Oak Ridge owners: no offers yet, but interest remains in course

Bruce Chittick of Kingston tees off at Hole No. 1 at Oakridge last Thursday. Chittick was in a trio with Cliff Mikkelson of Kingston and Zachary Alderson of Huntsville.

The owners of the Oakridge Golf Course near Huntsville have not had any offers to buy the club after announcing in March it was for sale, but people have inquired about it.

Michelle Fowler Thomas, who owns the course along with her sister, Lori Taylor, said interest has been mostly from local individuals and groups. She did receive one inquiry from out of town.

“We’ve had people inquiring about it and some showed more interest than others. No offers yet,” she said last week. “We’re still so hopeful. Our plan is to keep running it through the season and then probably the winter and stay open. If we haven’t had any offers, we will remain open basically until next spring when everything starts back up.”

The asking price is $350,000, which includes the 9-hole golf course that covers about 66 acres of land, the clubhouse, pavilion, golf carts and other equipment.

Thomas said a limited liability company between herself and Taylor, along with a few other people, currently owns the club. A new owner could form another LLC with minority stock holders, if they choose.

“If someone were to buy the golf course, it would dissolve that LLC,” she said. “They are welcome to form their new own LLC ... but it would be theirs. They are purchasing the business.”

The golf course will host benefit tournaments, high school teams and individual golfers for the rest of 2019.

“The plan is next spring, when it comes time the grass needs to be mowed and pumps need to be hooked up, if we haven’t sold it, we will close then,” Thomas said.

The course is used by Huntsville High School golf teams each fall. The local teams practice at the course and host matches involving other teams from throughout northwest Arkansas.

“We will have school teams and everything, so the high schoolers will start practice here pretty soon. They will remain having a team up here through the golf season, so that’ll be good,” Thomas said.

Golf coach Tyler Trumbo said his teams will begin practice in early July for the fall season. There are more away matches scheduled this year, he said.

Even if Oakridge were to sell or if the course closed, the teams will remain, Trumbo said last week. The teams could use a driving range at another course for practice, he said, but the Eagles and Lady Eagles would not have a home course.

Oakridge was built in 1984 by Chub and Gwen Elwell. They and their children, Mike and Sandy, are deceased. In the 1990s, the late Wes Fowler took over operations at the course. Fowler served as Madison County clerk and judge throughout the 1990s.

In March, descendants of Fowler decided to sell the course, located just west of Huntsville off Highway 74.

Fowler’s daughters, Thomas and Taylor, in March posted a statement on Facebook about the course.

“The following is with a very heavy heart, but we plan to list the course for sale immediately, in hopes we have a buyer whose wish is to keep it as a public golf course. If we are unable to find any buyers by the end of the 2019 season, we will have to explore all other options concerning the future of the golf course,” they posted.

Thomas has two teenage daughters while Taylor has a young child. Thomas said in March that the job was overwhelming the two families, including spouses who have full-time jobs elsewhere.

“We all want the golf course to remain and thrive in Huntsville as Wes did, however the reality is we do not have the time needed or deserved to keep Oakridge Golf Course operating at the standards we expect and have known over the years,” Thomas and Taylor posted on Facebook in March.

Thomas said last week that she still hopes Oakridge will sell to someone hoping to see it remain a golf course, and not someone wanting to use the land for a housing development.

“I think we’ve been so busy that we really haven’t had a whole lot of time to reflect on it, so I really can’t say that I feel positive or not,” Thomas said about the sale of the course. “I’m glad that people are inquiring about it. It is positive that they are showing interest and everything, so I feel good about it, but I’m not going to get too excited until an offer’s on the table. Once things slow down, we’ll think more on it.”

Various tournaments have been held this spring and early summer at the course. The tournaments raise thousands of dollars each year for scholarships and philanthropic endeavors.

The Shelby Rae Dotson Golf Tournament was held on June 8, with the Bo Duncan Memorial Tournament held this past weekend.

The annual Terry Gilliam Memorial Scholarship Tournament is scheduled for Saturday, July 13.

One of the Gilliam tournament’s organizers is former Huntsville Athletic Director Tom Tice. He said the annual tournament benefits many in the community.

“We would like to continue,” Tice said. “We think it helps the students, teachers, school system and community a lot. However, the future is very unpredictable.”

Also scheduled this year are the annual Harry Shinn Tournament, the Wes Fowler Tournament and the Huntsville Booster Club Tournament.

The 9-hole golf course is open to the public. Hours are 8 a.m. to dark Monday-Friday and from about 7:30 a.m. to dark on the weekends.

Thomas said she and her family remain hopeful that a new owner will come forth.

“We want to see it continue and succeed as much as anybody does,” she said.

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