LAND O'LAKES — Rock Ridgeway was concerned. The sudden closing over the weekend of Plantation Palms golf course left Ridgeway, the coach of the Land O'Lakes High School boys' golf team, searching for a place to practice.
"We've got a match on the 27th," Ridgeway said Monday in front of the clubhouse, where two signs on the door announced the 18-hole course had "temporarily closed until further notice." Ridgeway said he was unaware of anything amiss as late as last week.
He wasn't the only one caught off guard. Golfers who showed up Saturday found they couldn't hit the links. The club's website gives no information about the closing — golfers can still sign up for tee times online.
Jason Ray, one of three co-owners of the course, was out mowing the grounds on Monday. He declined to talk with a Tampa Bay Times reporter.
A woman who answered the door at the clubhouse said she was confident the course would reopen at some point but declined to comment further.
Though the closing happened abruptly, records show the course has had financial problems for some time.
The company that owns the golf course, MJS Golf Group LLC, owes Pasco County $83,000 in back taxes on about 15 different parcels. That includes 2011 and 2012, said Gary Joiner of the Tax Collector's Office. In addition to Ray, owners include Mitch Osceola and Steve McDonald. They bought the course in 2011. That same year the owners also were in negotiations to manage a course owned by the town of Davie in South Florida, but that deal fell through.
Steve Pitts, owner of Steve's World of Golf, who operated a pro shop at Plantation Palms, said he pulled out of Plantation Palms about three months ago. He said the owners had not paid about $34,000 owed to his company, which helps support local golf courses by luring customers who might otherwise buy equipment at national chain stores.
Pitts said the course, which is public and draws golfers from across the Tampa Bay area, has a good reputation for quality. Situated on 148 acres, the course features a clubhouse and restaurant. It has many elevation changes with greens framed by pine trees, water and large sand traps.
Pitts, who sued the three co-owners, called Ray and Osceola "high quality" owners and said he was confident the course would reopen.
"They're working to do what needs to be done," he said.
Times researcher Carolyn Edds contributed to this report.