Back home on the Ridge

Press photo by John Burbridge New Cedar Ridge Golf Course owner Cary Perez has managed and consulted on more than 60 golf courses, mostly throughout the southeastern section of the United States.
Press photo by John Burbridge
New Cedar Ridge Golf Course owner Cary Perez has managed and consulted on more than 60 golf courses, mostly throughout the southeastern section of the United States.

Charles City native Cary Perez returns to purchase city’s lone 18-hole course

By John Burbridge

CHARLES CITY — Cary Perez often carries his golf equipment with him.

And he keeps it in a backpack.

“This is what you’ll see me with on a golf course,” Perez said as he takes out his laptop computer. “I really don’t have much time to play anymore, but I’m always on this … especially when it comes to golf.”

Perez says there’s even a photo of him and his colleagues from Mosaic Clubs and Resorts, a golf management company, sitting on a green while simultaneously working their computers.

“In this business, you’ve got to stay on top of things,” said Perez, a Charles City native

During his past 15 years with Mosiac, Perez has been called to manage or consult scores of courses that got themselves well over par in regards to debt.

“It was like the housing bubble,” Perez said. “Banks were lending out too much money to people who were building too many golf courses. When the banks had to foreclose, they were left with all these courses they didn’t know what to do with. So they would call us.”

Whenever Perez was tasked with salvaging these clubs, he often took the approach of a day-trader … or rather a tee-time trader.

“It simply comes down to supply and demand,” Perez said. “A 1 o’clock tee-time on Saturday is not the same as 3 o’clock tee-time on Wednesday. Many of these courses didn’t have a matrix-like pricing index in place so their tee-times were the same at all times every day of the week. They were losing money when charging golfers too little, and losing golfers when they charged too much.”

Often when Perez and company got theses courses back in the black, the banks sold them.

“Then it was on to another course,” said Perez, who offered his services to courses located in the Southeastern US.

Now as the new owner and golf director of Cedar Ridge Golf Course, Charles City’s lone 18-hole public course, Perez has come back home.

“I’m very excited,” said Perez, who recently moved back from the Atlanta area with his 10-year-old son, Riley. Wife Dena, a Charles City native herself, and daughter Emma, who will be a freshman next school season, are still in Georgia and are due to reunite with the rest of the family shortly after Emma’s junior high graduation.

“I’m going to try to get her more interested in golf,” Perez said of his daughter. “Right now she’s into highly competitive cheerleading.”

While a student at Charles City, Perez golfed four years for the Comets before continuing his playing career at Grinnell College, where he also walked on as a backup quarterback for the football team.

Perez played briefly as a regional pro while living out a dream … while sleeping in his car.

“It’s a tough life to play golf for a living,” Perez said.

Perez became a PGA Class A member in 1998. In addition to the required course workload, prospective PGA pros must pass a Player Ability Test (PAT) — a 36-hole crucible with a cut-and-dried score you can’t go over — to prove that they can practice what they preach.

Perez took his PAT on a wet and humid course in South Florida.

“It was more nerve-racking than any tournament I’ve played,” Perez said. “We started at 8 a.m. and then it rained for a while. After 18 holes, they gave us lunch on the course to keep things going. I didn’t get done until 8 p.m. It took us 12 hours.”

Needing to get a 152, Perez managed to wedge his way out of a sand trap on his final hole and made the cut with a 151.

As a player, manager and consultant, Perez has played and been to courses from all corners of the country. Nonetheless, he says Cedar Ridge has always remained his favorite course.

“It’s my home course, and I’ve always considered Charles City my home,” Perez said. “My parents still live here … it’s where I grew up and met my wife.

“I’ve always seen myself coming back here. Now that I’m back, I see myself staying here for the rest of my life.”

Perez said that he had been thinking about purchasing Cedar Ridge for about three years. During that span when Perez and his family would visit Charles City in and around the Fourth of July weekend — “That’s when I would play half of the golf I would play all year … at Cedar Ridge,” Perez said — he would talk with then Cedar Ridge owner, Leif Erickson, about purchasing the course.

“We came to agree that now was the right time,” said Perez, who will also manage Cedar Ridge and will head the Professional Golf Instruction programs for players of all abilities.

As for other staff members, like head groundskeeper, Perez said he is still interviewing candidates as of last week.

In his Letter of Introduction to Cedar Ridge members, Perez said that membership rates — dues, trail fees, shed rentals, etc. — will remain the same through April. He also referenced the implementation of a “Point of Sale” and “Tee-Time System” that will allow charging privileges to members and online booking of tee times; revamped merchandise concessions; and a redesigned website and email system.

As of now, Perez said that past Cedar Ridge policies such as casual dress codes and the allowed use of personally owned golf carts will remain in place.

Cedar Ridge’s first public event will be a Masters Pre Party on April 5.

Cedar Ridge was built in 1964. During its heyday, Cedar Ridge was a posh private club with a swimming pool.

“There are going to be changes, but I don’t see any swimming pools,” Perez said of the future of Cedar Ridge, which will remain public.

After a downfall in local industry, Cedar Ridge floundered from loss of membership and lack of use as the rough edges of nature began to reclaim the land.

Cedar Ridge was able to rebound when Erickson purchased it in 2004.

“It was time for us to move on,” Erickson said just before leaving Cedar Ridge several weeks ago. “I just want to thank the people of Charles City for their support over the past 13 years.”