Tuscan Ridge in transition as golf course owners run out of cash
A golf course that skeptics long ago predicted might not make par is shut down, with a change in ownership in the works.
When Tuscan Ridge Golf Course opened on the Skyway—a year late and nine holes short—in summer 2001, it was financed in part by $16,500 “lifetime memberships” that were shopped around the community.
But now, the course entry bears a sign stating that it’s “closed for construction” and both former and perhaps current owners aren’t talking.
Mark Stenbeck, a minister at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Paradise, has found himself to be the de facto communicator on Tuscan Ridge matters. A year after purchasing a lifetime membership in June 2000, Stenbeck became an officer in the Tuscan Ridge Men’s Club, which plans tournaments and runs a golf league.
“The original owners simply ran out of capital to complete the additional nine holes, and without the additional nine holes there has not been enough revenue,” Stenbeck said.
Stenbeck has been in touch with Mark White, who, along with Lou Katherine Blankenship, on July 22 filed for the fictitious business name “New Tuscan Ridge Golf Course.” White is a real estate developer from Corning who did not return a message left with his mother by press time. Members have been told White is the new owner, having purchased the course from Chico Golf Ventures (Tuscan Ridge’s corporate name), Stenbeck said.
One original managing partner, Bruce Holderbein, did not return a call for comment, and Mark Brown—the latter apparently the main decision-maker in the business—would not talk on the record.
There’s another twist: A notice from PLM Lender Services, Inc., of Campbell states that Chico Golf Ventures has defaulted on a deed of trust and if it doesn’t come up with $2.6 million by Aug. 26, the property will be sold to the highest bidder at a public auction to be held at 3:30 p.m. that day on the steps of the Butte County Courthouse in Oroville.
A representative of PLM Lender Services, hired by the lender to handle the foreclosure, said it wouldn’t be unusual for the previous owner to connect with a buyer who would ultimately be the one to pay off the debt and get the property out of hock. But if that doesn’t happen, the property could go cheap to that potential buyer or “whoever shows up at auction,” said the rep, who didn’t want her name used.
Another original investor, course designer Algie Pulley of Lafayette, said he’s been out of the loop for a while, but to his understanding Holderbein and Brown “made the deal [to sell] before the loan was defaulted.” He believes the new owners agreed to assume the debt and hope to halt the public-auction process. Another source who asked not to be named said that, while the sale was amicable, things went downhill afterward.
Tuscan Ridge Golf Club or Chico Golf Ventures is named in several civil suits in Butte County Superior Court. One is a Small Claims Court case in which former members received a judgment, which remains unpaid, for money they put toward their lifetime membership fees. Other cases involve bills allegedly unpaid to vendors.
According to Uniform Commercial Code filings, creditors have reported at least 10 debts owed by Chico Golf Ventures. In most cases the debts are secured by “equipment” collateral. The creditors range from the Peterson Tractor Co. to Mid-Valley Leasing.
A copy of the membership contract agreement states that the $15,000 deposit is refundable, the membership is transferable, and, if the club were to sell, members’ privileges would continue. But a source who spoke on the condition on anonymity said the new owners don’t wish to honor the transfers, and if that proves to be the case, investors, who numbered 85 a year ago, could be out as much as $16,500 each.
The course closed last week, and mounds of dirt overshadow the greens. Calls are answered by people identifying themselves as maintenance workers.
A year after it opened, the promised clubhouse, pro shop and snack bar were still not complete and the course was operating out of a tent-like structure with no permanent restrooms. The course, originally intended to have 18 holes, has stalled at nine.
In summer 2002, Holderbein and Brown told the News & Review they were waiting on a $2 million cash infusion to finish the job.
Pulley, who was optimistic back in 1999 when several local golf course enthusiasts doubted the course could make bank, said he’s disappointed his investment didn’t pan out, but he holds no hard feelings. "It’s unfortunate. These things happen," he said.