Country club wars

Bill Regardie Founder, Regardie's Magazine
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My wife and I were recently invited to spend the weekend at one of those fancy golf communities in South Florida. Instead of finding tranquility, we found a war zone.

I knew something was wrong when Mary picked us alone rather than both she and her husband. We were the oldest of friends. From the old neighborhood.

“He should be home by the time we get back,” she said simply. Clearly something was up

When we pulled into their driveway, there was another clue: Mario’s beloved Porsche knockoff golf cart was parked on the front lawn with a busted rear fender and smashed tail light. Inside the house, Mario was in worse shape. Or, rather, the person on the other end of the phone was. Finally, he hung up, but he didn’t quiet down.

“Mario,” no hug, no kiss? What’s wrong? You look like you just lost your best friend.”

“Worse,” he snarled. “They’re trying to steal Chef Bobby.”

I turned to his wife. “Mary. What’s this idiot talking about?”

“Chef Bobby.” Bobby Cuccenilli, she explained, was the executive chef of their country club. A rival club was trying to steal him. Her husband was chair of the House Committee and had just returned from an emergency meeting where Chef Bobby had given notice. If Bobby was lost on his watch, our friends might as well move to Arizona.

Now I understood.

To tell the truth, I liked their little slice of heaven. It had everything a lot of money could buy. It was one-third Italian, one-third Jewish and one-third foodie/golfers.

“So, was it a going-to-the-mattresses meeting?” I asked.

Mario, a big-time lawyer from Manhattan, didn’t think that was funny.

“Frankly, we’re pissed. Last year, we gave him a new five-year contract. Literally, everything he asked for. Besides, his contract is iron-clad. I should know. My wife’s divorce lawyer drew it up.”

“So, what’s the other club offering him?”

“Starting with a $500,000 signing bonus, just about double everything we gave him. They can afford it. They have about 1,700 members.”

“How many you got?” I asked.

“Nine hundred families, but not all play golf. We have $1,500-a-month food minimum for the six-month season, but our members spend twice that easily. And 60% of our members live here eight months a year.

“OK, I got one question: Do you really want to save Chef Bobby?”

Mario nodded yes.

”First,” I said, “Bobby’s not going anywhere. He knows he’ll be working twice as hard at the other club; they have twice as many members. Second, have someone on your board pick a three-year-old Bentley coupe for $75 grand and park it across from the lobby by 3 p.m. today. Convene the board for then, invite Chef Bobby in if he has a moment. Tell him that you love and respect him. Hand him a hundred-grand bonus check and give him a 50% raise. And forget the old contract — just keep him happy and think of your 42” waist. Then, take him outside, open the Bentley’s door and hand him the keys. As he starts to pull away, have Lenny Schwartz stop him. Lenny should then whisper to him that if he ever tries this crap again, someone will break his legs.

“It will work, I promise. And your members won’t even notice the one time assessment.”

Mario smiled for the first time. He pulled out his iPhone and made two calls to start the game.

The first thing to do was to get the car. The second was to arrange for the 3:00 p.m. meeting, which would have to be completed in 30 minutes, since Friday afternoon was the start of the busiest time of the week at the club.

At 4 p.m., mixed twilight golf would tee off on all 36 holes, followed by cocktails at 6 p.m.

Then, at 7:30, if they could find their way to the dining room, it was Chef Bobby’s renowned Friday night seafood buffet.

Tonight, Bobby had promised to fly in 200 pounds of Dungeness crabs from San Francisco.

Bill Regardie is the founder of Regardie magazine.