SPRING HILL — After its closing last summer, Spring Hill Golf & Country Club was going to need the right person and a great deal of time and dedication in order to reopen.
Roger Thompson believes he is the right person. And for the past several weeks, Thompson and his crew have put considerable time and effort into rebuilding the course and making it playable again.
With plans to reopen the second week of February, the course needed a lot of work. The grounds had not been maintained for about seven months.
Several others before Thompson had passed on leasing the property for that reason, including Jerry Markum, owner of Sherman Hills Golf Club in Ridge Manor West and Rivard Golf & Country Club, south of Brooksville.
Thompson assessed the grounds before leasing the course with an option to buy, saying he was well aware of what he was getting into.
"I have a very good staff of superintendents," Thompson said. "I don't want to downplay someone else's position, but we had a certain amount of money in the budget to make (the course) operational, and Spring Hill met that budget. It was certainly not beyond repair."
A native of Ohio, Thompson, 59, has lived in Florida since 2001 and in Spring Hill for the past three months. While he did not move to the area with the intent of purchasing a golf course, when he heard about the situation at Spring Hill he was quick to inquire.
Michael Kahanyshyn owns both Spring Hill and Seven Hills Golf Club through his corporation, Lemkco Florida Inc., according to Hernando County tax records. He closed both courses abruptly last year, leaving employees without jobs and forcing golfers to play elsewhere.
In a difficult economy, Kahanyshyn had problems financing the courses and maintaining the grounds. But he could find no one to take the properties off his hands.
Late last year, Kahanyshyn reopened the Seven Hills course, but Spring Hill remained closed.
Under his new company, U.S. Golf Properties, Thompson had been looking into the possibility of acquiring his first course in either Ohio or in the Tampa area when the opportunity in Spring Hill arose. The model fit perfectly with his budget and business plan, he said.
"I brought our core management team up here," Thompson said. "We all thought it was a worthwhile project. There is some potential to hold some tournaments here, including some LPGA-affiliated events."
Built in 1969, the Spring Hill Golf & Country Club course is surrounded by a residential neighborhood and now has a staff of 24 employees. Thompson estimates the number will expand to about 30 after the course opens.
The staff has been painting the clubhouse, as well as doing seeding work on the course. Thompson said he is hopeful the kitchen and bar will open before the course.
Cold weather this month has slowed some of the work on the course, but Thompson said he believes golfers will be playing by mid February.