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Tuesday, Sep 23, 2014
Tom Jackson Columns

Jackson: Adapting to high life of mountainside golf course owner

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CASHIERS, N.C. — What often is said about men and the acquisition of boats most likely applies to golf courses as well, the primary difference being the comparative frequency with which those two best days — the day he buys, and the day he sells — occur.

This certainly seems to be true of one golf course in particular, one whose picturesque layout, reasonable challenge and available customer base scarcely add up to the role of heartbreaker it has assumed these last dozen or so years.

But here is Adam Poroslay — Adam Atilla Poroslay II, to be exact — recently of Meadow Pointe and (at least) the third managing partner manager of the Sapphire National Golf Club and its affiliated sports pub, the Sapphire Mountain Brewing Company, in the lpast five years to explain how previous ownership groups got it wrong, and how the current bosses intend to set things all right.

Never mind that there's not an ounce of golf course or restaurant management experience in the bunch. If it's anything the Family Poroslay understands, it's adaptation.

Thirty years ago in their native district of Transylvania, Romania, Adam Atilla Poroslay I was an engineer; his wife, Gizella, an industrial architect. (For the record, Adam II was 13 and brother Ivan, 11.) “But when you emigrate,” Adam II says, “sometimes your qualifications don't match with your new country. You have to change.”

In Merrick, N.Y., a Nassau County hamlet squeezed between Oceanside and Amityville (of horror infamy) along the south shore of Long Island, Adam I started a gas station and automotive repair shop, then added a towing service, a transformation — engineer to mechanic — that at least traces a logical progression. Gizella, on the other hand, punched her ticket for a thrill ride with an uncertain destination, learning cosmetology and spa services.

Her retraining did not result in opening a shop near Poroslay automotive, as she had planned, but instead came to fruition as Magnolia Spa in the strip center she designed and Adam I — who'd gotten into real estate development — built 10 years ago across Candlestick Court from Xtreme Adventures in the disputed Land O' Chapel DMZ on State Road 54.

Meanwhile, Adam II, a chemist, was involved in the development of pharmaceuticals at the Bausch + Lomb manufacturing site in the Hidden River office park off Fletcher Avenue near Interstate 75. Although he still speaks rhapsodically about his work in that big-risk, high-pressure world — “When you finally put a drug on the market, it's a great feeling” — he did not hesitate when his parents asked him, too, to adapt.

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Not because the setting is beautiful, although it is. “I keep using that word, I know,” Adam II says, “but there's not a better one I can think of.” And not because the mountains of southwest North Carolina trigger memories of his boyhood home, although they do. And not even because anyone looking for favorable omens could do worse than note that the adjacent county — Transylvania (I am not making this up) — is scarcely more than a drive and a 4-iron from the entry to Sapphire National.

Such considerations carry little weight with Adam II, who readily confesses (his English still carrying the slightest eastern European roll), “I am not a touchy-feely, fuzzy kind of guy.” Instead, he is here four-fifths of a mile above sea level and far from the Gulf beaches he will miss because he can read a spreadsheet and understands how to combine disparate ingredients to produce felicitous results.

One key ingredient — perhaps, in the short term, the key ingredient — is the Poroslays came by the 140 acres, buildings, kitchen equipment and course maintenance rolling stock for a comparative song: $825,000. Just five years ago, an ownership group headed by Roy Gaddey — that's right: Lake Jovita's original managing general partner — signed a promissory note for $3 million. And while Gaddey's posse paid $2 million less than the previous owner had in 2001, they were swallowed up by the great recession, succumbing to foreclosure in 2010.

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With far less debt service to fret over, the onsite Poroslays can attend to more ascetic concerns, like how to keep the good grass growing and the bad grass contained – “I don't know much about grass,” says Ivan, like his dad, a former Long Island auto shop owner, now head greenskeeper, “but I know more about it than I did two months ago” — and whether the pub's “Inferno”-length menu should undergo harsh editing.

If we know anything about the Poroslays by now, it is that they will adapt to their surroundings. In so doing, their surroundings — knock 3-wood — will adapt to what works, and it will be a long time before the newcomers even think about that second best day in the life of a golf-course owner.

tjackson@tampatrib.com

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