Palm Coast, Florida-based Beebe & Associates was founded by Michael Beebe, who has helped created Hidden Cypress Golf Club in Bluffton, South Carolina; Greystone Golf Club in Dickson, Tennessee; Osprey Cove Golf Course in St. Mary’s, Georgia; Edmund Petroleum Golf and Country Club in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; and the Tournament Players Club at Heron Bay, in Coral Springs, Florida.
I was working for Mark McCumber’s design firm in the early 1990s when I got the opportunity to be involved with my first international course. We’d secured a design project in South Korea for a gentleman fondly known as Chicken Papa because he owned one of the largest poultry businesses in the country.
Prior to starting design work, we made plans to visit South Korea to discuss the project, meet the rest of the team, and visit the site. We were also supposed to collect the initial deposit on our design contract so that we could begin work when we returned to the states.
Stan Norton, one of our project superintendents who oversaw much of the company’s construction work, accompanied me on the trip. Neither Norton nor I had ever been to South Korea and neither of us spoke the language, so we spent several days struggling to communicate with the locals.
Our trip included a visit to the site, which was so mountainous we couldn’t walk certain areas, and we had discussions with engineers an contractors during which we had no idea what they were describing.
After five days it was time to return to America, but we were disappointed because we still didn’t have the check for our initial contract deposit and reimbursement for our travel expenses, and we were having trouble communicating that need.
Norton and I sat in Chicken Papa’s office just before we were to catch our cab to the airport when Papa appeared with a brown paper bag, which he handed to me. He politely bowed to thank us and then escorted us out of his office.
As Norton and I took the elevator down to the lobby, I opened the bag, expecting a jar of kimchi or some other Korean delicacy. Instead, I found our deposit… all in brand new hundred-dollar bills! Stan and I were rookie international travelers, bu we knew for certain this was substantially more than what we would be allowed to bring through customs.
We feared the security officials would assume we had completed a drug deal and might throw us in jail, so we knew we couldn’t simply declare the money on the customs form.
On the cab ride to the airport, we crafted a plan to get the money back to the United States. We agreed there was no way we were going to let the money leave our possession, which ruled out trying to put some of it in our luggage, so we decided to split it up and stuff it in every pocket, shoe, waistband, or other discreet area on our body. We went to the airport restroom and started stuffing stacks of hundred-dollar bills in every conceivable place we could.
Norton and I decided to split up and then reconnect once we’d (hopefully) cleared customs. The next thirty minutes were the most nerve-wracking time of my life.
Norton and I each survived security screening and reconvened in the Korean Airlines pre-boarding lounge. We discreetly began removing the money from our hiding places and secured it in our briefcases for the rest of the flight home.
We didn’t sleep much on that flight!
Sixteen hours later we arrived back in Florida with the brown paper bag safely in our possession. We went straight to the McCumber office, where we were greeted with cheers as we emptied the bag onto the conference room table and told our smuggling tale.