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Darren Panks is director of golf at the Seagate Country Club at The Hamlet.  

Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star

By Steve Pike

Darren Panks came a long way to come 360 degrees.

Panks, the new director of golf at Seagate Country Club at The Hamlet in Delray Beach, first saw The Hamlet golf community in 1996, shortly after he arrived in the U.S. from his hometown of Worksop, Nottingham, England, on the northern edge of Sherwood Forest.

Like many aspiring young golf professionals, Panks needed a job to help pay (and play) his way on the professional tours. 

He had heard about The Hamlet while working at Lindrick Golf Club (site of the 1957 Ryder Cup Matches) as an assistant to professional legend Peter Cowen, whose students included Lee Westwood, now  one of the world’s top players.

So after a brief try at living in Orlando, Panks headed south to Delray Beach and The Hamlet, where in exchange for giving lessons to members, the club agreed to let him use the course as his base of operations.

Panks bought a townhouse in The Hamlet in 1998 and continued to give lessons and play the professional golf tours, including the Nationwide Tour, until 2008 when the economy soured and sponsorship money for non-PGA Tour players began to dry up. Panks that year took a job as director of instruction at Polo Trace Golf Club west of Delray Beach and became the director of golf a couple of months later following the resignation of the previous director.

He remained at Polo Trace until this past October, when he took the director’s job at The Hamlet, which was transitioning to the new ownership of the Seagate Hotel & Spa in Delray Beach. Seagate’s ownership group purchased the club, including its Joe Lee-designed course, for $11 million with the intent of making it a premium amenity to the hotel and its beach residences.

“I think the club will do well for Seagate as a hotel and a corporation,” Panks said. “We have it all now. I don’t think anywhere else, except maybe The Breakers and the Boca Raton Resort & Club, have anything like we have here.

“But it’s early and we still have to establish ourselves and get our feet in the water. We hope to get a lot of business from the hotel. We’re getting three or four groups a week from the hotel, which at this stage is pretty good response.

That response should increase as the Seagate Hotel & Spa is offering a series of “stay and play” packages throughout 2013. 

Those packages range from a one-night stay with a round of golf beginning at $524 per person to a “Grand Golf Getaway” that includes a two-night stay, dinner for two at the hotel’s Atlantic Grille, two tickets to the hotel’s Gary Wiren collection of golf memorabilia at the Delray Beach Center for the Arts and two rounds of golf for $1,148 per person.

“We’ve got about 150 members but only about 48 are true active golfers. We’ve got to make this place a little more unique. Going forward, I think we need to get more family-oriented. I think that’s the next generation for us.”

To attract the next generation, the club has eliminated its mandatory membership policy for property owners and is charging new members a $25,000 initiation fee and a $12,000 annual dues, the latter of which is per couple.

“If we can get the 40- to 60-year-olds in here to here to drive the energy, that will give people from the outside the opportunity to see us as a re-energized place,” Panks said. Ú

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