NORTH AUGUSTA --- Fred Layman III remembered it was about 7 a.m. when he received a frantic call April 16 last year from one of his employees at North Augusta Golf and Country Club.
It was Stephanie Banks, Mr. Layman's controller, and she had devastating news.
"She kept saying 'It's all gone, Fred. It's all gone,' " he said.
The club Mr. Layman's ownership group bought a year ago today had burned to the ground just three days after the purchase.
"(My) first thoughts were, 'Was there anybody in there,'" Mr. Layman said in an interview Friday. "And then when we found out that nobody was hurt, our concerns were how did the fire get started."
At least seven fire departments battled the inferno that destroyed the old clubhouse. The fire was first labeled "suspicious," but an investigation by the Edgefield County Sheriff's Office and the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division was unable to determine the cause. Investigators later said they found no indications of criminal activity.
The club secured a temporary building and reopened the course the next day.
"Looking back at it, we were fairly positive that day in thinking we could build bigger, better and a lot sooner than what we've done so far," Mr. Layman said.
It wasn't until eight months later, on Dec. 17, that the club broke ground on a 30,000-square-foot clubhouse.
Mr. Layman, the club's chairman and CEO, said crews will start pouring the foundation of the new $5 million clubhouse this week. Completion, which had been planned for summer, is now planned for December.
Insurance difficulties and the restructuring of the ownership group to add a new partner have slowed progress, Mr. Layman said.
That new partner, Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, joined the group last month. The Augusta native's name has given the club a boost in its efforts to rebuild the clubhouse and develop the adjacent 120-unit Pinery gated community and the 88-lot Pinery Estates community.
"Right off the bat it just brings a little more credibility to the ownership group," Mr. Layman said. "To do it alone was the vision of mine, but obviously the project got bigger than I am because of the fire."
Mr. Whisenhunt visited the club Saturday for the first time since he became a partner.
"We've kept in close communications with each other," he said. "I've seen enough pictures and diagrams to have a complete vision of what we are trying to get done. I'm excited about where we are heading with this and I plan to be very involved in the process."
Though the destruction of the clubhouse is still fresh in many minds, Mr. Whisenhunt said, a new clubhouse means a new start.
"Obviously, when you have something that is as instrumental in the community as this golf club, it hurts to lose any part of it," he said. "But this is also a chance for us to look forward to the future of the club and work to make it better. By continuing the relationships we already have and building new ones in the community, I hope that it will remain an important part of the community."
Staff Writer Nikasha Dicks contributed to this article.
Reach J. Scott Trubey at (706) 823-3424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.