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TELEGRAM & GAZETTE - Foreclosure auction set for Pleasant Valley Country Club

October 12, 2010

By Bill Doyle TELEGRAM & GAZETTE STAFF
wdoyle@telegram.com
SUTTON -  Pleasant Valley Country Club owner Edward J. "Ted" Mingolla said today that none of the offers he received to buy his financially strapped club were high enough, and it is "likely" the Bank of New England will soon foreclose on the property.

The bank, headquartered in Salem, N.H., has already booked JJ Manning Auctioneers to conduct a foreclosure auction of the club at 11 a.m. on Nov. 16.

Deeply in debt, Mingolla put PV up for sale a few months ago. Mingolla said he received eight or nine offers of between $3.8 million and $4.5 million from other golf course owners, but none covered the $5.8 million he said he owes the Bank of New England.

"Foreclosure is likely," Mingolla said from his office, "probably within a week or two."

The Bank of New England must publish legal notices in an area newspaper beginning three weeks before the auction date. A call and e-mail to Bank of New England were not returned.

Interested parties can continue to make offers before the auction date.

"This is what's called a friendly foreclosure," Mingolla said, "not a shut the door, give me the keys thing. The bank has been great to work with. The bank doesn't want to see us close."

Mingolla said the golf course will remain open through the end of the golfing season, but the clubhouse restaurant has reduced its hours of operation. Mingolla said all functions, including wedding receptions, will be honored for as long as he or the bank owns the club, and he would expect the new owner to honor functions booked for next year.

"I suppose it would be up to the new owner," Mingolla said, "but it would be silly not to honor them."

A new owner would not take over until the end of the year. Justin Manning, president of JJ Manning Auctioneers, said it usually takes 30 to 45 days for a sale to close after an auction.

Pleasant Valley CC became nationally known for hosting 33 PGA Tour events and 14 LPGA Tour events. Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson and Kathy Whitworth played there, but neither tour has stopped here since 1999, and the club's storied history no longer attracts as many members as it once did. PV has 270 memberships covering 410 members, down from a peak of 500 members.

Mingolla dropped into debt four years ago when the sale of 77 acres across Armsby Road from the clubhouse for $4 million for a continuing care facility fell through. With a signed purchase and sale agreement in hand, Mingolla refinanced a loan with the Bank of New England for a higher interest rate with the expectation that he could pay off the loan quickly. After the land sale fell apart, Mingolla couldn't pay off his loan.

"We fought the good fight," Mingolla said, "to keep the club alive. The past couple of years have been extremely difficult. We've done everything humanly possible to provide our members and guests with the services that they would expect. The economy just dragged us down, and our debt did it to us."

Mingolla said he took out two home equity loans, cashed in his 401K and maxed out his credit cards to pay PV's bills.

Mingolla, who lives in West Boylston with his wife, Audrey, has worked at PV since his father, Cosmo E. "Cuz" Mingolla, opened the club in 1961. Mingolla took over as owner and operator after his father's death in 1979.

"It's disappointing that it got to this point," Mingolla said, "but it's nobody's fault. Audrey and I have put our blood, money and time into this place for so long. It's disappointing to see this happen, but with the economy the way it is, how many foreclosures are there? There are tons of them."

Earlier this year, JJ Manning Auctioneers auctioned Sterling National Golf Club for $4.2 million and Georgetown Golf Club for an undisclosed price. Manning said his firm hadn't auctioned as many as three golf clubs in the same year in at least 20 years. Manning said because of the cachet of having hosted PGA Tour and LPGA Tour events, PV has generated more early interest than Sterling National or Georgetown.

Mingolla would like to see his staff maintained by the new owners.

He said any buyer would have to abide by the 99-year lease that his father signed in 1961 with the town of Sutton to keep the property as a golf course.

Mingolla said he would remain at the club if the bank ended up as the highest bidder. Otherwise, he would devote his time trying to sell the 119 acres of land he owns, mostly across Armsby Road from the clubhouse, to alleviate his debt.