KINGSTON ― When the Tenczars moved into their dream home overlooking a golf course in the spring of 2017, the family savored the idyllic views of the 15th fairway and the serenity of Indian Pond Estates. Then the golfers showed up in force.
Flying balls shattered windows in their house with such force they sent glass spraying into the next room; the siding on the house was peppered with circular dents, like a battleship in a war zone. Fearful neighbor children wore bicycle helmets when they went out to play, the Tenczars said.
In the four years since moving in, Erik and Athina Tenczar have picked up nearly 700 balls on their property; they no longer fix the broken windows, but instead cover them in thick plastic sheeting. They even built a partition to shield a small section of their deck from flying objects. A golf shot last fall took out a deck railing.
“When it hits, it sounds like a gunshot,” said Athina Tenczar, 36. “It’s very scary.”
“We’re always on edge,” added Erik Tenczar, 43. “It’s been emotionally taxing on us.”
Parents of three daughters ages 2 to 5, the Tenczars finally swung back in a legal action of note to anyone who lives next to a golf course: They sued the Indian Pond Country Club for trespass over the continual bombardment — and won a permanent injunction against golf balls on their property.
After a six-day trial in Plymouth Superior Court, a jury on Dec. 6 awarded the Tenczars $3.5 million for damages and mental and emotional suffering. (With interest the award totals $4.9 million, court records show).
The country club has since reconfigured the tee box for the 15th hole, and the Tenczars say it has been months since they’ve seen a golf ball on their property. In March, lawyers for the country club filed a notice that it would seek to appeal the case.
“I’m extremely confident that the injunction will be struck down,” said the club’s lawyer, John Flemming. “In my opinion, as a matter of law, the verdict of $3.5 million for alleged emotional distress is against the weight of the evidence.”
The Tenczars, with a newborn daughter and eager to grow their family, bought the brand-new $750,000 home in Indian Pond Estates in April 2017. They weren’t golfers, but they instantly fell in love with the four-bedroom, 3,000-square-foot house on Country Club Way. They made a quick offer and moved right in.
The couple say they anticipated putting up with some amount of sound and distraction from living along a golf course. But they were not prepared for the extent, frequency, and intensity of all of it.
“Honestly, if you have all these houses on a course, I assumed it was safe,” Athina Tenczar said.
Erik Tenczar asked: “Should we have looked into chances our house would be hit? Probably. I don’t know. We just fell in love with the house. It was our first house.”
But their castle became their prison, said Bob Galvin, the Tenczars’ lawyer.
“They bought what they thought was their dream house and it became a nightmare for them,” Galvin said. “They couldn’t do anything outside during the golf season.”
It would take about a month before the first golf ball encounter, a near miss in the driveway. A hurtling golf ball bounced at Erik Tenczar’s feet as he was unbuckling his newborn from her car seat.
The first broken window was discovered in the attic while Erik was giving his father a tour. The next window to go was below the deck, while the Tenczars were above. Then the window over the toy area was struck, spraying shards on the play kitchen and building blocks.
And there was the time when after they filled up the kiddie pool, a golf ball splash landed in the water.
Numerous calls were made to the clubhouse with little to no response, Erik Tenczar said.
“We started calling the police because there was nothing else we could do,” Athina Tenczar said.
But there was little the police could do other than notify the club. In search of solutions before eventually hiring a lawyer, the Tenczars consulted with a golf course expert and got an appraisal for netting, only to be told a net couldn’t be constructed high enough to keep out balls.
“So then a year goes by, and another year goes by, and we’re dealing with this every day during the summertime, until we’re just like, ‘What else do we do?’” Erik Tenczar said.
“We never wanted a lawsuit; nobody wants a lawsuit,” Athina Tenczar said. “We tried to go in civilly and work with them. We got some communication but then it stopped.”
Flemming, the club’s lawyer, said the club consulted with the golf course’s architect and tried a number of suggestions.
“It’s not true that the golf course didn’t do anything,” Flemming said. “A suggestion that we were completely unresponsive, I don’t think is accurate at all.”
Among the houses that sit beside the course, the Tenczars’ home is unusually situated, elevated on a bank of land that puts it in the line of fire from the 15th tee. Their neighbors’ homes are less affected.
The real issue, Flemming said, is the country club has an easement that extends to all the residential lots, about 50, that abut the golf course.
“That’s what the legal documents say,” Flemming said. “The judge didn’t agree with us; but he doesn’t get the last word on it.”
The Tenczars say they’ve been asked why don’t they just sell the place and be done with it.
“Would you buy it?” Athina Tenczar asked.
She shook her head. “We’re not going to give this to another family.”