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Rocklin golf taking a turn for the better

Whitney Oaks sold to United Auburn Indian Community
By: Jim Lindsau, Placer Herald Sports Editor
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With the sale of Whitney Oaks Golf Club to the United Auburn Indian Community (UAIC) last week and last year’s ownership change at Sunset Whitney Golf Club, the game of golf may experience a revival in Rocklin. William D. Keogh, president and CEO of BrightStar Golf Group, said his company buys well-designed golf courses and converts them to private clubs after upgrading them. Unfortunately, he continued, Whitney Oaks was headed in a different direction. “When we originally purchased Whitney Oaks Golf Club, our plan was to make some improvements to the golf course, expand the facilities associated with the clubhouse and convert the club to private membership,” Keogh wrote in an e-mail to the Placer Herald. “We did complete the golf course improvements early in our ownership as well as much of the planning process for the clubhouse improvements. Due to the downturn in the economy, we decided that the timing was not right to transition Whitney Oaks to a private club.” While that was good news for local golfers who were not interested in a limited proprietorship, the facility began to suffer from the weak economy as well. Keogh said they had been negotiating with the UAIC for some time, but as of last summer it appeared the tribe had lost interest in the purchase. Doug Elmets, of Elmets Communications and spokesman for the tribe, agreed the community wasn’t interested in purchasing a golf course at that time. The Thunder Valley Casino and Resort was sending its clients interested in golf to Whitney Oaks to play, but wasn’t ready to undertake such a transaction. Over time, that changed. “The price was right and it integrates well with the other holdings of the tribe,” Elmets said this week. “There’s an advantage to having a golf course locally owned and locally managed. There’s a nexus between Thunder Valley and some of its patrons.” Elmets stressed that the casino did not buy the Whitney Oaks facility, but that the Unied Auburn Indian Community did. Elmets said there is a definite distinction between the tribe and Thunder Valley. In a prepared statement released following the sale, David Keyser, chairman of UAIC, said, “The UAIC is committed to working with the stable workforce at Whitney Oaks’ and continue to provide unparalleled service to our valued customers.” Elmets confirmed the UAIC’s commitment to the staff and management of Whitney Oaks and said upgrades would be made. He said a contingent from UAIC would work with Whitney Oaks’ existing staff to bring about the improvements desired. Elmets said a local designer will be brought in to put “a little loving touch” on the clubhouse, which Elmets said was well constructed and on a good foundation. The reported sale price for the transfer was around $4 million, which Elmets pointed out was a very good price for a facility like Whitney Oaks. “It’s great for Rocklin and it’s great for the tribe,” Elmets said. “Whatever the tribe does, they do it first class.” With last year’s sale of Sunset Whitney Country Club, it appears Rocklin will remain a destination for golfers. The former private country club has since been converted to a public play course and the prices, which include use of a power cart, have been lowered.. No green fee exceeds $49, even on weekends.