GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - An effort is underway to keep the oldest golf course in Mississippi running. Shareholders and executives of the Great Southern Golf Course are trying to keep the land from being auctioned off.
The course’s mortgage company is foreclosing the property because of unpaid debts. According to the Great Southern’s president, the course is about $3.8 million in debt.
“We are going to get a bridge loan that will pay off all of those debts, the mortgage for the course,” said Ellis Hill, the president of the Great Southern Golf Club.
Hills says he has been working on getting a bridge loan for more than a year with a few different lenders to get the best deal available .
They’ve been working with their current lender since February and are expecting to move forward soon once paperwork gets back to them. Then, they say they can move forward with bigger plans for the course.
“We will work on a plan to keep the course the way it is but add some condos and single family homes in the back,” said Hill.
To pay for the condos, a construction loan will be applied for. Hill says that will pay off the bridge loan. As the condos and homes in the back of the course are bought, those sales will pay the construction loans. That, in essence, is the plan to get back on solid ground.
The course has history with the community, which regular golfers like Sean Desporte see as worthy of preserving.
“I think it’ll be great once they build condos and houses out here to get some money into the course,” Desporte said.
Desporte grew up on the course as child. His father and family friends would bring him to golf with them. Now, he comes to Great Southern twice a week for tee time. He’s glad to know that something is being done to save the course.
"I think it's awesome and I've actually talked to them and I don't know how much help I can be."
Desporte and Hill are confident that the site will see a complete turnaround once the debt gets paid.
“We have a lot to offer and have to work to make this course as good as it’s ever been,” said Hill.
Hill said that Hurricane Katrina wiped the course out pretty badly. At one point after the storm, membership dropped from more than 200 people to just four people.
According to legal documents seen by WLOX, the public auction of the golf course is scheduled for July 8.