I almost couldn’t believe my eyes as I scanned the page. Keith Foster, well-known, well-respected, well-sought after golf course architect had just pled guilty to smuggling and selling goods made form endangered species, a felony, and was facing up to a five-year prison sentence. Pre-eminent sports writer Len Shapiro broke the story for local Virginia paper The Farquier Times, and then Ryan Ballangee wrote a column for Golf News Net almost simultaneously.
The 60-year-old Foster was convicted of violating the Lacey Act (16 USC §3372) for selling illegally imported goods from the Outpost antique shop in Middleburg, Virginia, which he ran with his wife. According to Ballengee, “From the outset, Foster had run-ins with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. In 2012, Foster attempted to import an Indian leopard skin rug, which was prohibited under the Endangered Species Act. The rug was seized by the USFWS. Foster petitioned for the release of the rug, but his petition was denied and the USFWS supplied Foster with a detailed outline of the rules applicable to the import of wildlife and wildlife products.
“The government alleges Foster made multiple buying trips abroad to source items for sale at The Outpost. Many of these items were made from endangered species, including sawfish, zebra, barn owls and crocodiles.”
It was conversations he had with an undercover agent that were the most incriminating, indeed shocking to those who he interacted with in the golf design world. He admitted to the undercover that, In truth I shouldn’t be bringing those in. Cause, you know, um, they’re…I mean. Fish and
Wildlife, if they opened up that, and found it, you know, they would confiscate my whole container…so that’s a problem.”
He added, “Rest assured, I’m gonna bring more in ‘cause I’m the only fool in the States that probably wants to risk it.”
Game, set, match: U.S. Fish and Game. Foster will be sentenced in March.
This brings to a close what was the crest of a high and beautiful wave Foster was riding as a golf course architect. Perhaps only Gil Hanse was getting as many high profile restoration jobs as Foster was. Keith’s work at Philly Cricket Club, for instance, was so much like Tillinghast would have done, it already hosted a Senior PGA and could host a PGA Championship in the future. And his work at Moraine brought that once great major venue back into similar conversations. And then, of course, there’s his terrific work at Baltimore C.C.’s Five Farms.
Congressional Country Club has always parted ways with Foster, and is actively searching for someone to take over the restoration/renovation work necessary for them to host future majors. Other courses are likely to follow suit. The Outpost has since closed its doors and is not operating.