Scottish village where he was born.
Just as many other clubs in America, over the years Errol Estate suffered from the numerous new course openings, the declining economy and various management changes which led to a gradual deterioration of the course and clubhouse. Fast forward to December 15, 2011, after years of neglect the estate was purchased by Phillippe Weydts-Caesens and Patrick Daoust, two friends from Belgium. Daoust moved his family of five from Belgium to Apopka and began overseeing and doing the day to day management and renovation to bring the club back to its former glory. “I was in management consulting for large multinationals and decided to use my expertise towards something I am passionate about and love, golf. I am living the dream” said Daoust. Both Weydts-Caesens and Daoust have sons that are heavily into golf and Daoust’s youngest son Gary recently won the FCWT Mystic Dunes tournament.
EEGCC is the home of the first Lee Westwood Golf School in the USA. Another great story perhaps built on dreams is Lee Westwood, a native of England who began learning the game at the age of 13. He recently moved his family to Old Palm Golf course in Palm Beach just a few hours down the road from Errol Estate Golf & Country Club. I am sure it would have been impossible to imagine when Lee was 13 that he would achieve number one status in the world for golf, move to America and have his own golf schools. This Lee Westwood Golf School has created a world-class purpose built practice facility, driving range and access to the most advanced golf performance technology and turned the 9 holes known as The Grove to three short game areas and five practice holes exclusively for the school. Currently nine students are in the program and it seems to be a dream opportunity for any young person wanting to play golf. Study from 8am to 12 then hit the links for instruction and playing golf.
Errol Estate Golf & Country Club is a charismatic facility nested North West of Orlando in the hills of Apopka. Play the Highland and Lake nines that make up 18 gratifying holes played through a combination of hills, dramatic vistas and lakes making golf at Errol Estate Golf & Country Club a unique experience in Florida and proof that dreams do come true.
Errol Estate – https://errolestategcc.com/
Lee Westwood Golf School – https://www.leewestwoodgolfschool.com/locations/errol-estate