Arson the latest setback for popular Miami golf facility, International Links Melreese Country Club

International Links Melreese Country Club is a popular public option located right next to Miami International Airport.

As if fortunes weren't bad enough lately for International Links Melreese Country Club in Miami, now the popular semi-private golf course, less than a mile from Miami International Airport, has to deal with the cleanup and recovery from a fire that destroyed about 40 golf carts last Tuesday night, July 24.

The good news, though, is that police have a suspect in custody, thanks to video surveillance of the property and an anonymous tip.

Carlos Crespo, 20, has been charged with first-degree arson and burglary of an unoccupied structure after causing around a half million dollars in damage, according to a published report in the Miami Patch community newspaper.

Surveillance video of Melreese arson

No motive for the crime has been determined, and the suspect has not released a statement, according to police.

The fire, though, is just the latest bad news for the golf course, which is home to the local First Tee program and has been serving community golfers and visitors for years.

A few weeks ago, a group led by former soccer star David Beckham convinced Miami City Council to put a proposal on November's ballot that would build a new soccer complex on the property where Melreese Golf Course sits. The site would be the home of a new expansion Major League Soccer franchise owned by Beckham (an option he has exercised as part of the deal he signed to play for the L.A. Galaxy in 2007) and his partners, Miami brothers Jorge and Jose Mas. If voters approve, Melreese's days would be numbered. MLS is planning for the new franchise to begin play in 2020.

While supporters of the project contend that the new complex and MLS team will bring countless jobs and revenue to the area, Melreese, its golfers and supporters of The First Tee program are understandably upset that the golf course may close.

First off, in an area that's rich in high-end country clubs and resorts like Trump National Doral, affordable public golf (Miami residents get discounted rates) is far and few between. Throughout the years, the course has been known for its junior programs and tournaments. LPGA players Tracy Kerdyk, Christie Kerr, Patti Rizzo and Moira Dunn played there as juniors. And International Links Melreese Country Club is also home to University of Miami women's golf team as well as the men's teams from Barry University and Johnson and Wales University.

The 6,500-yard course was originally designed by Dick Wilson in 1961 and renovated five years later by Robert Trent Jones Sr. In 1997, the course underwent a $3.9 million renovation by Charles Mahannah. The course has five lakes, nine waste bunkers, 97 sand bunkers and a cypress wetland.

Tiger Woods, a PGA Tour rookie at the time, conducted a clinic during the reopening in front of 3,500 fans.

Another champion for the club is PGA Tour veteran Erik Compton, who has undergone two hear transplants. He's often seen out at Melreese practicing when not on tour. Compton was at the City Council meeting, voicing his support for keeping the course.

"I’ve had the opportunity to play very beautiful golf courses all around the world," Compton said, according to a story in the Sun Sentinel. "Melreese is a very special place. Soccer can fit in Miami, but not at Melreese. These kids have nowhere to go if you take away Melreese. Soccer doesn’t belong at Melreese. The kids belong there.

Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in Houston. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America with an occasional trip to Europe and beyond, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 25 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeBaileyGA and Instagram at @MikeStefanBailey.
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I play regularly at Melreese and after living and playing throughout the USA, there are few better courses and practice areas anywhere. This was a crime that I personally believe should not be attached to the proposed new Soccer stadium. The Arsonist stayed and watched his work for too long and it was very easy to track him down. My concern about the Soccer Stadium plan is not limited to the course and the wonderful Miami First-tee, but equally the negative impact it will have on untold thousands of people going and coming from the airport or commuting daily from the north, east and west in that area. MIAMI RESIDENTS or anyone trying to get to, or coming from the Miami International Airport (or home) should be alerted to the hideous traffic congestion that will result during and after construction. More lives will be impacted negatively then benefited by a stadium constructed in one of the already busiest traffic corridors in South Florida. MIAMI residents need to vote NO to the loss of an important green area and recreational program and realize that a few will benefit on the backs of many. The stadium should be out further -- maybe in the area of the new super mall being built west and north of that location. And, seldom do I read on-line conversations about anything but some of the unthoughtful and destructive comments that I have seen here are a bad sign for us all.

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In the early ninety's, I qualified for the US Amateur Public Links Championship at Melreese so I have very fond memories for this course. It would be a shame to lose it to the MLS. There's other places the soccer complex could fit in and should be considered moving forward. Just my two cents :)

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seems to me like David Beckham has some splainin' to do, Lucy!

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No sense in arguing this issue. Those who live in Miami have the ball in their court. Be sure to vote your feelings in November. Keep the golf course and find another place for David Beckham and the Mas brothers to build a soccer complex.

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I totally agree with Erik Compton.Why swoop one for the other,when I am sure their is a way to fit Soccer,and public Golf in
the greater Miami area.Leave the Golf Course as is.

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Leave Melrose alone, the kids and public need it!!

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Send Beckham in his buddies to jail you know who did it and it shouldn't be too hard to get this 22 year old to confess to it put them in jail get rid of them this is a golf course and should remain a golf course soccer can be played anywhere

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Big money burns instead of just not getting their way. COUNCIL CANNOT GIVE IN TO THE ARSONISTS MONEY MEN. REBUILD THE GOLF COURSE

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Find out who paid Crespo.

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This will clear the way for that soccer stadium. When a developer is doing lazy circles over your property, you need 24 hour security. Volunteers saved the Fox Theater in Midtown Atlanta when Bell South was doing those lazy circles.

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Arson the latest setback for popular Miami golf facility, International Links Melreese Country Club