SPRING HILL — Golfers and workers were stunned Wednesday afternoon when sister courses Spring Hill Golf and Country Club and Seven Hills Golfers Club shut down without warning.
"I was told when I came in this morning that, as of closing time today, we would be closed for business," Seven Hills pro shop manager Tim Spangler said. "It was a surprise because I've been here all week and this is the first I heard of it."
Spangler estimated that between 30 and 50 employees lost their jobs, adding to the jobless woes of Hernando County, where the unemployment rate in May was 12.7 percent.
Owner Michael Kahanyshyn and his son, Jim, who is the general manager at Seven Hills, did not give further details to the staff, Spangler said. They could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.
Spangler said the staffers at both courses were floored by the news, then still had to finish out the day until about 5 p.m.
"They're upset,'' he said, "but it's just a sign of the times since the golf industry is in a downward swing."
Local golfer Lou Martel, who ran a couples league Fridays at Seven Hills, said he got a phone call from a course employee saying he would have to find a new course. Martel said he was surprised to lose the course he'd been playing on since it opened in April 1989.
"I was shocked," said Martel, who added he was able to move his league to Rivard Golf and Country Club in Brooksville. "Granted, play was down but it's always down in the summer. Truly, (Seven Hills) had gone to crap, so had Spring Hill. The greens and fairways weren't in great shape.
"That should've been a hint, I guess."
Managers at other Hernando courses echoed the same sentiment that the courses were in decline and noted that the Kahanyshyns were inexperienced in course management.
"It's unfortunate that it went the way it went," said Jim Cocchi, the manager at the Dunes at Seville Golf Club in Brooksville. "I don't know the situation, but if you do the right thing (at the course) there will be play.
"Yeah, its a competitive market, but the market isn't that bad. We get plenty of business here and lot of courses are spiraling downhill with their prices. You can't do that. You'll eventually go out of business."
Michael Sussman, the manager at the Oak Hills Golf Club in Spring Hill, said when people first told him of the closing he didn't believe it. After he checked it out, he then felt sympathy for those out of a job.
"My phone has been ringing off the hook since 2 o'clock," Sussman said of the people calling to see if they can move their league to Oak Hills or set up a tee time.
"We're sorry to see this happen, but we welcome all business coming from there,'' he said. "I hadn't seen the course but heard it was in bad shape. You hate to see this to happen to anyone. Period."
In addition, there should be plenty of unhappy homeowners, as property values of the houses on the course, will "probably go to hell, if aren't already there" says Spangler, the Seven Hills pro shop manager.
As is, with the high unemployment rate in Hernando County, dozens of jobs will be lost due to the closing of these courses. Spangler said some employees, such as himself, are retirees who worked just for something to do on the side.
However, he adds there were plenty of others — the kitchen staff and maintenance crew, for example — who depended on the jobs for a living.
Either way, they had to go through the motions of a sad last day.
"Did I think we struggle? Yeah, but did I think we'd close? No, I never did," Spangler said.
"How would you like it if your boss came up to you and said we're shutting the doors for good today? We were in shock mood all day."
Mike Camunas can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 544-1771.