By Tom Ward
This week I want to tell you about my new friends Mauricio & Larissa Galante, who have taken up residency in the DFW metroplex as the new owners of the Golf Center of Arlington. The native Brazilians have big plans for their new golf facility and want to invite golfers and non-golfers alike to stop by to visit to see what kind of new and exciting things are happening since they’ve taken over the property. Recently I sat down to speak with the Galantes, who ventured into their first golf business with some very diverse and intriguing backgrounds.
Prior to purchasing the Golf Center of Arlington, Galante and his wife ran a sky diving business in Connecticut for 10 years. Larissa is a dentist who has a master’s degree, a doctoral degree and a postdoctoral degree in oral cancer. “My wife, Larissa, and I started switching gears to have another business,” recalled Galante. “I was introduced to the game of golf in 2006. I hit the range a few times, but I wasn’t taking it seriously. In 2008, I got the bug and started playing tournaments and got good at it. In 2012, I was nearly a scratch player and I was teaching skydiving for 18 years and I decided to start teaching golf. I helped my golf buddies and then I got certified by the USGTF (United States Golf Teachers Federation). Larissa and I decided to sell the skydiving business and we started looking into the golf business. The question was, ‘What type of golf business did we want? Retail, golf courses or a golf range?’ We decided on a golf range and began searching about 2 years ago and I saw online that this place was for sale and it was a good location in between Dallas and Fort Worth.
“We knew we needed to move south from Connecticut in order to have a year-round business in golf, because golf up there was too seasonal,” Galante added. “We started to consider North Carolina, Texas, California and Florida. First, we went down to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where we almost closed a deal there for a golf range. Unfortunately, the deal in Carolina fell through. So, we re-started our search and saw this place again was up for sale. My wife said, ‘Let’s call the guy and go down to Texas to check it out.'”
Larissa chimed in saying, ” He was tired of skydiving and he really liked golf. I didn’t want a golf course because my parents had farms down in Brazil and I knew how hard it would be to manage a golf course. However, we almost leased a golf course in Connecticut, but they wanted too much. So, we sold the skydiving business, which took 6 months to close the deal there.” After that they moved back to their native country, Brazil. After a few months there they both felt it was time to come back to the United States.
“After 10 years in the U.S. we came back to Brazil and we felt like we didn’t fit in anymore down there,” said Galante. “The first few months were fine, but after that we felt we didn’t fit into the culture. To run a business there is to deal with a lot of corruption. Plus, golf isn’t popular in the country.” So while they were back home in their native country, the couple started looking via the internet for golf driving range opportunities. “In July of 2013 we came back to the U.S. to visit the driving range in North Carolina that we had already been negotiating with,” said Galante. “We pretty much closed the deal there, but at the last-minute the day we signed with him he told us there was another offer. If we covered that offer it would be ours. Then he decided to go with this other guy’s offer after we spent nearly a month waiting around for him to make his decision. He had already said yes to us and we had the check to hold the deal and everything. My wife, Larissa, cried for 2 days.”
Larissa remembered saying, “I did cry for 2 days and then I was back on-line looking for a driving range and that’s when we saw this one. It turns out that Mauricio had recalled this place from 2 years ago. The guy was asking for too much, but we still called him and he said to come over and check out the place.”
“So we came to Texas and negotiated with him,” added Galante. “We stayed at a hotel here for a week and drove around the area and thought ‘This is awesome’. We had 4 or 5 days of negotiations with him and we had a final price, but we needed the bank to structure the deal for the down payment and purchase. In November, we closed the deal with the bank and we transferred the loan he had with the bank to us. The closing date was supposed to be December 15th and then we moved down. We actually took ownership of the golf range on January 21st of this year.”
I asked them if they knew what they were in for after they purchased the range. “We knew we had a lot of work ahead, but we underestimated how much,” said Galante. “It was 3 times harder than what I thought. Mentally, I was prepared because I’m a skydiver so I’m always mentally prepared. Technically, I was not. There was a lot of stuff I did not know how to do. I had to learn on my own by doing it. I always had the focus and the vision for this place to be an outstanding golf facility for this area to practice golf.”
