Sunkist Members Vote To Save Golf Course

In a letter to Sunkist board members, a stockholder said the golf course needed new greens and a better irrigation system. The renovation work could triple membership costs. The letter also said the course could be sold for six million dollars.

In the end, saving Sunkist was more important to stockholders than making money.

Kirk Drennen used to hit golf balls at Edgewater Bay. And then it closed. So Drennen became a stockholder at Sunkist Country Club.

Over the summer, Sunkist stockholders put an idea on the tee and had members swing at it. The idea -- sell the north Biloxi golf course. "It struck a nerve," the former Edgewater Bay member said. "I said, 'Oh here it goes again.' I was totally against it."

Last month, Sunkist stockholders held a non binding vote. The board wanted to know if it should put the 50 year old golf course on the market. Members like Walter Gary overwhelmingly rejected the idea. "I'm certainly not interested," Gary said.

He was about to play an afternoon round of golf with his friend Rudy Lesso. "We both live on the course. And we'd hate to give it up," Gary said. "Hate to lose it."

As Lesso pointed out, "There's no place else to go."

According to the board member's memo, the Sunkist sale talk came up because the course needs an expensive overhaul. And not everybody is willing to raise dues to pay for the improvements. "They just seem to be scared to borrow the money to go do it," said Lesso. "That's the worst thing in the world they could do right now. We keep losing traffic every year on this course. It's because the course is always in pretty bad condition."

Back on the practice tee, Kirk Drennen wondered why another Biloxi golf course would even consider shutting its doors. "We keep advertising ourselves as a great golf destination," he said. "And we're doing nothing but closing courses. That doesn't make a lot of sense."

Right now, Biloxi has two golf courses where the public can get tee times. Sunkist and the President Broadwater facility. But the Broadwater may be turned into a commercial zone that includes a Wal Mart supercenter.