Golf

Making the rounds: Rancho Murieta considers golf course ownership change

Third year golfer Hugo Yeh after golf practice at Hiram Johnson High School on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. “Other players always get mad when they mess up,” said Yeh, who has one birdie and “three or four pars” in two years. “I just giggle. I think, ‘Why are you mad?’ “
Third year golfer Hugo Yeh after golf practice at Hiram Johnson High School on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. “Other players always get mad when they mess up,” said Yeh, who has one birdie and “three or four pars” in two years. “I just giggle. I think, ‘Why are you mad?’ “ aseng@sacbee.com

Rancho Murieta Country Club members are expected to vote next month whether to significantly alter the gated golf community’s landscape figuratively and literally.

The private club’s 1,040 members will decide if they want to buy the 220 acres on which their two 18-hole courses sit. To do so, they would accept a loan for the purchase price from Bellagio Road, a course ownership and management company headed by Bob Husband, then for $1 sell the property to Husband, whose company would own and operate it.

Since Rancho Murieta opened its first 18 holes in 1971, the membership has leased the land, initially from the Pension Trust Fund of Operating Engineers and since 2013 from Murieta Club Properties.

Husband has said he will spend at least $2.5 million to build a pool and fitness center and upgrade the clubhouse.

The club renegotiated its lease in 2008 to give it the right to buy the course property at fair market value. Club president Vince Lepera said the board of directors has approved the purchase and is preparing its offer.

“This is going to launch us back to where we need to be,” Lepera said.

Forty-three percent of Rancho Murieta’s homeowners are associated with the club in some fashion, Lepera said. That percentage would jump into the 60s with a pool and fitness center, he said a survey shows.

“Growth of the club needs to come from inside the gates,” Lepera said. “Club management has a great set of ideas. There’s just never been enough money to accomplish those.”

Husband, a former touring professional, is a 30-year veteran of the course ownership and management business. He has said there will be no assessments to Rancho Murieta members, and dues, which range from $350 to $500, will not be raised for one year and no more than 5 percent annually until his proposed improvements are completed.

Several town hall meetings are scheduled for this weekend.

Community steps up

In one week, the Hiram Johnson boys golf team went from being the most ill-equipped high school squad in the region to among the best.

It’s a credit to the determination of the team’s coaches, perseverance of its student-athletes and generosity of a caring community.

A photo in The Sacramento Bee last week of a makeshift club carrier crafted from plastic buckets that accompanied a story about the ragtag bunch with the headline “Double-par pickup the score to beat” had a lot to do with it, too.

“I have met so many wonderful and caring people. It truly has been amazing,” coach Chris Latino said of the outpouring of support in the past week.

Some of the contributions:

▪ A woman who doesn’t play golf donated $1,000, with some stipulations detailed in a note: “1. Purchase new golf bags. The creative yet unfashionable buckets pictured in the sports article need to go. 2. Set aside a minimum of $180 for a team dinner involving players and coaches. 3. Notify me of any future fundraisers.”

▪ After a sponsored session scheduled Wednesday at the Haggin Oaks driving range, the six-man team (yes, a sixth player has joined) was to be outfitted “head to toe” in the adjoining golf shop, courtesy of a longtime area coach. If golf shoes are part of the deal, that will be a team first.

▪ A Valley Hi couple purchased and donated six new Wilson starter sets that cost $250 each.

▪ A book club passed the hat and delivered $425.

▪ A former golf industry sales representative filled the back of volunteer assistant coach Roy Heitz’s pickup truck with 20 bags worth of equipment.

▪ The school’s front office looked more like a pro shop all week with used clubs, bags and balls arriving faster than they could be transferred to the gym.

There are now funds for practice rounds, nets and mats. There is talk about getting a personal launch monitor that will enable players to get technical feedback and virtually play famous courses when leaving the school isn’t possible.

Maybe most importantly, there is now a set of clubs for each player to call his own after graduating. Talk about paying it forward.

Steve Pajak: 916-326-5526, @Steve_Pajak

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