Weatherwax to remain golf course in 2015 (Oct 16)

Weatherwax Golf Course will remain a golf course – at least for another year – after a local golf professional finalized a deal Thursday with the landowner to lease the property through November 2015.

Jim Kraft, of WMVH (Woodside, Meadows, Valley View, Highlands) LLC, signed a one-year lease with Myron Bowling Auctioneers Inc., to keep Weatherwax open as a golf course. Both parties declined to disclose the value of the lease agreement, but confirmed that it goes into effect Nov. 3 and runs through Nov. 1, 2015.

Bowling, a Hamilton auctioneer who bought the 36-hole golf course from the city of Middletown for $1.6 million, said Kraft has an option to continue to lease the property “for as many years as he’d like to after that.”

“Everybody wants a golf course, and now it’s a golf course again,” Bowling said in a phone interview with the Journal-News. “If you want it to stay a golf course, then go golf.”

Some residents and local golfers worried that Weatherwax might be leased or sold for some other use. When Bowling closed the deal with the city last month for Weatherwax, he indicated there was a “50-50 possibility” that it could re-open as a golf course next year.

In fact, an auction for the property, equipment and other items was scheduled for Nov. 15, but after the deal with Kraft, the event has been canceled, Bowling said. He said nothing, including golf carts and other equipment, belonging to the golf course has been sold.

On Thursday afternoon, Kraft was carrying one of the auction signs after he removed it near the clubhouse.

Bowling confirmed there were parties other than Kraft interested in Weatherwax, and at least one person had a use other than a golf course in mind for the land located in Madison Twp.

“But that didn’t come to fruition,” Bowling said. “We were on a timeline, and he (Kraft) had a ready offer so we kept it a golf course.”

Kraft, 57, of Middletown, has 28 years of experience in the golf industry, which includes having been a golf pro at Pleasant Hill Golf Club in Monroe since 1988. He said his motivation for leasing Weatherwax is simple.

“I didn’t want to see it close, and I thought it was a good business opportunity,” said Kraft, who plays Weatherwax about twice a week during the golf season. “When I saw the auction sign up at Weatherwax I asked them in they were entertaining anyone on leasing the golf course, and they said yes.”

Kraft said it will be “business as usual” at Weatherwax and he’s excited about next year. He said many golfers were “disappointed” when it appeared Weatherwax was going to close.

Kraft said the deal took about three weeks to negotiate
after he first approached Bowling about the lease. He said his next steps will be to familiarize himself with the grounds and course operations.

He plans to keep just about everything the same at Weatherwax, but hasn’t made any final decisions about staffing yet. Dave Tieman, the longtime golf professional at Weatherwax, will work his last day there on Nov. 2. Tieman was cleaning out his office Thursday and said he’s looking for employment inside or outside of the golf industry.

“It’s going to be a privilege to serve our customers and the Middletown area,” said his brother David Kraft. “We are really looking forward to it.”

City Manager Doug Adkins said any plan that keeps the golf course open and available to the public is great for the citizens of Middletown.

“I hope the course remains open for years to come and wish any operator good luck in their endeavor,” Adkins said in an email to the Journal-News.

Tieman called Weatherwax “a jewel” for the city, and said it was important to keep it open because of the revenue it generates for area businesses.

Gary Lebo, Middletown High School athletic director, said he’s organizes the Greater Miami Conference boys and girls golf tournaments at Weatherwax and the GMC was concerned about the course closing. He said it’s ideal for tournaments because of its 36-hole layout that offers numerous tee boxes.

“This is absolutely wonderful news,” Lebo said.

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