Partners buying Carroll golf course

$3.25 million deal for River Downs leads to cancellation of auction

January 16, 2002|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

William F. Chaney visited the River Downs golf course near Finksburg this month and fell in love with it. So he and his partners are buying it for $3.25 million, and plan eventually to turn it into a private club.

The 156-acre championship course was to have been sold at auction today, after a foreclosure filed last month in Carroll County Circuit Court that listed about $2.9 million owed. The auction was canceled pending the expected settlement, said Jonathan A. Melnick, president of Melnick--Newell Since 1907 auctioneers.

"We've had an overwhelming response," said Melnick. "We never auctioned a golf course. We had people planning to come in from literally all over the country."

The purchase is expected to be final Feb. 15, said Chaney, the lead investor.

"I went up and saw it and fell in love with it. It is a beautiful golf course, and it's an Arthur Hills golf course, one of the top designers in the world," said Chaney. "It's a beautiful tract, nice greens, a beautiful setup, a challenging golf course."

Chaney, 56, of Lothian, is retired from banking and ownership of a stock brokerage firm and insurance agency. He said a major partner will be his longtime friend and business associate, Gilbert L. Hardesty, 61, also of Lothian.

The two men were among the founders in 1990 of the Old South Country Club in Lothian, a private golf course in southern Anne Arundel County that now has about 550 golf and social members, he said.

They put in 80-hour weeks starting up the Old South club, Chaney said.

Old South "is a very fine facility," said Richard A. Moore, president of Gaylord Brooks Investment Co. Inc. of Phoenix and a party in the River Downs Golf Course Limited Partnership that was named as a defendant in the foreclosure.

The action did not involve the residential community surrounding the golf course, whose official name is River Downs Golfer's Club.

"The River Downs golf course auction has been called off. The property has been sold," Moore said. "We at Gaylord Brooks are very happy."

"It happened quick. When I like something, I move quickly," said Chaney, who expects to have 10 to 15 partners and has yet to choose a name for the partnership. The name of the golf course probably won't change, he said.

Moore said last month that the golf course had been for sale for months and needed to be redesigned because it is too difficult for golfers with high handicaps. But a partner would not undertake his share of the cost, then stopped paying on the loan, Moore said, so he formed a limited liability company, Lawndale LLC, to foreclose on the property rather than jeopardize his good relationship with the lending bank.

Chaney, who began golfing when he was 30 and has a handicap of 18, agreed with Moore's assessment of River Downs' difficulty.

"It's a tough golf course, but it's a fun golf course," he said. "I love hilly golf courses, and it's pretty, and pretty means a lot to me. And it can be made easier, lady friendly, with tees, grass."

The course will remain open to the public for at least a year, Chaney said. Equity memberships will be sold for $10,000 for the first 50 members, then increase in price.

The 18-hole, par-72 golf course was built in 1995 off Route 91, bordered by a residential community of homes that sold for more than $300,000.

Since it opened, golf writers have given River Downs must-play status, while noting its challenging nature, including fast greens.

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