As a career law-enforcement officer, Tony Parton is no stranger to helping people in a jam. He also is experienced at saving golf courses in distress.
Parton, who retired after a career as a corrections officer in a federal prison, bought the shuttered Alpine Bay Golf Course in 2017 and has restored the Robert Trent Jones Sr. design in rural Alpine, Alabama to its former greatness.
The course where Parton and his friends had played for years, closed in 2014 after years of financial distress. Two years after the course had closed, Parton began tending it, pulling weeds and mowing grass, in an attempt to reclaim the layout one green at a time.
Fifty years ago, the course was to be part of a 36-hole golf resort, but funding ran out and construction was limited to a single RTJ-designed 18-hole layout. Unlike the more famous string of courses throughout Alabama that bears the RTJ name, Alpine Bay has never been well known, or popular with those outside the local community. And unlike its more famous cousins, the course has struggled financially for years.
By 2014, Alpine Bay was one of more than 2,000 golf courses that have closed since 2006.
Rather than go the way of so many other tracks that have been redeveloped as commercial or residential real estate, or mixed-use space, Alpine has bucked the trend and is one of those rare examples of golf courses that closed only to reopen years later under new ownership.
By 2017, three years after the course had closed, Alpine Bay was up for sale for a modest $144,000.
Soon, Parton was able to put together financing and bought the course, and a group of investors helped provide barely enough funding to run the operation. Parton and the team he built were able to get the course playable within a half-year.
Today, the course has more than 100 members, according to Golfweek, who play about 15,000 rounds a year there.