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At 11, he won a junior golf tournament. 42 years later, he bought the course he won on

Wendy’s founder traded a yacht for this golf course. Now it has a new owner

The new owners of the Woodlands Country Club plan to restore it to how it was when Dave Thomas was owner
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The new owners of the Woodlands Country Club plan to restore it to how it was when Dave Thomas was owner

In 1975, Randy Waters played in his first state tournament as an 11-year-old at what is now the Woodlands Golf & Country Club in northeast Richland County.

“It was the first 18 holes I competed in at the state championship level,” he said. “It was the first 18 holes I had to keep score.”

Waters, now 52, still remembers his score from those rounds — 43 on the first day and 35 on second. That was good enough for first place, the first of five straight tournaments he won at the course.

Today, Waters has another connection to the 6,855-yard course with a swimming pool and tennis courts. He bought it last week.

He leads a group of new owners who purchased the facility for $675,000. They’re planning a facelift during the next two years as the 43-year-old course is showing its age in places, Waters said. Plans call for improvements to bunkers, greens and tees along with clubhouse renovations.

Waters, who oversees a group of sports and entertainment operations in the Southeast, said he had thought about purchasing Woodlands for years.

“I’ve always dreamed of that,” he said.

But it will be a while before he can play a round at his new club. A shoulder injury is keeping him away from the game until an upcoming surgery. “I can putt a bit, but that’s it,” he said.

Golf is a family tradition for Waters, who played the sport at Brookland-Cayce High School and the University of South Carolina. He learned the game at a par-3 course his late father operated in Cayce. His father was a coach and adviser who usually was too nervous to watch him play, Waters said.

His brother Robin is an executive on the Grand Strand who oversees golf tours.

The golf course itself has a colorful history. It was acquired in 1987 by Dave Thomas, the founder of the Wendy’s hamburger chain. Thomas traded a yacht for the course, sold it two years later, but then bought it back in 2003, according the club’s website.

Thomas welcomed politicians, professional golfers and entertainers.

Thomas once pulled a gag on former Gov. Carroll Campbell during a round.

On one green, Campbell’s ball landed much closer to the hole than Thomas’. But Thomas had the greens staff suddenly appear and move the hole next to his ball, according to Kevin McCarthy, a longtime Thomas assistant who has overseen the course for 30 years as manager and its most recent owner.

Thomas, who was adopted as an infant, started a charity golf tournament at the course that raised money for Epworth Children’s Home, Carolina Children’s Home and others, the website said. The tournament continued there between the years he owned it.

For the tournament, Thomas brought in professional golfers Davis Love III and Chi Chi Rodriguez, baseball legend Johnny Bench, singer Glenn Campbell and others, the website said.

McCarthy, the previous owner, said he is “helping out with the transition” as a consultant.

The new owners want the course to keep its character as a local favorite accessible to anyone; they do not plan to go upscale.

“It’s probably the most family-oriented course in town,” Waters said. “This is the Average Joe’s country club.”

He declined to say how much the renovations would cost, but he hopes they will boost membership from about 340 to 500.

The goal is to make the course shine anew, said Lexington physician Mike Harris, the Plex founder who is one of Waters’ partners. The group also owns facilities in North Charleston and Jacksonville, Fla.

Said Waters: “We’re going to revive it.

Tim Flach: 803-771-8483

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