A Lakeville businessman scooped up a financially troubled country club in town a mere week before it was to be auctioned, preventing a fate that befell at least three other country clubs in Massachusetts in the past year.
Derek Maksy, a Lakeville selectman and owner of a cranberry bog abutting the Lakeville Country Club, bought the 180-acre property for $3.2 million. According to the assessors’ office, Maksy got a good deal, since the course is valued at nearly $1 million more.
The golf club’s longtime owner, Gary Mosca, owed more than $5 million to Morgan Stanley Financial Services. The institution had planned to auction the property last April, but reached a forbearance agreement with Mosca just minutes before bidding began, buying the owner a little more time to refinance with someone else or find a buyer.
JJ Manning Auctioneers had expected to auction Lakeville Country Club tomorrow.
Company president Justin Manning said golf course auctions have been commonplace due to the poor economy.
“We sold three different golf courses at foreclosure to third-party buyers in 2010,’’ Manning said, naming The Georgetown Country Club in Georgetown, Sterling National in Sterling, and Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton. Pleasant Valley CC had hosted PGA Tour events in its heyday.
“The economy has affected the turnout of memberships and rounds of golf being played,’’ Manning said. “Golf is in the ballpark of luxury items, like vacations.’’
Lakeville Country Club was built in 1969 and purchased by Mosca and several investors in 1990.
“I bought out my partners and overhauled the course to the way I liked it in 1996,’’ Mosca said recently, adding that he tried to emulate the designs produced by vaunted golf course architect Donald Ross, who would strive to preserve the natural characteristics of the land. Mosca said he borrowed a great deal of money to accomplish his vision.
“Every improvement I made was with Donald Ross in mind,’’ he said. “I wasn’t married, so the golf course was my mistress, my sweetheart, my love.’’
He was pleased with the outcome. “My course was written up in a lot of places,’’ he said.
Mosca, now 73, said he didn’t worry about getting too deep into debt. “Golf was so popular,’’ he said. “Unfortunately, then the economy went bad.’’
He said he took steps to stay in the black. At one point, he ran a gravel operation on the eighth hole of the course, digging out and trucking away 100,000 yards of gravel, as golfers played around the operation.
At another point, Mosca signed a purchase-and-sale agreement with Sysco, a food distributor based in Norton that was looking for a place to expand. Sysco eventually chose a site in Plympton.
Greg Nathan, senior vice president of the National Golf Foundation, said Mosca’s predicament is common.
“The golf industry had been undersupplied, and then there was a tremendous building boom in the 1990s and 2000s,’’ Nathan said. “The number of courses began to far exceed what the players needed. If you took on a lot of debt based on supply and demand from 15 years ago, you found yourself upside down.’’
New owner Maksy said the uncertainty about the future of the Lakeville Country Club may have driven away business. “Mosca was telling members, ‘I’m not sure we’ll be here next year,’ ’’ Maksy said. “I think people then found other places.’’
Maksy had been discussing the purchase of the course with Mosca for the last several months. “I don’t golf, but I am interested in investments,’’ he said. “I plan to make a lot of improvements.’’
He said he’ll start by overhauling the crumbling cart paths. Some of the fairways are also in need of repair. “I’ve got the heavy equipment to do it,’’ he said.
He said he’ll keep the course open to golfers while the work is going on, but close down the restaurant and bar for major renovations, spending up to $400,000 to spruce up the facilities. Maksy hopes to host a grand reopening next April. “I’d like to get more involved with weddings and other outdoor functions,’’ he said.
Maksy said the club grossed $1.6 million in a season at its high point; gross revenue fell to about $600,000 last year.
Maksy said he was also motivated to buy the golf course to keep local people working. He intends to retain the current staff of 12, including Mosca. “I’ll run the business, but he can run the day-to-day,’’ he said.
Mosca hopes the country club can survive.
“I’m rooting for the Maksys,’’ he said, referring to Derek and his wife, Madelyn, who are both listed as new owners. “I’ll do whatever I can to help.’’
Christine Legere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.