STERLING – When golfers come to the clubhouse Oct. 31 at Lake View Golf Club, it may be for the last time.
The golf and country club in rural Sterling will close after business that day. A public auction will be at 1 p.m. Nov. 11 at the country club, 23319 Hazel Road.
Whether a buyer would continue to use the property as a golf course remains to be seen.
Co-owner Jerry Digani fears the course will be sold for farmland, and he’s “heartbroken” by that possibility.
“This is 22 years of my life,” Digani said.
Fifth Third Bank filed a foreclosure of mortgage in Whiteside County Court on Dec. 14. A case management conference in that case is set for Nov. 19.
Digani said proceeds from the sale will go to the bank, unless the bid exceeds the amount needed to satisfy his loan.
Digani, 64, grew up north of Chicago, and golf courses were always part of his life, he said.
“I grew up with golf courses, worked on golf courses,” he said. His work on golf courses helped pay his way through Marquette University, he said.
“I always like the land,” he said. “I always like to improve things.”
According to the club’s website, Lake View opened in the 1950s as a 9-hole course. It expanded to 18 holes in the late 1970s. While the club has members, it is open to the public.
Digani, who lives in Northfield and is a vice president of the health care division of Shaker Advertising in Oak Park, said he is the club’s third owner.
He and his wife, Joan, have owned Lake View for 22 years. During that time, they have improved the fairways and greens, built maintenance buildings, irrigated the course and fairways, remodeled the clubhouse and locker rooms, acquired better equipment, installed a computerized irrigation system, installed pipes and sprinkler heads, and planted “hundreds and hundreds of trees.”
Digani has invested more than a half-million dollars of his own money in the property, mostly in the past 5 years, he said. He said he “never took a dollar out of it.”
“Every time we were ahead, I put it back in the course,” he said.
The poor economy and competition from Sterling Park District’s golf course hurt his business, he said.
“The big thing is, it’s a shame that Lake View has a lot of nice people working for it, a lot of good members,” he said. “I feel badly for them. But I have no options.”
The club has about 140 members, one full-time employee and 20 to 25 seasonal, part-time employees, Digani said.
The property has been appraised at nearly $1 million, Digani said.
Digani said he made presentations 2 years ago to his members to explain the situation and look for investors to buy stock.
“Nobody stood up,” he said. “That’s their business. I understand that, but ... it’s done. There’s still a chance that the course can stay as a golf course.”
The property has at least 1,000 trees that would have to be cut down to make room for farmland, he said, but he noted that farmers would be able to sell the trees, so he does not see them as a deterrent.
Digani said he still would sell the property for the right offer. The property has been on the market before, he said, and he has spoken to hundreds of people, including cemetery companies.
Whatever happens to the land, he’d like it to remain open space, he said.
“It’s a beautiful piece of property,” he said.
Darrell Dahl is a broker and auctioneer with United Country Dahl Real Estate, which will manage the auction.
The club consists of three parcels, one of 53 acres; one of 80 acres; and one has 5 acres, Dahl said.
The parcel with 5 acres is where the clubhouse and golf cart shed sit. It may be sold as a restaurant, bar or home, Digani said.
The parcels will first be auctioned off individually. After bidding stops, the top bids will be totaled, and the property will be offered as a whole, Dahl said.
“I would love to see it stay a golf course, and I hope it does,” Dahl said. “It’s a gorgeous course.”
“The true intent of the auction is for it to stay a country club, and I certainly hope that happens,” he said.
Typical farmland probably costs $5,000 to $14,000 an acre, Dahl said.
Member Mark Musselman said he does not want to see the course converted into farmland.
He has lived next to the course for 10 years, he said.
He said he enjoys “just being able to go out and play golf in the evenings after work.”
“There are lakes out there that I would take my daughter down to and go fishing in in the golf cart,” he said. He likes “the beautiful scenery” and would rather have “rolling, green hills versus a cornfield” in his backyard, he said.
“We have neighbors whose kids are at that age where they’re just getting serious about playing golf, and that advantage of being able to play golf whenever you want will be gone,” he said.
To play golf at Lake View
For non-members, day passes cost $16 for 18 holes on Monday; $18 on Tuesday; and $22 the rest of the week, with a veterans' special on Friday.
Multiple play passes also are available, and provide multiples of five rounds at an average of about $20 per round.
To buy a day pass or multiple play pass, come to the club at 23319 Hazel Road, Sterling, or call the club at 815-626-2886.