EAST LAKE — The mission of Tarpon Woods Golf Club is to give back.
Purchased two years ago by recent World Golf Hall of Fame inductee Jan Stephenson through her Crossroads Foundation, the course, located at 1100 Tarpon Woods Blvd. in Palm Harbor, is meant to provide disabled veterans and first responders a place to learn and enjoy the game of golf.
Unfortunately, vandals targeted the picturesque par-72 course again last weekend, destroying a bathroom in the latest destructive incident to strike Tarpon Woods since it reopened, according to executive director Michael Vandiver.
“On Saturday, October 26, vandals destroyed the men’s bathroom on the 14th hole at Tarpon Woods Golf Club,” Vandiver said by phone a few days later. “We’ve had damage four or five times before, but this is by far the worst we’ve ever had.”
The most recent damage, which Vandiver estimated will run several thousands of dollars to repair, included breaking the bathroom door and using brick pavers from the entryway to smash the mirrors and plumbing fixtures as well as strewing trash and grass all over the place.
Prior incidents included vandals twice throwing a county flood-monitoring device into a lake as well as someone doing doughnuts in a vehicle on the same 14th green a few months ago, according to Vandiver. He noted the most surprising aspect about the latest act was that it was committed during the day.
“The four on-course bathrooms are locked at night and opened by our crew every morning, and the one on 14 was fine at 6:30 that morning,” he said. “But when they went to lock it at 6:00 that night, that’s when they found the damage and called me, and I immediately called the sheriff.”
Vandiver said the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office sent a forensic team and “the detective said they got some good forensic information, and if it’s in the system, they’ll get a match.”
When asked who he thought committed the damage, Vandiver speculated “local juveniles” were responsible. “I don’t think an adult would do this and the other stuff,” he said.
Vandiver said the owners are determined to find out who is responsible for the damage and hopefully put an end to it before it means the end of their ownership of the course.
“We’re offering a $2,000 reward for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the perpetrators,” he said. “But if whoever did this comes to us and agrees to pay for the damage, we will not prosecute. We just want help because if the community doesn’t help us, this place is not going to be here very long. It’s not like we’re making money off this thing. We’re struggling already and this just makes it worse.”
Compounding the problem was the fact that Stephenson’s annual celebrity golf tournament and rock concert was scheduled for Nov. 10-11, meaning everything had to be cleaned up and ready to host hundreds of local and out of town guests.
“It couldn’t have happened at a worse time,” Vandiver said.
Anyone wishing to donate to the foundation should visit janscrossroads.org.
“They’re graduating up in terms of damage, so my thoughts are, what are we going to see happen next?” Vandiver said. “This has to stop.”