Miami Springs Golf Course Lost Millions as Director Racked Up DUIs

The Miami Springs Golf and Country Club is the oldest municipal course in South Florida. Wedged into a triangle of land just north of Miami International Airport, it dates back to the 1920s and once hosted legendary golf pros such as Sam Snead and Gene Sarazen for the Miami Open.

But in the 15 years since the City of Miami sold the course to Miami Springs, disastrous management has led the town into a financial hole. In the past decade, the course has operated at a loss of $8 million. And even as the club lost hundreds of thousands per year, records show, the city kept a director with multiple DUIs and drug busts onboard.

The course was conceived by Tub Palmer, a member of the Miami Coconuts golf club, in the mid-'20s, according to the club's official history. Palmer and his friends were without a place to play their favorite sport because the Miami Country Club was private. In 1922, the Coconuts partnered with Miami Springs' founder Glenn Curtiss, who provided a good chunk of land.

For decades, the course was among the premier links in South Florida, hosting major tournaments and famous pros. But with encroaching development and newer courses such as Doral coming to town, its glory faded. In 1997, the 14,000-person town of Miami Springs purchased the course from the City of Miami for $3 million.

Records show the town has done a disastrous job managing it. Since 2000, the golf course has lost $8,167,056, all in a municipality with a total operating budget of less than $20 million.

One reason might be a troubled director. Michael Aldridge was the Golf and Country Club director from 2000 to January 2013, when he abruptly resigned.

City management declined to comment at the time about the details of his departure, but police records show he was convicted of at least three DUIs. Aldridge was first arrested for driving drunk in 2001, and he was popped for possession of cocaine in 2011. (That case in Pembroke Pines was dismissed.)

The next year, he was arrested for DUI, hit and run, and possession of Quaaludes. He was so intoxicated he couldn't stand on one leg long enough to even begin counting to ten, according to a police report. "I'm done; you got me," he told officers.

Aldridge was arrested in September 2012 for his third DUI, in Port St. Lucie.

By the time he resigned, Aldridge was making $83,609, according to the City Clerk's Office.

City Manager Ron Gorland did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article, though when he hired Aldridge's replacement, Paul O'Dell, last April, Gorland said this in a news release: "Paul is bringing a great deal of successful business know-how in golf course and country club management to Miami Springs."

Staff at the course say they have no way of reaching Aldridge, whose number is not listed.

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Allie Conti was a fellow at Miami New Times and a staff writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach, where her writing won awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists. She's now the senior staff writer at Vice and a contributor to the New York Times, New York Magazine, and the Atlantic.