“What are your long-term plans for the golf range?” I inquired. “I have 2 things,” said Larissa. “I want to serve the two publics that play the game. First, the people that take the game seriously, like the professionals and people that want to get better in the game. I want them to say, ‘Wow! That’s a great facility’. Secondly is for the kids and newer players to the game to come here and have fun playing golf. This is such a huge place and we are open from early in the morning ’til late at night, so there are ways to feed both publics.”
Galante told me he has visited both Top Golf and Leonard Links and he wants to blend both of those golf facilities into their business in Arlington. “We have the location, but I need to equip the business with the entertaining side,” said Galante. “We’ll have tables where people can come in groups and have their drinks and listen to some music. Also, we’ll have an electronic device that can track their balls going to the pins. We plan on having an excellent short game area with extended grass areas. We have a bar already, but we plan on updating it with more televisions and more space with new decorations. With a new restaurant we want to serve both publics. Not only the families who come to play mini-golf with the kids, but the people that want to come at night who would like to have dinner here. For the serious golfer, we’ll have a great spread for them when they take a lunch break. Plus, we want to cater to people that live nearby who can come to eat here and then maybe they’ll pick up playing golf.”
“Tex-Mex with chicken wings, barbeque ribs, pulled pork with French fries are the initial foods we are going to offer,” mentioned Larissa. “Basically, foods that people can take out to the range with them if they want while they are hitting balls. Overall, it will be a good quality family restaurant. We will periodically change up the menu with perhaps seasonal menus.”
Galante echoed his wife’s sentiments saying, “The main goal is to serve people so if they show up here and they want to have a drink and watch sports on the TV screens we have it. If they want to have a family dinner or lunch we have it. If they want a little snack before or after they practice we have it. If they want to have parties for groups we have it. We’ve had fraternities from UTA rent space here for gatherings as well as some local businesses. We can handle birthday parties as well. The time frame for all of this to be ready is around 4 months, or before the winter months are here.”
In the short time that I’ve spent around Galante I can tell that he’s a real go-getter. He’s the type of guy who will sit down and take a break after a long day working at the range, grabbing a drink and a sandwich and he’ll look outside and think, “I’ve got to get that done”, or he’ll see something else that needs tending to.
Before ending my conversation with the couple Galante interjected one last thing. “My main dream here is to create a facility that I call ‘pratica perfeita’ which is Portuguese for ‘perfect practice’,” he said. “Also, my other dream, which will take probably 1 or 2 seasons to get it, is to have the grass so green like a fairway that you would see on a top golf course. We have 30 acres of property here. We will have a tracking system where you have a pro tracer range that can track 20 balls at a time. It’s a wireless device and we’ll sell one hour passwords so people can track their balls on their cell phone or I-pad.
“We are conscious of people’s budgets so that way a person can come here and hit balls and have a drink and stay within their budget. Currently, we have a $2 beer with the purchase of a bucket of balls. We have a happy hour on Fridays, but we are going to extend that to Thursdays, too. We are having between half a dozen to a dozen new people every day showing up here. On the weekend it’s even more than that. Thanks to my wife, we now have a nice interactive website, so we are now a presence on the internet. We have a Facebook page, Four Square page, Twitter, Google Plus and Yelp and we keep all of those social media sites updated daily. Social media is one more tool to help us get the word out and it is very powerful.”
I can tell you that what this couple has done in a few short months is nothing short of amazing. I always thought the potential for this property was outstanding, but it was going to take hard work and commitment from someone like Mauricio and Larissa to make it come to fruition. Fortunately, this Brazilian dynamic duo is up for the challenge and I believe they’re going to inject new enthusiasm and fun into the game of golf here locally for many years to come. So please check out their website at www.golfcenterofarlington.com.
Tom Ward can be reached at www.teetimewithtom.com.