posted on April 13, 2012 11:03
By Bill Doyle WORCESTER TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
HARVARD — Frederick J. “Skip” Curtis of Princeton purchased Shaker Hills Golf Club yesterday morning for $3.4 million at a foreclosure auction in the parking lot outside the clubhouse.
Curtis, a Worcester Country Club member with a 3 handicap, said he planned to re-open Shaker Hills as a golf course this year. The course closed in February when the previous owners defaulted on their $2.13 million mortgage with Middlesex Savings Bank. The sale is scheduled to close in 45 days.
“A dream come true I think,” Curtis said. “I think it’s a spectacular property, and I think it has potential.”
Curtis declined comment on whether Shaker Hills would remain open to the public or become a private course, saying it was premature to discuss his plans for the club.
Fourteen bidders registered with McLaughlin & Co. Auctioneers of Boston. Norman Kenney, one of the club’s former owners, was among the 70 or so people who attended the auction. Kenney spoke briefly with Curtis after the auction.
Curtis was accompanied at the auction by his fellow St. John’s High graduate and Worcester CC member Tim Valas of Shrewsbury, who Curtis said may help him manage the golf club. Neither Curtis nor Valas has run a golf course, so Valas said they’ll rely on advice from friend Tad Page, whose family owns Butternut Farm Golf Club in Stow.
Curtis makes his money from private investments and commercial real estate. Previously, he served as president of Curtis Tractor Cab Inc. in Worcester and was honored as Massachusetts Small Business Person of the Year and as second runner-up as National Small Business Person of the Year in 2005. Valas is a retirement sales executive for benefits provider Aon Hewitt.
Curtis and Valas have golfed at Shaker Hills many times.
“We think it’s got some really great qualities and good, challenging golf,” Valas said.
Middlesex Savings Bank hired Ed Kennedy III, superintendent at his family’s Butter Brook Golf Club in Westford, to maintain Shaker Hills for the last month and he will continue to do so until the sale closes. Kennedy said he retained Mike Sisti, the club’s superintendent the past three years, to help him maintain the course.
Kennedy was among the registered bidders yesterday, but he did not bid. He said his family tried unsuccessfully to purchase the club before the auction.
Kennedy said the central controller irrigation system was struck by lightning in July 2010 and must be replaced at a cost of close to $300,000. In the meantime, most controllers need to be turned on by hand. Kennedy estimated it would cost $1 million to $1.5 million to pay back taxes, make necessary improvements and replace the tables, chairs, freezers and other equipment that had been removed from the clubhouse and maintenance building.
The clubhouse is located in Ayer and the course is located in Harvard.
The 6,800-square-foot Princeton home where Curtis lives with his wife, Sarah, and their six children was featured in Worcester Living magazine last year.
Shaker Hills became the third Central Mass. golf course to be sold at a foreclosure auction in less than two years. Sterling National Country Club sold for $4.2 million in May 2010 and Pleasant Valley Country Club in Sutton sold for $5 million in November 2010.
Shaker Hills opened in 1991 and was soon rated by Golf Digest as the No. 1 public course in the state and No. 4 among private and public courses in Massachusetts, but fell on hard times after the economy soured and such other golf courses as Red Tail Golf Club in Devens and Butter Brook Golf Club opened nearby.