Letter #44

Happy Friday everyone,

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me. I usually begin my irregular letters apologizing for a silent period because you deserve better; you should be regularly informed about what’s going on at your Club. Why break from tradition – please accept my apologies. Now, let’s get caught up.

To date, as your President, I’ve written you 43 letters by my count; I’m sorry to say that this one, 44, will be my last. I’ve enjoyed writing them – I think you know that. In truth, however, this is my first letter as your ex-President. At the last Board meeting, 7/16, I resigned my position as an officer of the Board of Governors. Fortunately, the much more capable Park Allen will amply fill my shoes as your new President and the equally more capable Paul Bressie has volunteered to step into the office of Vice-President. I have just embarked on a medical treatment that will effectively take me off-line for the next 90+ days. That’s essentially the remainder of my term as President; it didn’t make sense to stay in the role as an absentee. My sincerest thanks go to Park and Paul for their willingness to step up to fill this small gap. The Club is lucky to have them.


When we last left our lovely story, 3 months ago, the Club had just approved a vote in favor of two major capital improvements and a food minimum. Recall that conditional to approval, no dues increase, no additional debt or any member assessment would accompany either of these projects and that’s the way they’ll be executed.

From a staging perspective, the new furniture has been ordered for the Bar & Grill, inside and out, and for the pool area. It will be installed any day now – targeting mid-August just as everyone returns home for the new school year.

The kitchen expansion which will include a bar area upgrade will commence on Monday, 10/13, after the Challenger wraps up and just as we enter the slower winter season for the Bar & Grill. The project is scheduled to take 90 days weather permitting – call it 120+ and say good-bye to the draught for sure.

South Property Project (aka – lower court area). We’ve begun application with the Town to get approval for the whole project instead of asking piecemeal for each leg of the project (bathrooms, courts, lights) over time. We do not expect to build it all in one foul swoop; it must be staged in order to have the money in reserve to pay for it before beginning any portion of it. But the application process will be a long and tedious one because of the lights. We decided, since lights are the most important part of the project (solves the court capacity issues around the Club in the winter months), we may as well get the application process started. I doubt we break ground on that project before late next year at the earliest but that will allow the coffers to refill after the kitchen project. All is proceeding according to plan.

Dues Increase

In an earlier letter, #34, I reviewed the financial structure our Club follows. Recall that dues pay for Club operations. Dues do not pay for any capital improvements (initiation does that) or any of the programs (fitness, swim, and tennis are self-sustaining business units). However, when we brought the Bar & Grill back in-house last year, dues began to cover any losses sustained in Food & Beverage. The dues bucket covers two cost areas; Administration & Operations and F&B.

As promised in letter #36, at the end of last year, a dues increase to cover the slowly but constantly inflating costs of Admin/Ops was overdue back then. Over the past 6yrs, we’ve observed these costs rising by about 3%/yr. That seems reasonable when you consider the cost of living increases we’ve all experienced outside the Club and our decision a few years ago to increase the benefits you provide our employees. We’ve put it off long enough (it’s always a distasteful step for any Board). Effective 9/1, a $10/mo dues increase will be effected for regular members, half that for seniors. That’s a 4.7% increase. Our last dues increase was Jan 2013 at $5/mo. Looking ahead, I think you can expect another dues increase associated with inflating Administration & Operations Costs around Jan 2016 in the 3%-ish neighborhood.

Surrounding any dues increase is always a mad dash to cut costs wherever sensible. We discovered that the Club incurs an annualized expense of $85K for allowing members to pay with credit cards. Effective year-end, we’ll no longer all be paying for some member mileage points. Credit cards will no longer be an acceptable form of payment for member’s monthly charges; we will eliminate this expense by converting members to ACH (auto checking or debit cards) in the coming months. Management has been asked to look for other areas to tighten its belt; recommendations will be presented to the Board at upcoming meetings.

Bar & Grill Expenses

In letter #7 and #36, we talked about the dues increase specifically associated with the cost of operating the Bar & Grill. It is still on the come and may not be implemented for another year. The transformation of the Bar & Grill has been and continues to be ongoing. It was brought in-house, prices were lowered, the menu was enhanced, and it went on the bus-your-own-table blitz to reduce staff costs. We have an approved food minimum that won’t go into effect until the remodel work is done early next year. How the food minimum affects the bottom line is anyone’s guess frankly. Remember, all private club F&B services lose money – the fine line to walk is to keep losses minimized while maintaining a respectable service offering to the membership. Until the sands stop shifting, we won’t know the extent of this component of a dues increase but the goal is for it to be nominal.


