Last month, the owner of Trempealeau Mountain Golf Club announced in an open letter that his efforts to sell the course had failed, that he would be closing it for good after this season and selling off the land, buildings and fixtures.
“The idea of giving up what has meant so much to this community for so long is extremely conflicting,” wrote Eric Wilber, whose parents Harold and Linda had built the 18-hole golf course 22 years ago. “This is a very difficult decision for me but one I must make for the sake of my health and well-being.”
Marketing the land and buildings would begin Oct. 1, he wrote, unless an acceptable offer to purchase was received by that date.
Reaction to the letter was strong, and emotional, said Katie Johnson, the real estate agent who had been trying to sell the course for more than 18 months. The clubhouse manager walked off and never returned, Johnson said. “I received hate mail, Eric received hate mail” and other unhappy people came to the golf shop to express their dismay.
But, Johnson said, the letter had been composed to get a reaction and it did, including from suddenly serious interested parties. This week, Wilber and Johnson announced the course would be sold to a new ownership group that will take over Oct. 21. The new owners include Chad and Amy Landis of nearby Holmen and other family members; Chad, who has a degree in golf course management but who has been working in another business for 16 years, will serve as general manager.
“Our family got the notice the same way everybody else did,” Chad Landis said. “We had some deep discussions and thought it was a great opportunity for our family. The opportunity arose and we jumped at it.”
That was precisely the result that Wilber’s letter had hoped to produce.
“We always knew in the back of our minds it would always be a golf course,” acknowledged Johnson, who said creating a sense of urgency was key. Wilber had considered not opening the course at all this year, Johnson said, but she told him “I can’t sell a golf course if it’s not a golf course.”
Instead, Johnson stepped into managing the golf course in an effort to increase revenue while keeping it a viable operation that would attract a buyer.
“The main goal of that letter was to get out to the public (that) we can’t go on forever without getting sold. This was just a way of getting a buyer sooner than later. This is what it really took to get the deal done,” she said.
Johnson did not disclose the purchase price. The course had been listed at $1.3 million and Wilber had said he would not take less than $1.2 million, she said.
More important, she said, Wilber accomplished his goal of keeping alive the course his parents had built and nurtured. That, Johnson said, “was extremely important. He’s been extremely emotional about it for the last month, dealing with the backlash of the letter.”
Still, she said, “we feel whole-heartedly that the first letter …was a really essential step. We don’t have any regrets.”
For Chad Landis, the strong reaction to the letter was an indication of how important the course was to the community. He said that returning to the golf business has been a dream, especially at a course he has played many times. Amy, who is director of sales at a nearby hotel, will remain in her job but will assist in running the golf course as well.
“It’s a beautiful course,” said Landis. “We want to make it one of the top public courses in the area.” He said he will use the winter off-season to assess what changes are needed but the intention is to make Trempealeau Mountain “a fun, customer friendly and service-oriented environment.”
There will be a community meet-and-greet at Trempealeau Mountain from 6 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 22 to introduce the new owners to the community.