Smyth joins Harrington at White Oak

By Brian Keogh

Champions Tour star Des Smyth has joined forces with Padraig Harrington to promote a $50 million golfing enclave in the US.

The Drogheda ace, 54, has signed up to promote the Irish-owned White Oak community in North Carolina where Harrington has decided to set up his US base.

Harrington is a friend of the developers - Irish rally driver Austin McHale and McHale’s brother-in-law, Leonard Kinsella.

And it has emerged that the Dubliner has been given one of White Oak’s best plots and a 5,000-square-foot home in return for a four-year deal and just EIGHT days of his time every year.

Homes on the 1,000 acre plantation near Tryon are worth anything between $100,000 and $600,0000.

And White Oak's CEO N. Keith Collins believes he's made the deal of the century by securing the services of PGA Tour ace Harrington.

Collins said: "Padraig plays more here in the US than Tiger. He is currently number ten in the world."

Harrington has since fallen to 11th in the world rankings but will use White Oak as his American base from next year.

The development will feature a 7,300-yard Arnold Palmer-designed “Premium Course” which is due to open for play in autumn 2008.

Harrington said: "It will be a nice spot to have somewhere to practice in warm weather without it being excessively hot."

Golf will continue to be a key feature in White Oak’s plans but it is no longer the main focus with 13 high end golf projects within a 70-mile radius.

According to managing partner Gene Kinsella, one of the Irishmen who bought the historic 936-acre tract in 2003, plans for an on-site hotel have been scrapped.

Kinsella stepped in to directly manage the development last autumn, taking over from Michael Savidge, a Florida developer who brought the Kinsella family to the White Oak property and led the development team for the first three years.

Kinsella said: "The development had no clear direction. It was a highly commercial plan and Polk County is not a place for New Yorkers, blowing their horns at every stop sign.

"This is not the place for a hotel. It is not a ‘destination’ area. It is a high quality area with a high quality of life."

White Oak Plantation was part of a 93,400-acre land grant from King George II to Ambrose Mills in 1742.

The White Oak partners have invested around $20 million so far, according to Collins, who expects the total cost to come to about $48 million.