The Board decided to raise the Club initiation by 10% from $18,500 to $20,500 at the end of the year. TPC’s initiation has not been raised since 2008. Between both waitlists, in-town and out, there are over 100 families waiting to join the Club while turnover remains at just about 5% of the membership roll. Of the 10 like Clubs surveyed in Southern Marin, our initiation fee will now be the highest on the list but our monthly dues rank 7th.


Last summer we learned that Jerry had stage 4 lung cancer; a dreadful discovery. I haven’t done a very good job at keeping you informed of his condition. Normally, there isn’t any good news associated with that diagnosis but in Jerry’s case there is a bright ray of hope – relatively speaking. Due to the swift steps taken by his medical team at Stanford Medical Center at the time of diagnosis and the effects of a new, targeted agent (Tarceva), Jerry’s lung cancer has receded and is being held at bay. It hasn’t gone away completely and his team doesn’t think it ever will. However, they do believe it’s something they can manage for an undetermined but hopefully, very long time. Not the ideal outcome but one that is wholly better than what was anticipated last year. We’re all thrilled by this news and inspired by the grace and fortitude he’s deployed handling this.

Jerry Pang is probably the single best private club manager in the State of California, he loves what he does and wants to do more of it. Consequently, the Board was thrilled to renew his 3yr contract in May. The Club is a much better place with Jerry at the helm.

Thank you

In February I was diagnosed with Mantle Cell Lymphoma, a rare, aggressive, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. I did not broadcast this at the time; I wanted to deal with it privately. Invariably, that kind of information gets out. I have been blown away by people’s responses; my words will fall well short of describing how moved I’ve been and appreciative I am. From the bottom of my heart I want to thank each and every one of you who offered so much love and support in a whole multitude of ways; it has been incredibly uplifting.

Treatment is going very well indeed and I have one last hurdle in front of me for now – bone marrow transplant. I have been incredibly fortunate. My body responded very well to the chemo and I’m cancer free right now. However, MCL has a nasty, high, re-occurrence rate and BMT is done in order to reset one’s immune system to hopefully prevent or at least delay re-occurrence. BMT is a lengthy process; it’s why I resigned before my term expired.

That’s a Wrap

Ok then – you’re up to date. A great Board is leading the Club with its own, new, brilliant leadership. Finances are buttoned down and the facility is looking better than ever (well, by the end of the month, anyway). The best management money can’t buy is locked up and running your Club efficiently along the evolutionary path your Board provides. My work is done.

Be well and Godspeed to you all.

With love,



  1. Joan Ross says:

    Hello Mike,

    I have not had the pleasure of meeting you but I have so enjoyed your updates on what is happening at the club!

    I wish you the best with your treatments, and my prayers and the prayers of our entire church will be offered for your speedy recovery.

    Warm regards, Joan

  2. Mike – I am utterly shocked at this terrible news. You are the last person I ever thought would be afflicted with cancer. You are always so positive and smiling and making people in your presence feel good.
    Since I am a staunch believer in the power of prayers I will include you as well. I have been praying for Jerry for the last two years and it appears to be working.
    I certainly will be missing your letters. They are always so well written and most informative.
    I send you and your family my best wishes. Take care – Marianne Strotz

  3. Terry Graham says:

    Dear Mike,
    If you tackle your medical problem with the same dedication, skill and tenacity that you used in your TPC presidency, you will give this disease a run for its money. I enjoyed your thoughtful and comprehensive newsletters and thank you for your service to TPC throughout the years. Our thoughts and prayers will be with you and your family.
    Terry Graham

  4. Elizabeth Syufy Kelley says:

    Dear Mike,
    You’re a gifted communicator. We’ll all surely miss these letters and your leadership at the TPC while you take care of your health. Wishing you smooth sailing and success as you undergo treatment. With appreciation, Liz and Teke Kelley and family

  5. Susan Wolfe says:

    Although we haven’t met, I have been so impressed with your leadership of the club and the wonderful way that you have informed and engaged the membership. We all owe you a huge “thank
    I am so sorry to hear of your medical crisis, but I have a feeling that you will tackle this next hurdle well. It will be a major challenge and both those who know you and those of use who,only know you through your letters are pulling for you.
    Wishing you strength and a return to good health.
    Susan Wolfe

  6. Sylvia Ross says:

    Dear Mike,
    I have been out of the loop for quite awhile now so your health report was new to me. I have enjoyed all of your letters and I thank you for all your years of service to TPC. I wish you 100% success with your bone marrow transplant.
    My best to you, Mary Lou and your family,
    Sylvia Ross

  7. Alex rodriguez says:

    Mike you are in our thoughts and prayers. .. so is Jerry always. . I know First hand how tough bmt is as a treatment. sending hugs and strength to you all!! …
    Not sure if I said lately but. I hate cancer! !!!

    Much love Alex and Matthew raff Michael. And (Steven) always.

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