I only interviewed Mike Strantz once, but I found it a thoroughly enjoyable experience. With that in mind, it is sad to say that the architect, the creator of such courses as Tobacco Road, passed away after a long battle with cancer on Friday.
He was 50 years old.
A man with an amazing artistic vision, Strantz broke into the golf business working for Tom Fazio. He broke away from Fazio after working for him for a decade, trying his hand at art. He was eventually dragged back to golf, creating two courses in the Myrtle Beach area.
In all, he created nine courses -- but they are works of true vision. The list is: Caledonia Golf and Fish Club (SC), True Blue (SC), Bulls Bay (SC), Tobacco Road (NC), Tot Hill Farm (NC), Royal New Kent (VA), Stonehouse (VA), Silver Creek Valley (CA), and Monterey Peninsula Country Club - Shore Course (CA).
His golf courses offered a unique look and flavour. I've only played two (True Blue and Caledonia), but found them to be very different, utilizing two looks (one classic, one modern) and very visual.
Mike was diagnosed with cancer several years ago and fought a brave battle against it since then. He had surgery last year that removed most of his tongue. Even with what he was going through, he managed to continue working on his last course, Monterey Peninsula Country Club's Shore Course. An associate who recently played it said it is a stunning work.
My thoughts are with Mike's wife, Heidi, and his daughters. This is a bloody shame.
Here is Mike's full obituary.
Michael J. Strantz, 50, passed away on Friday, June 10, 2005. He was at home with his family.
Mike was born in Toledo, Ohio on May 27, 1955 and grew up in Walbridge, Ohio. He was a star athlete at Lake High School (Millbury, OH), playing football and hockey, and he was captain of the baseball team and senior class president.
Mike Strantz was best known as a successful golf course designer, but close friends knew he was a devoted family man, gourmet cook, gifted artist, music collector, collegiate hockey player, and lover of cats, dogs, and horses.
While his passion for designing and building golf courses brought him acclaim, he was proudest of his beautiful daughters, Dana and Andrea. He proudly attended their school events; and he taught them how to ride a horse, wash a dog, and be their own person. He met his wife Heidi when they were college, and they were married 26 years, life-long devoted partners and friends.
Mike always loved golf. His dad, Jack Strantz, taught him the sport when Mike was a youngster. At age 14, he started working on the grounds crew at Chippewa Golf Club (Curtis, OH). In the early hours of the morning, Mike rode his bike to work -- he was too young to have a driver’s license.
In college, Mike started as a studio art major at Miami University (OH), but after two years he transferred to Michigan State and received his degree in turf grass management.
While working on the grounds crew for the 1978 U.S. Open at Inverness Club (Toledo, OH), Mike was tapped by Tom Fazio to work on his golf course construction crew in Hilton Head, SC, operating heavy equipment as a “shaper” of tees, fairways, and greens.
Over time, Mike rose to project supervisor, but living on the road took its toll, and after eight years he tipped his hat good bye to golf course construction. For him, it had been a great experience working with Tom Fazio, but he was ready to take a break and return to his artist roots.
However, the golf industry did not forget his talent. In 1993, Mike was asked to design a small golf course on Pawley’s Island, SC. Caledonia Golf and Fish Club was a success, and Mike knew he had found the perfect job.
Nine golf courses show his talent for design and have his name: Caledonia Golf and Fish Club (SC), True Blue (SC), Bulls Bay (SC), Tobacco Road (NC), Tot Hill Farm (NC), Royal New Kent (VA), Stonehouse (VA), Silver Creek Valley (CA), and Monterey Peninsula Country Club - Shore Course (CA).
Forrest Fezler, a good friend and golf professional, was Mike’s project supervisor on more than half the courses. With the help of Forrest and talented crewmembers, Jeff and Mike Jones, many courses have received awards and are known all over the world.
Little known, though, is that Mike could operate every piece of equipment on the construction site with expertise and experience. He always knew the name of every person who worked on his golf courses and any family concerns. In fact, Mike had a fondness for the “little guy,” whether it was a laborer or a grocery clerk. He respected hard work and honesty above status or money.
Mike was a quiet man with strong spiritual beliefs. He designed the stained glass cross in the new sanctuary of Sunrise Presbyterian Church, Sullivan’s Island (SC) after Hurricane Hugo destroyed the church in 1989.
He will be missed by his wife Heidi, daughters Dana and Andrea, parents Jack and Jan Strantz of Perrysburg, OH, and sister Kelly Baugh of Indianapolis. Other family members are Barbara Walker of Sylvania, OH, Dave Walker (Karin) of Sylvania, OH, Greg Walker (Harriett) of Goose Creek, SC, Laura Bierer (Rob), Raleigh, NC, and David Baugh of Indianapolis. He was fortunate to have loving nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and hundreds of friends during his lifetime.
A visitation will be held Monday, June 13th from 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM at McAlister-Smith Funeral Home, 1520 Rifle Range Road, Mt. Pleasant, SC. Services will be held Tuesday, June 14th at 2:00PM at Sunrise Presbyterian Church, 3222 Middle St., Sullivan’s Island, SC.
The family would like to send a special thank you to the devoted staff at the Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina, and the loving employees of Charleston Hospice. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent in memory of Michael Strantz, Head and Neck Cancer Research Fund, Dept. of Otolaryngology, P.O. Box 250550, Charleston, SC 29425 or Hospice of Charleston, 3870 Leeds Ave, Suite 101, N. Charleston, SC 29405.
You can read more about the man and his art on his website