Bob Richards, an Olympic pole-vaulting champion and former Waco resident, has bought Lake Waco Golf Club and plans major improvements to the course at 5608 Flat Rock Road that has experienced financial problems.

Richards reportedly paid $1.4 million for the course, acquiring it from Welch Asset Management of Boerne, which foreclosed on the course in December 2011, after the previous owners defaulted on loan payments.

“I would like to make it comparable to Ridgewood Country Club and other great courses in the community,” said Richards, 86, who has moved back to Central Texas after living in the Waco area from 1981 to the late 1990s.

U.S. Olympic gold medalist Bob Richards (center) bought Lake Waco Golf Club. Sons Tom Richards (left) and Brandon Richards will help oversee operations.
U.S. Olympic gold medalist Bob Richards (center) has bought Lake Waco Golf Club. Sons Tom (left) and Brandon will help oversee operations.
Jerry Larson / Waco Tribune-Herald

Two of Richards’ sons, Brandon and Tom Richards, will oversee the facility.

“We bought the course with the intention of making a lot of improvements,” Tom Richards said. “There is a lot of development going on in the China Spring area and we want to become an integral part of the good things going on out here.”

He said members can expect to see upgrades to the greens, fairways and cart paths, as well as a resurfaced parking lot. He said the buildings and restaurant that serve the course also will receive attention, along with a campground near the links.

“Monetarily, we will invest whatever is necessary to make it competitive with the other courses in town,” Tom Richards said. “We think the course has tremendous potential, with its rolling hills and beautiful views. We’re even talking about hosting triathlons.”

He said the family would like to see the facility once again host the annual Starburst Junior Golf Classic that brings thousands of young golfers and their families to Central Texas each June to compete on courses such as Ridgewood, Cottonwood and Twin Rivers.

Starburst rotation

Blake Harris, vice president for sports and special events at the Greater Waco Chamber of Commerce, said he would welcome the opportunity to include Lake Waco Golf Club in the Starburst rotation if it makes the improvements the Richards family envisions.

“I sense their excitement and it certainly is nice to have someone of Bob Richards’ stature owning the course,” Harris said.

The course, nestled among oak trees on the north side of Lake Waco, features an 18-hole regulation course, Par-3 course, clubhouse and pool.

Tom Richards said the family would like to host more tournaments for older golfers and inner-city youths who may never have tried the sport.

The course fell into disrepair for several years before being foreclosed upon more than a year ago. About a dozen members took it upon themselves to make improvements to the course and keep it playable until a new owner could be found.

It now has about 130 members. The Richards family would like to see that number grow to 225.

“This is the best thing that could have happened to this golf course,” said Larry Salter, the golf pro and general manager at Lake Waco Golf Club. “Improvements already have been made, but this purchase represents a long-term commitment.”

He said the fee structure at the course remains the same for now. A single member pays $125 a month, while the charge for a family is $150.

The Richards family said Jon Antunes will continue to operate the junior golf academy at the course.

Bob Richards won gold medals in the pole vault at the 1952 and 1956 Olympics Games. He was the first athlete to appear on the front of Wheaties cereal boxes and also was the first Wheaties spokesman.

The Illinois native was ordained as a minister in 1946 and ran for president on the newly formed U.S. Populist Party ticket in 1984. For a time he raised miniature horses in Palo Pinto County.

Tom and Brandon also were skilled pole vaulters, with Brandon holding the national high school record for 14 years beginning in 1985 and Tom winning the California State Meet in 1988. Tom graduated from Baylor University after attending UCLA for two years.


Bob Richards Vaulter Magazine
Bob Richards Vaulter Magazine

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