The Black Pearl Tees Off in Roatan
World Class Golf Comes to the Bay Islands

May 1st, 2010
by John Morris Illustrated by Barbara Morris

[private]

Signature Hole #11 with an island green

Signature Hole #11 with an island green

When Mario Toriello, Vice President Sales and Marketing, and his two brothers of North Shore Development Company S.A. set out to find the best Caribbean island to build their third golf course in twelve years, they spent two years studying the entire region looking for the ideal location for both layout and affordability. It wasn’t until they saw Danny McNabb’s land in Pristine Bay that they knew they had found the right place. A partnership was made, and the 150 million dollar project of The Pristine Bay Resorts which includes The Black Pearl golf course was born.

Based in Guatemala City, Guatemala, North Shore Development Company S.A. is a family held company with a long history in real estate development in Central America. The Toriello family has also always been passionate about golf. Twelve years ago , when Mario’s uncle announced that he wanted to build a golf course with residential and hotel facilities in Guatemala, his partner and late brother told him he was crazy. Mario now describes his uncle as a visionary. Northern Central America was lacking in world class championship golf courses and facilities, and the Toriello family company was about to change that in a monumental way.

The first two projects include Club Campestre San Isidro in Guatemala City, and La Reunion Country Club in Antigua which is located in the skirt of Volcan de Fuego. Both projects have been hugely successful. Key partnerships with Paul “Pete” Dye, a prominent and accomplished golf course designer from the USA, and his son Perry along with EDSA, world renowned architectural and urban design firm have proved to be wise choices. One thing is certain about the Toriello family, they only work with the best.

The Black Pearl project has been the most challenging the Toriello’s have embarked on considering it is on an island surrounded by the world’s second largest coral reef. Almost all the building materials and equipment is shipped in and special precautions have been taken to ensure that the reef is not disturbed by the chemicals and fertilizers necessary to maintain a golf course in immaculate conditions. Massive fresh water lagoons integrated into the course act as giant filtration systems and special salt-water tolerant paspalum grass developed by the University of Georgia is being used for the fairways. In a time when many similar projects have stopped or been delayed due economic and political conditions, the construction of the course as well as the first phase of residences are well underway at a steady pace. Nine holes are now completed, approved by Pete Dye, and are available for the public to play. Construction of the remaining nine holes is underway and expected to be completed before the end of the year.

Besides the golf course, phase one also includes a beach club, a hotel, an apartment building and 34 villas. As of this writing, 31 of 34 villas have already been sold. All villas are constructed to withstand a category five hurricane. Phase two will include a marina/village capable of handling yachts up to 120 feet as well six restaurants, two more hotels and another beach club. Total house units will top out at between 850 and 1000. An extensive medical facility and spa are being planned with plastic surgeons available. A PGA school is planned for training and the applications for PGA professionals are flowing in at an unexpected rate. The layout of the resort is intelligently impressive, combining golf, home sites, hotels and marinas without feeling crowded or losing the atmosphere of the island setting. To say the least, the project is overwhelming, in a good way, to the first time visitor.

As with the previous projects, the Toriello’s are cutting no corners utilizing only the best materials for both the course and the building construction. Sand for the beach and the sand traps is imported from Venezuela and floor tiles for the homes are bought in Turkey There is no construction on speculation ensuring the owners will get what they want and expect. Customers from all over the globe have come to expect world class from previous projects, and Mario and his family are determined to provide it. During Semana Santa, the golf course held it’s first invitation only tournament with one practice round and two tournament rounds and the response was incredible according to Mario. One day, the dream is to host professional events such as the Hooter’s Tour and the Tour of Champions, but that is still five or six years away. For grand opening of the 18 hole course this year, Pete Dye has promised to bring in the celebrity brigade with such names as Greg Norman to show off his latest and most creative effort. Certainly all will be impressed, not only with the resort and the golf course, but with the island.

When all is said and done, the resort will employ over 1500 islanders with currently only 3-4% of the employees brought in from the mainland for specialized work including such training as caddy skills. Sixty five golf carts and thirty five caddies are the current goals. Mario has no doubt the project will be profitable and economically good for the island of Roatan. He sees it as a 6-8 year endeavor and cherishes the opportunity to work with those he has met on the island.

Mario laughs when he still gets questions on whether or not the project will be finished. “Are you kidding”, he says, “this project is a winner!” This is certain and for Roatan, it’s a hole in one. [/private]

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